School board candidates talk bullying, building

School board candidates—at least half of them—spoke at a candidate forum in Newport Hills on Tuesday night.

School board candidates—at least half of them—spoke at a candidate forum in Newport Hills on Tuesday night. Present were Ed Luera and My-Linh Thai for District Director 5 and Krischanna Roberson for District Director 4, facing Tracy Trojovsky, who was unable to attend. The third board seat will be filled by Chris Marks, who is uncontested.

Luera has coached community football and track teams in Bellevue and is vice president for Clise Properties, a real estate company. Thai, a pharmacist, has volunteered extensively with the school district, on the board of the Bellevue PTSA council, organizing the Math Olympiad for Tyee Middle School and has chaired national arts competition, Reflections. Roberson is a parent of four and director of operations at Bellevue College. She’s also served on the PTSA council and as a district parent-advisory council.

Candidates spoke on a range of topics, from bullying in the district to the overcrowding of schools. Bellevue is a 19,000-student district, but while the city is known for its pockets of affluence, 20 percent of students in the schools qualify for free-and-reduced lunches.

“We need to (find) a better approach for how to collect data and how we build schools,” said Roberson, adding that the district was currently taking a reactive approach to planning.

Luera noted that real estate constantly draws on forecasting and data, something he thought the district could do a better job of. He noted that many of the buildings he worked on in downtown Seattle sprung up in 18 to 19 months. Sammamish High School was predicted to take three and a half years, meaning the current freshman class would have six months in the new space.

When asked what were the biggest obstacles the district faced in the coming few years, Thai said she expected it to be communicating the direction of the district, something she hoped to amend with more community meetings and forums. Luera suspects it will be igniting a spark among struggling students, something he said he can identify with from the time it took to latch onto his own education. For Roberson, the challenge lies in connecting parents with resources, like English as a Second Language programs, disability services and more.

During a more emotional moment of the forum, moderator Michelle Hilhorst asked the candidates if they knew of recent bullying incidents at Newport Hills Elementary. All three candidates spoke personally about the concern. Roberson said it was currently anti-bullying month at Bellevue College and noted that a big component of combatting it was to teach parents how to use and understand social media – such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter – which had become a new frontier for bullying. Luera said he had heard from kids he’d coached that it was an issue and Thai recounted her own experience with bullying, when she came to the U.S. at 15, knowing very little English.

“We’re here to educate and to support,” said Thai. “If something is happening in the classroom, we need to be supportive.”