A race for School Board between a five-year incumbent and a former educator for the district faces voters in the Eatonville School District in the general election.
Ronda Litzenberger, who works in the real estate and contract law fields, is seeking her second full term on the board.
Her challenger is David Jacobson, whose career in education included time as a principal and teacher for Eatonville schools.
Their contest will be decided when ballots are counted after the close of voting Nov. 5. Ballots will be mailed to voters Oct. 18 by the Pierce County elections department.
To inform voters about Litzenberger and Jacobson, the candidates responded to a questionnaire from The Dispatch. Their answers follow:
In your professional and personal experience and background, what qualifies you for this office?
Jacobson: In my professional experience, I have been a school teacher, administrator and central office administrator in Washington schools for the past 19 years. Seven of those years were in the Eatonville district as an elementary principal/special deduction teacher and later as an elementary principal/special services director. Through my educational career, I have had the good fortune to be part of high-quality school districts and have been able to make meaningful impacts in improving student achievement through my teaching and leadership. In my personal experience, I have been an Eatonville resident since 2006 and have four children in Eatonville schools. In working with my children, understanding the Eatonville community, knowing what constitutes a quality education and understanding what a school district must do to perform at a high level in all areas qualifies me to support the school board and help make decisions that will guide the direction of the school district.
Litzenberger: My professional career as a limited practice officer and title recording agent provided me with skills and knowledge that have been useful as an Eatonville School Board member. My familiarity with the WAC (Washington Administrative Code) has given me the ability to research legal issues and concerns that have been brought to the board. My experience with real estate and contract law, as well as the responsibility for the receipt, disbursement and financial accountability for escrow accounts, has helped me understand and navigate the district budget. All of these things have been helpful in my position on the board. However, my most valuable experiences have come through community service. Reading with a kindergartener and seeing the expression on their face when they read their first words has taught me the importance of our early-learning programs. Assisting in the classroom has given me an understanding of the passion our teachers have for our kids. Facilitating the WSU “Strengthening Families” workshops for parents and students showed me the value of parental involvement in the lives or our children. Organizing a variety of youth camps, symposiums, leadership forums, and service projects for kids of all ages has given me the opportunity to witness the value of teamwork and hands-on learning. As co-chair of Citizens for Education, I learned the importance of community consensus and support. While coordinating the Eatonville National Day of Service, I became more aware of the goodness, compassion, and generosity of our community as we rally around those in need.
Over the last five years I have had to opportunity to serve on the School Board. In this position, I have gained a tremendous respect for the factually and staff of our district. I have enjoyed hearing from our community, parents and students has they share with me their concerns and celebrations. I have learned and continue to learn the best practices for educating our children. As I look back, I now see that the most valuable truth I have learned is the importance of being there. As a board member, I must be there to see the great things that are going on, to hear the concerns of students and parents, to witness the hard work and effort that goes into the refinement and development of our curriculum. I must be there to support high standards and fiscal responsibility. I must be present and available at our schools and extracurricular activities. This one principle is what I believe makes me most qualified for this position.
What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Jacobson: I hope to help facilitate an educational system that ensures that all students achieve at a high level. I want to ensure that Eatonville students thrive in a safe environment. I want the district to continue to increase its transparency in being fiscally responsible and look at how to contain rising operating and utility costs through conservation measures. I want to explore ways to use fiscal resources to address the district’s needs for technological innovation for teaching and learning as well as explore alternative funding mechanisms to support education. As a member of the board, I will engage the constituents of the district to help guide the district by taking part in creating a student-focused strategic plan. I hope to ensure that the district has the same educational and extra-curricular activities as any district would have, if not more.
Ultimately, if elected, I want to continue to create a system that ensures success for every student by providing a safe environment in which meaningful instruction takes place by dedicated staff with community support.
Litzenberger: There are a number of exciting things happening right now. It is my desire to continue to help facilitate growth. We are fortunate to have a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) program being developed in our district. Through this program, we are not only offering exciting new learning opportunities to our students, we are building professional and community partnerships that will bring real world applications of math and science into the classroom. I hope to see Eatonville working toward the designation of an Innovative School District. This designation provides a pathway for schools to develop innovative practices to better meet the needs of individual students and allows for more autonomy. The goals of these programs are to ignite students’ passion for learning and help them succeed academically. I will continue to build relationships with our legislators and communicate the need to fully fund basic education so that we can move this good work forward. I desire to unify the public and private sectors of our community. Eatonville is a great place to raise families. It has a tremendous number of passionate citizens. If we work together to magnify the strengths of our business and community leaders, together we can accomplish anything.
Name one to three issues you feel strongest about, and describe how you will address them.
Jacobson: I feel strongly about school safety as a whole. This ranges from being prepared to act if a weapon appears in a school, to bullying/harassment of our children to students being safe around the traffic congestion during peak pickup/dropoff hours. To address these issues, I would commission an analysis of the safety of our schools and help determine the need areas for which improvement is required. I will help implement the policies and procedures needed to help nurture a culture of respect and responsibility within the schools where every student feels safe, including allocating the resources to ensure such a culture can be facilitated.
School funding: In addition to the continuing plight to mandate the state fully fund education, school boards must rethink traditional school budgeting. Boards must be creative in considering how they use a fund balance and where they choose to allocate discretionary dollars. In that respect, I want to work with the district and board, with public transparency, in analyzing how district dollars are spent and how they can better meet the needs of students by reviewing and considering board budgeting practices.
Curriculum, instruction and assessment: Education is going through the biggest reform it has experienced as a system in the last 100 years. The Common Core standards will compel instruction to have students learn at a more comprehensive level. This structure of standards requires that new assessments be issued. Assessments need to be monitored and appropriate to measure students’ capabilities correctly, as one size of assessment does not fit all.
I will ensure that teachers have the tools necessary to instruct and assess our students, that appropriate assessments are commensurate with increased and changing standards and students have the capacity to move towards college and career readiness.
Litzenberger: I will speak to the issues I believe need immediate attention.
1 We must emphasize to our Legislature that it is their paramount duty to fully fund education. Currently, our schools cannot remain open without the community support we receive from our local levies. Basics, such as transportation and standard maintenance and operations costs, are not adequately funded. All are necessary functions in providing proper education to our students. We should not have to take money away from things like new curricula, updated technology or arts programs to pay for these basic necessities.
2. One of the current issues that we need to address is Common Core. It is designed to set new high uniform expectations for K-12 education. I support raising the academic bar; however, this new initiative must be handled with caution and care. We will be required to address this issue in the very near future; in doing so, it will be important that we maintain our ability to address the needs of our students individually. It is our responsibility as a School Board to become familiar with new laws and regulations and to provide adequate support to our teachers through professional development and supportive course work.
3. Career and college readiness. A Harvard Graduate School of Education report found that only 32 percent of students that graduate high school are prepared for college. For every 10 college freshmen seeking an associates degree, half need remediation and only 10 percent of those freshmen will achieve the degree in three years. We must provide our children with all the tools they need to be successful. More rigor and additional college prep courses is a portion of the solution. We also need to look to career and technical education as a postgraduate pathway for many of our students. A college education is not the only form of post-graduate training that will benefit our students. Hands-on technical training provides many career opportunities. We need to provide multiple pathways for the students of Eatonville High School to prepare to be productive members of our community.