This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Fantastic news for Tacoma: Two extraordinary candidates, Dexter Gordon and Karen Vialle, are running for school board. We endorse both enthusiastically. Here’s why:
The Tacoma School District – like many urban school systems – wrestles with tough social problems. It teems with poor and otherwise disadvantaged schoolchildren who struggle with academics and often wind up as dropouts despite the valiant efforts of their teachers.
Poverty and troubled home lives bedevil many children. As in many cities, the dropout rate among black and Latino youth is intolerably high. The district needs high-powered school board members who will lie awake nights thinking about student performance and demand results from everyone in sight.
Gordon, who is seeking Position 3, and Vialle, seeking Position 5, are made to order.
Both have worthy rivals.
Also running for Position 3 are Andrew Milton, Scott Heinze and Betsy Elgar. Milton, a Steilacoom teacher who holds a Ph.D, is well qualified. Heinze, a former police officer, small businessman and doctoral candidate, also has strong credentials. Elgar is not up to the job.
Gordon, however, has the potential to be a giant. A distinguished professor at the University of Puget Sound, he directs the school’s African American Studies program. He has long been a community leader; he created the All-City Race and Pedagogy summits that have drawn attention to hurdles faced by minority students and explored solutions.
It’s safe to say Gordon will not put up with a system that dumps far too many youths on the streets with no future. And he understands that the system comprises the entire community, not just the schools themselves.
In Position 5, Kim Golding, a six-year veteran of the board, is running for re-election. She has brought a valuable, mom’s-eye perspective to the board but has not been a forceful presence.
Candidate Joseph Devlin does not appear to be campaigning seriously. Kim Washington, yet another candidate with a doctorate, has worked as a college administrator and faculty member; she appears to be a fine prospect.
But Vialle is a force of nature. Her qualifications are almost over the top.
She’s best known as a former mayor of Tacoma, but her résumé is much, much longer. The fifth-generation Tacoman and Wilson High School grad has been connected with education for much of her long career – as an assistant professor, PTA mom, school administrator and consultant for the Puyallup and Muckleshoot tribal school systems. She’s been a substitute teacher for years; she knows the classroom inside and out.
It doesn’t end there: She’s been executive director of Centro Latino, assistant director of the state budget office and deputy chief for the state insurance commissioner. She knows budgets inside and out.
Vialle is not a résumé-padder. She’s a high-energy, public-spirited woman who gets things done and does not suffer fools gladly. Like Gordon, she would be a tough and demanding boss who wouldn’t tolerate the status quo. Tacoma’s schoolchildren need both of them.