Originally published July 27, 2011 at 4:10 PM | Page modified July 27, 2011 at 7:01 PM

Endorsement | School board candidates with most promise for reform

Voters have a clear choice in three contested races for Seattle School Board. Only one, District 3, offers a credible alternative to the incumbent.

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THE Seattle school district had a mixed year. Harsh state audits and the firing of the superintendent and a top aide were humiliating low points. A surge in enrollment and fresh academic programming mark worthy achievements.

The School Board has guided the successes and responded to the failures with an array of management and governance reforms. Board members, armed with research from their own policy staff, are challenging administrators more.

The four incumbents on the August primary ballot have been tested and emerged the better for it. Critics who never liked them, probably still won't. Expect the four board members up for re-election to continue important efforts around governance and improving academics. Expect more thoughtful debate and a willingness to bridge the divide on education issues.

District 1: Peter Maier arrived four years ago promising better leadership. He has not lived up to expectations. A lawyer trained to analyze large amounts of reports and data, Maier's biggest transgression was failure to read a key report about problems in the district's small-business program. The report led to the firing of the superintendent and chief financial officer. Maier showed a stunning lack of curiosity.

Challengers Sharon Peaselee, a writer, and John Cummings, a former teacher, offer limited experience and civic résumés. Maier should move to the general election and demonstrate he's learned lessons.

District 2: Sherry Carr earns an unqualified endorsement. The Boeing management analyst joined the board already steeped in educational issues. She had led the Seattle Council PTSA and volunteered on district committees.

Carr has grown into the board's governance role. In the often emotional arena of public education, Carr displays a reasoned tone and willingness to push back, for example, on reductions in central administration and in cautioning against reopening schools too swiftly.

Neither Kate Martin, Jack Whelan nor Mark Weber offer credible alternatives.

District 3: Harium Martin-Morris and Michelle Buetow deserve to advance toward the general election. Incumbent Martin-Morris is a constructive presence. Buetow, a TOPS parent, offers exciting change and a grasp of educational issues from challenges at Rainier Beach in the south to enrollment pressures in the north.

Former teacher John Dunn is not ready to oversee a billion-dollar organization.

District 6: Steve Sundquist is the best choice. Currently board president, Sundquist set a professional tone that kept this board from delving into the angry sideshows of previous boards. Sundquist's managerial background should help push for greater accountability from district staff.

Challengers Nick Esparza, Marty McLaren and Joy Anderson offer narrow platforms and none of Sundquist's leadership skills.


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