Voters in the Bethel School District have a choice to make in the general election this fall: Do they want a new School Board member who’s a lawyer and an advocate of a better high school graduation rate and more technical education, or a union official who has negotiated labor contracts for employees of other school districts and who wants an end to local tax support of education?
Amy Pivetta Hoffman has worked as an attorney and has volunteered in the Bethel district. She and Rick Payne, who has been a Teamsters union officer and has four children who’ve attended Bethel schools, are running for Position 4 on the board.
Payne also ran for the board in 2011, losing in the primary election.
In the general election that ends Nov. 5, Payne or Hoffman will win the seat that’s being given up by Michael Audas, who was appointed last year but isn’t seeking election.
The Pierce County elections department will mail ballots to voters on Oct. 18.
Hoffman and Payne responded to a questionnaire The Dispatch sent to both candidates. Here are their answers to several questions about their backgrounds and views:
In your professional and personal experience and background, what qualifies you for this office?
Hoffman: My qualifications include significant policy experience gained while working as an attorney, and performing extensive volunteer service with local organizations including the Bethel School District.
My specific experience related to education policy includes a position as in-house counsel for a small government. In that position, I advised the governing body on issues related to Head Start, pre-k, k-12 and higher education at the local, state and federal levels. I also assisted with grant administration and acted as liaison for the governing body to stakeholders, improving communication and procedures. My other legal experience includes legislative work, which required development and advocacy of policies benefitting my clients at the state and federal levels.
In 2010 I started my own practice, APH Law, in Puyallup, which serves small businesses and individuals throughout western Washington. My practice focuses on issues relating to contracts; commercial, private and public works construction, general civil litigation, estate planning and probate.
My extensive volunteer service includes Bethel district select committees – Instructional Materials, Sensitive Issues, and Diversity Partnership. I also currently serve as chair of the Frederickson Land-Use Advisory Committee, am the past president of the Frederickson-Clover Creek Community Council, and former board secretary for Friends of Stan and Joan Cross Park, and member of the Mid-County Leadership Team.
My professional community service activities include serving as board member for the South County Branch of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, and member of the Graham Business Association and Lakewood Chamber of Commerce.
Payne: With my experience as a father of four children who played sports and grew up in Bethel School District, I’ve been A PTA member, a Teamsters union member for 16 years, an officer of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 313. I have experience running a Teamsters labor union, working with lobbyists and legislators at the state capitol. In my day to day workings, I have helped negotiate and oversaw over 101 collective barging agreements that were made up of state corrections employees, Pierce County employees, Tacoma School District maintenance, Franklin Pierce School District bus drivers, Murrey’s Disposal, cities of Tacoma, Puyallup and Sumner, and private employers. I have been elected and/or appointed vice president, secretary -treasurer of our local union and served as a delegate for Pierce County Labor Council. Currently I am an elective PCO officer in the Second District. I feel this wide range of experience will be helpful.
What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Hoffman: After a long period of board instability and lack of unified vision, including three director vacancies within a span of 18 months, the Board has successfully overcome challenges to share common, positive goals for Bethel. My hope is to be an effective and collaborative member of this board, and to complement the existing board with my skills and experience to further develop and refine positive policies for the benefit of Bethel students and families.
Payne: Lots of issues come to mind, but I want to put an end to the teachers having to resort to begging for benefits by having to hit the picket lines, and our parents and students wondering if the start of school is going to be delayed due to a labor strike once and for all. Fortunately it wasn’t our district this year, but it’s on the news every year – some district might not start on time and they get our children worrying if they are going to be delayed. We need to step up and pay for top-notch benefits for top-notch staff. We need to be proactive now, not later.
Name one to three issues you feel strongest about, and describe how you will address them?
Hoffman: Improvement of on-time graduation rates is without a doubt the most important issue facing Bethel at the moment. To address this issue, I will work with the board to develop a specific plan with identified goals and accountability benchmarks for effective implementation to raise graduation rates of Bethel students over time.
Improvement of communications between the board and administration with families and the community is another important issue. The district has several existing technology and non-technology based mechanisms that could be simply improved to ensure a line of communication for families and community members to voice concerns, opinions and suggestions with a feeling that they have, in fact, been heard. For example, current on-line communication systems for parents and students could be expanded to include opportunities for comment outside of twice-monthly Board meetings. Also, higher board visibility is also easily achievable by increased attendance at school and non-school related community events.
An expanded career and technical education opportunity for students is also a key issue. Bethel has been a leader in its partnerships and hosting the Pierce County Skills Center, but this work remains unfinished. In order to provide expanded opportunities, I hope to assist in district innovation in planning and developing strategic partnerships to effectively offer students as many career path options as possible.
Payne: The top three issues facing the school district are (1) School safety
Our kids and teacher need to be safe, period. No matter what the cost is. One life loss is too many. I feel the new policy of going up to the main office and waiting to be buzzed in school isn’t enough and still leaves our children and staff unsafe. You can’t tell by looking at the face of a person through a camera that they don’t have a gun on them. I would lobby for more sheriff officers or are own school police officers to be in our schools. Having a first responder close by in the school is a plus to deal with anything that comes up. I would like to install more cameras in the school to include covering staff entrance, playfields and parking lots. And finally, supporting a 1-800 tip hotline for students and parents 24/7, reporting any concern that may need to be addressed.
(2) Mcleary decision (by state Supreme Court). What to do with the money we will receive, I think any money our district receives should go to offset the bond and levy money we use for FTE employees. Currently we are dipping into the fund in the amount of $9,000 per employee times 325. That’s a lot. The Mcleary decision was clear. It stated that the state needs to fund schools, period. With that thought in mind, the bond and levy money that we collect from each home owner needs to go away, period. If any extra, we should pay off any loan we had to take out to run the schools.
(3) The new common core standards and the impact on teachers and students. We need to study the impact this will have and has had on our teachers and on our students.