Eleven candidates vying for three Northshore School District director positions

By Meghan McLaughlin

Over the past 18 months, schools have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds—especially Northshore School District. Frustrations rose when students remained at home in virtual classes while other students across the region returned to the classroom. It is this past year and a half that has led to a crowded school board primary race with a total of 11 candidates vying for three seats.

Director District 1

Michael Albrecht

With 14 years of Northshore School District education under his belt, 20-year-old Michael Albrecht is close to students, mainly because it was not too long ago he was in their shoes.

From Bothell, Albrecht began his academic career at Sorenson Early Childhood Center and eventually graduated from North Creek High School with honors. Although he left the schools a few years ago, he has continued to remain engaged by watching board meetings and attending events.

“Despite my age and despite all of the struggles going on in my life, especially relating to health struggles, I decided that I would make my time count here on Earth,” Albrecht said, “and this is how I’m making it happen by serving the voters of Northshore.”

Albrecht is a three-time cancer fighter and although that is a significant part of his life and he has dedicated time as an ambassador to the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation, he wants voters to know his health is stable and he will bring the tenacity with which he has fought his stage four cancer to the Northshore School Board.

During school board meetings, Albrecht said he noticed budget misallocation and a lack of proper reopening schedules. The reopening concerned Albrecht in particular as he polled hundreds of students in the Northshore high schools. What he found was that 78% of high school students he interviewed were experiencing mental health struggles.

“School is more than just a place to learn, but a place to socialize and grow as an individual,” Albrecht said. “There’s a lot of value in that. And when you obstruct in-person instruction, you take away from a lot of people’s social and mental wellbeing.”

Albrecht is studying real estate at the University of Washington and is interested in the financial side of how the world works. He has advocated for financial transparency from the board and hopes to improve that.

Elizabeth Crowley

Elizabeth Crowley’s campaign centers on connection. After more than a year of virtual learning, she has realized the importance of getting students ready to jump back into the classroom for improved social interaction. In a candidate statement, Crowley suggests, “Connect with me and I will ‘be the change we want to see.'”

Crowley aims to focus on academics in tandem with social and emotional learning. Providing mental health assistance is a priority of Crowley’s as the pandemic has exacerbated existing stressors in students’ lives. She believes that nurturing students’ emotional growth will make them better equipped to take on the world beyond the classroom.

“The other thing that’s important to me is to not just talk about equity but actually to make changes and progress towards equitable solutions,” Crowley said.

Crowley acknowledged this is no small task for such a large district and noted that she wants to look at how programs and services are delivered to ensure everyone can take advantage of those opportunities. She pointed out how not every resource, like sensory classrooms, is available across the board at every school.

As a cybersecurity leader at Boeing, Crowley hopes to rely on her background in security to inform her decisions if elected to the board. She aims to balance taking advantage of technology for its educational purposes while not putting students, teachers and staff at risk of exposing personal data or anything that might disrupt students’ learning.

If elected, Crowley’s list of priorities is rebuilding existing physical infrastructure in the classrooms that need updating and evaluating where students are in academic, social and emotional aspects.

“Everybody got through this differently, and we’re going to need different levels of services,” Crowley said. “We can’t take a one size fits all approach with these students.”

Jacqueline McGourty

Jacqueline McGourty has served as a board member of the Northshore School District for the past four years and hopes to continue her work with the district.

Her introduction to becoming a board member was untraditional in many ways. McGourty said her children had special needs that the district could not accommodate at the time, and while they could not attend Northshore schools, the public education system was still close to McGourty’s heart.

“Public school made me what I am and I’ve always been a fighter for public education,” she said.

When she retired early from her career as a biochemist in 2015, she began looking at organizations she wanted to be a part of.

“In 2016, I wanted to find some way to get involved to try to make a change, to get active, to give back to the community,” McGourty said.

Some parents from the school district who were familiar with McGourty’s background and values asked her if she would run for the school board. The timing was right, and she went for it.

McGourty’s decision to run for re-election stems from the value she places on equity. She acknowledges that the board is not diverse and welcomes changing that aspect of the board, beginning with herself.

“I thought if we could find somebody who has some experience, has been involved in the schools and with the PTA and the board, somebody who would be a great fit to add some diversity to the board, I’d be happy to step down,” McGourty said, “but we didn’t really get that.”

McGourty also noted that the first two years on the school board require a lot of training, and she doesn’t think the district can afford two years of that now. If re-elected, McGourty intends on prioritizing getting students up to speed following virtual learning, focusing on special education, expanding on existing programs and emphasizing early childhood education.

Brian M. Travis

Brian M. Travis believes that students should be to be taught how to think, not what to think. Equipped with a master’s degree in leadership and management from Western Governors University and a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University, Travis runs for a position on the school board to be “a respectful voice of dissent” against what he believes is the radicalization of public school education.

“I believe that there are too many of the adult pressures of life being brought to bear upon children,” Travis said. “There is too much strong sexual content. There’s too much of the school and the government taking the place of parents when it comes to deciding when to teach children about the most intimate sections of their lives.”

Travis said while he believes students need the building blocks to become educated citizens, “schools are getting into the realm of alternative sexual identities, political indoctrination, and persuasion and going far beyond their intended original scope.”

A resident of Washington state for 16 years, Travis aims to represent those who share his viewpoint about the desire to protect the “traditional family.” He wants to share his perspective and inspire conversation among board members. Travis opposes critical race theory and rejects the concept of equity in favor of equality.

“I think it’s important to let children be children,” Travis said. “Of course, they have to learn, but seriously, they do not have to learn about methods of sexual practices. They don’t have to learn about multiple genders and multiple methods of sexuality. They don’t have to learn to hate their country as it’s founded. They don’t have to be taught all the ugliness.”

Director District No. 4

Katya Bautista

Hailing from a small city in Belarus, Katya Bautista is a first-generation immigrant who earned her American citizenship last year. She is a mother to her five-year-old son, who will begin kindergarten this fall.

Bautista and her husband had hoped their son would attend private school, but when they found out they did not make it off the waitlist for this upcoming school year, Bautista opened her ears to what her community said about the school district. She heard parents had tried to reach out to the school board but did not receive a response or the requested assistance.

“My focus would be to collect all the issues that the community has and to prioritize them,” Bautista said, “and to start working step by step on them according to that plan.”

Bautista has a background in engineering with a master’s degree in industrial heat-power engineering from Belarusian National Technical University and works as an energy consultant at BEE Consulting. She is motivated to run for the school board due to the positive experience of getting an education in Belarus. Her son is already bilingual with English as his third language, and Bautista is committed to providing Northshore students with a diverse and high-quality education.

“I’m pretty much different from all of the candidates,” Bautista said. “I have a different perspective, a different point of view just because I didn’t grow up here. The system is different just because it’s a different country, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Just because I have a different background, I can at least show that it can be another way.”

Sandy R. Hayes

Twelve years ago, Sandy R. Hayes was asked to run for school board. She was an involved mother to three Northshore students and has worked in the PTA over the years. Nobody challenged Hayes that election and she has served on the board ever since.

Although Hayes is familiar with her children’s experience attending the Northshore School District, she was determined not to limit her perspective of the district to their needs but to understand students’ needs across the district.

So, she began to volunteer weekly in whatever school, grade level, or program needed a helping hand to accomplish this.

If reelected, Hayes hopes to continue her advocacy work to ensure students have access to a rigorous curriculum. She emphasized the importance of considering what graduates of a K-12 system need to succeed in the 21st century.

“It looks different than what was needed when you graduated in the 20th century, and we haven’t adjusted our education system accordingly,” Hayes said. “So having that conversation, getting staff and community on board—we need to be focused on things like collaboration and communication and critical thinking and creativity. And how do we change that so that our kids are graduating to be adaptive and resilient and resourceful.”

Hayes detailed that the board is currently creating a profile of a Northshore School District graduate. This graduate represents what a graduate should look like across the district and serves as what Hayes calls the board’s “north star.”

“I think my biggest pillar is that we have 23,000 students, we are a large system, we need to be fiscally responsible,” Hayes said. “At the same time, you have to balance that with the belief each one of those 23,000 students is special and an individual. It’s a constant balancing act and a system of operating in a fiscally prudent way that moves the system along, but at the same time recognizing the individuality of the student.”

Chris Roberdeau

His reason for running is simple: it’s for the kids. A father of three children who are Northshore students and graduates, Chris Roberdeau, comes from a family of educators.

His wife is a school psychologist, his brother-in-law is a teacher and the teacher’s union president, and various other family members are teachers and school administrators. The Roberdeau’s moved from Missouri nine years ago, and ever since, Roberdeau has seen minor issues in his children’s education pile up.

The pandemic exacerbated the little things. Roberdeau expressed frustrations with the school board and superintendent but felt ignored and evaded. A leader in the military, in the corporate world, and nonprofits and boards, Roberdeau was bothered by the lack of “real leadership.”

“We need someone who can make a decision and listen to the people around them,” he said. “I just decided it was time to step up and do something.”

Roberdeau’s platform focuses on three components: academic performance, managing the budget responsibly, and comprehensive policy regarding students’ health and safety.

He pointed to the equity gap between the academic performance of low-income students versus students who are not from low-income families. According to Roberdeau, that number can be as significant as a 50% competence difference.

Roberdeau appreciates the new facilities the school district has built but hopes to tackle safety concerns in schools and playgrounds that need it most before creating new projects in the district.

He saw the pandemic’s impact on student’s mental health and felt the board largely ignored parental concerns over their students’ mental health. Because of that, he aims to prioritize the health and safety of Northshore School District students if elected.

Director District No. 5

Amy Cast

Amy Cast joined the school board eight years ago and focused on three main areas: equitable education for all, supporting the whole child and a robust, transparent financial system. 

“Part of that work (equitable education) focuses on equitable student access to the wide variety of programs in the Northshore School District,” Cast said. “And making sure every student, no matter their circumstance or their characteristics or their identity, can meaningfully engage with all the offerings that Northshore has to offer. Because historically, that has not been the case.”

Supporting the whole child, Cast said, focuses on students’ mental health and social and emotional wellness. 

If re-elected, Cast aims to create a transparent and robust fiscal financial system for the district. To do so requires she continues the momentum she has built up over the past eight years. It’s one of the reasons she didn’t think twice about running for re-election.

“Walking this journey on the school board for eight years, you have a totally different understanding of the responsibilities of leadership, and there is no way I was going to step away from living up to my responsibilities to support this district,” Cast said. “Obviously, it’s the voters’ decision if I come back. But we worked so hard over these last 16 months to get the systems in place, get the support we needed from the Department of Health, and get the support we needed from state and federal agencies to reopen and start to recover. I firmly believe this is not the time where you need someone who’s learning from scratch from the beginning.”

Angela Chapman

As Manager of Fund Development at Youth Eastside Services, Angela Chapman plans on relying on her 15 years of experience in nonprofit work to inform her decisions on the school board.

Chapman began her career serving children with developmental disabilities as a fundraiser and has worked in various causes, landing in youth mental health. A mother of three, Chapman has seen firsthand how much mental health plays a role in academic performance.

“I am a champion for public school, and I’m a product of public school,” Chapman said. “This last year brought to light for me the need to have more input into the decisions that were being made that impact students academically and then obviously that encompasses emotionally and socially and mental health.”

Each of Chapman’s children has a variety of educational needs she’s advocated.

“I’m in it to help other parents to navigate that process and to advocate for those kids that do need a lot of help just to make it through school,” Chapman said.

She and her family moved to Woodinville from Seattle in hopes the Northshore School District would be better for their children than the Seattle School District was. After attending meeting after meeting with the school board, especially in this past year, Chapman became frustrated.

“There was just not enough transparency with parents and with taxpayers of why they had made the decisions they had,” Chapman said. “There was not humbleness on the part of the board to say, ‘Hey, parents, we get that you want your kids back in school.'”

Chapman has laid out her priorities if elected: recovery after a year of virtual learning and identifying academic gaps, expanding mental health resources, and removing barriers for students in terms of diversity, especially with special education.

Amy Felt

Amy Felt decided to run for Northshore School Board because she saw the need for a new voice and a new perspective.

She said no current school board members have children currently in the system, and the board is supposed to represent the community.

Felt hopes to be a parent representative for the community as well as a professional representative. While working as an attorney, she has been an involved parent in her children’s education.

Felt and her family moved to Woodinville over nine years ago. Her platform relies on three mainstays: proactive leadership, open and honest communication and collaborative results.

“There’s a lot of good in our district and I think a lot of great people, a lot of great educators, a lot of great teachers, a lot of great parents,” Felt said. “We can sit down at the table together and actually work through real educational problems, but always keep our students first.”

“Students first” is the motto of Felt’s campaign. While prioritizing the students and what they need most, Felt hopes to reinstate a sense of community and trust within that community. She acknowledged how difficult of a year it has been, and uniting under the common goal to make good decisions for the students will bring the community together.

“I think for me as a board member, one of the things I bring to the table is looking at issues that come up with a critical eye,” Felt said. “I’m going to look at it through a lens of a mom and ask myself, are these things that benefit the children of Northshore? If they are, I’m going to vote yes.”‘

Jasmine Lee Fry

Jasmine Lee Fry views all Northshore School District issues through the lens of equity to guarantee all students are getting quality opportunities and education.

Fry is an immigrant from Korea who did not speak English when she arrived in the United States. When Fry noticed the lack of diversity on the school board, she began asking others to consider running. Nobody would, so Fry decided she needed to step up.

“We have kids from minority backgrounds and we don’t have any representation on the school board,” Fry said. “Our district does a great job with the right policies and using the right words when talking about diversity, equity and inclusion. I love that, but we also need to walk the walk.”

Fry wants to engage the community every step of the way since she has seen parents frustrated with the board in the last year.

“I would like to see the community kind of mend and realize we’re all on the side of the kids,” Fry said. “We’re all on the side of making the community stronger. I’d love to see this momentum that we’re seeing continue, but without the anger and with more collaboration, with more respect and active listening on all sides.”

Fry has two children in the school district, and she is an active parent. Fry believes adding a standard course catalog would help lessen inequities across schools so that students are not limited in course selection because of their zip code.

Before moving to Washington and starting a family, Fry was a newspaper reporter and editor for 11 years. She wrote editorials based on the editorial board’s opinions, which led to dynamic conversations that she believes have prepared her well for the Northshore School Board.

“You have to get all sides of the story, regardless of what your own opinion is,” Fry said. “So I feel like I have a solid basis for understanding different perspectives—getting all the different sides of the story, not just one or two sides of the story, but five sides of the story, seven sides of the story, whatever the case may be.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Northshore News reached out to Jacqueline McGourty to give her an opportunity to clarify or retract her statement of her children having special needs the Northshore School District couldn’t accommodate at the time and she has declined to do so.

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