In Southeast Seattle’s District 7, Betty Patu is running for a third term on the board against challenger Chelsea Byers. In the District 4 race to represent Belltown, Queen Anne, Magnolia and Ballard, parent leader Eden Mack is running against Herbert Camet Jr.
If the primary election is a guide, the races for the District 4 and 7 seats on the Seattle School Board may be lopsided affairs.
In Southeast Seattle’s District 7 race, Betty Patu is running for a third term on the board against challenger Chelsea Byers, who moved to Seattle about two years ago.
In the District 4 race to represent Belltown, Queen Anne, Magnolia and Ballard, longtime parent activist Eden Mack is running against Herbert Camet Jr., who has lived in Seattle since 2005 but spent time abroad.
Both Mack and Patu earned much of the vote in the August primary. Mack won 70 percent, compared with Camet’s 8 percent in a seven-candidate race. Patu received 68 percent, compared with Byers’ 21 percent.
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But in the November election, candidates run citywide, so candidates aren’t limited to the support they have in their districts.
Voters also will choose a new board member in District 5, where the unprecedented race between two candidates in their 30s is much tighter.
Eden Mack’s campaign has raised $28,500, the second-highest amount in the state for a school-board race. (Zachary Pullin DeWolf, a candidate in District 5, has the most.) Mack, 44, is a volunteer advocate who has served as the legislative chair for the Seattle Council PTSA, working with more than 80 school PTAS, and was a founding member of the grass-roots group called Washington’s Paramount Duty, which works to pressure the Legislature to fully fund K-12 education. Her three children attend Cascadia Elementary and Lawton Elementary. She’s endorsed by the Seattle teachers union, six of the seven School Board members and King County Democrats.
Camet, 70, hasn’t raised any money, a fact he promotes in more than a dozen news releases sent to media outlets in which he calls Mack — and others running for the School Board — “corporate, self-declared, political partisan candidates.” He is a former teacher and principal who has worked in schools in the United States, the Middle East and Asia.
He has no children in Seattle schools and has never worked with the district. Both, he said, would be a “direct conflict of interest.”
When asked what he thinks the Seattle School Board has done well, he replied that, having watched the board on television “and the bureaucratic inanities they usually deal with, I find the School Board has done not one thing I consider useful or necessary.”
He’s attacked Mack’s contributions and endorsements and described her as a corrupt candidate and fraud.
Mack dismisses that.
“To do this work, you need to have the ability to work effectively with other people with civility and respect, even when you don’t agree, and still be able to get the job done,” she said. “My track record shows I have done that effectively.”
If she’s re-elected, Patu will be the only board member with more than two years of experience, which she says will be an asset. Before joining the board, Patu, 68, ran dropout-prevention programs in Seattle schools for more than 30 years. A native of Samoa, she has five children and 20 grandchildren, including five who are in Seattle schools. She says she has a “deep, longstanding relationship with the community” in Southeast Seattle.
She’s endorsed by the Seattle teachers union and King County Democrats. Her campaign has raised $6,500.
In her eight years on the board, she says she is most proud of when the board established the Racial Equity Policy in 2012, launched the African American Male Initiative and changed school start times to better align with students’ sleep schedules.
As the only incumbent in the three School Board races, Patu also has critics who question the direction of the current board. Byers, 33, says this election should be about change. Byers is the vice president of instruction at Galvanize, a technology learning company, and former teacher with the Teach for America program, which provides recent college graduates with several months of training and then places them in teaching positions, mostly in low-income schools across the nation. Her campaign has raised nearly $19,000, with more than half coming after the August primary.
Byers said the board needs to come up with more innovative ways to close the achievement gap and, to her, the way to do that is through new board members with different ideas. Byers pointed to her experience in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields as a strength she would bring to the board. “I think the current board doesn’t have the judgment we need to make our district be more successful,” she said. “They’ve had an opportunity to create change, but we haven’t seen that” across the district.