While there are four Bellevue School District board seats on the ballot, only the District 5 seat is contested. In that race, voters should return Francine Wiest to the board.
In her short tenure, Wiest has proved to be an attentive, analytical and solutions-oriented board member. She brings valuable skills and experience, and a drive to excellence that will benefit all students, teachers and staff in the Bellevue school community.
Wiest, a physician and medical consultant, was appointed to the school board in January when former board member My-Linh Thai took her seat in the state Legislature. Jane Aras, another of the five candidates the school board interviewed for that appointment, is also running for the District 5 seat.
Aras is an empathetic educator with a master’s degree in special education and a passion for students’ social and emotional development. In campaign literature and in discussion with members of The Seattle Times editorial board, she says she wants to make sure every Bellevue student feels capable, supported and safe — certainly, worthy goals.
But Wiest, who has served in PTSA units and several advisory and steering committees for the school district, offers a broader vision for the district and a firm understanding of how to translate that vision into actionable school policy.
When she was approached by a teacher who said she did not know what she was supposed to do if immigration agents showed up on school grounds, Wiest investigated current policy, she said in an interview.
“And as I dug in, I found out that we had some policy, but it wasn’t really clear. And actually the directive around that was the opposite of what you might expect,” she said.
She said she spent the summer talking with stakeholders to develop a new districtwide policy for responding to inquiries from immigration agents. “And now it’s clear that you don’t give out directory information. And we certainly don’t turn students over without a warrant. We don’t do that.”
Wiest’s systems-oriented thinking is an asset not only for the district’s most vulnerable students but the entire school community.
In less than a year, Wiest has proved herself an exceptionally capable and forward-looking steward of the school district’s resources. Voters should return her to the board.