Board director Doug Benjamin interacts with Alderwood third grader at a recent school meeting

The following is a Q & A with Doug Benjamin and Katie Rose in April 2022:

How did you feel about the passage of our school and facilities bond in February?

Doug: I’m very thankful and appreciative to our community for supporting our bond. This isn’t just a one-off bond but the completion of years of work in past bonds. It’s drawing to a close many projects that have been going on for decades. It would have been tragic if it had been thwarted. The district has a comprehensive long-term construction plan, and this bond helps us replace and repair some of the highest needs.

Katie It’s really something to celebrate, the fact that a super majority of voters from our community came out and supported this work. It really struck me on a recent tour of Sunnyland, and even I got a little emotional. Here we are, building a space that is so clearly about building community within a school. It really feels like such a shift from how schools used to be built. I value the history of some of our old buildings but many were built decades ago and not designed to teach kids how we now know they learn best. Now we get to design spaces that work best for kids, how to learn, how to grow. And it’s not just the schools but also the playgrounds. Our schools are really a culmination of community building.

Doug: When I walk in our new spaces, like Alderwood and Parkview, I know those new schools make a difference to our kids and parents, and also our staff. It’s pretty remarkable. I really think our students and community deserve these outstanding schools and facilities.

Katie: The reason I decided to run for school board in the first place was less about schools and more the idea that schools and education are this huge component of our community. They are one of the biggest resources that we have and it’s one of the few places were so many people come together and gather. It’s a place where know kids grow and thrive. Our kids deserve it but our community deserves it too. There is no bigger investment that we make in our community than t in educating our children. I think that’s a huge testament to how important our kids are and much we value education.

Can you share some of your hopes for our children and district as move into the endemic stage?

Doug: As long as we’re following our public health recommendations, the sooner we can get back to normal learning settings, the better. My hope is that we have kids in school where their social emotional interactions are complete and not covered up by masks.

Then we can come to terms with the areas our students need support, whether that is learning loss or mental health challenges. We know resilience is so important, but how can kids be resilient if they are struggling with mental health? This really comes down to our focus on the whole child.

Katie: This is part of the endemic stage. Yes, we want to move on, but so many in our community are still experiencing grief, for lack of a better word, to really get through the mental health consequences. It’s a balance of looking back and looking forward. My hope is that we also look for opportunities to heal as a community. There is a collective piece too. Have you heard of the screaming moms? They went out to a field to scream. When I heard that I thought “wow! That sounds go good!” So yes, we need to offer mental health supports and individual care to our children and we also need to mourn and express ourselves as a group, too. It’s extending whole child to whole community.


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