Who should oversee Washington’s largest school district?

Four of the seven seats on the Seattle School Board will be up for a vote this November, and so far only one incumbent, Board President Leslie Harris, has confirmed her intention to run again. So by this winter, the board could look different.

What’s at stake: financial and legal oversight of the state’s largest school district with a $1 billion annual budget, its new superintendent and carrying out a five-year strategic plan aimed at improving outcomes for African American male students. The board must also contend with falling enrollment in many schools.

So far, two incumbents confirmed they are officially out of the running. Earlier this year, board member Jill Geary told The Seattle Times that she is relocating with her family moving with her family to the U.K. and will not seek another term. Scott Pinkham, another incumbent, wrote in an email Friday morning that he was also not planning to run again.

We still don’t know whether Rick Burke plans on running again. On Wednesday, Burke said he would make an announcement at the end of the week, but did not specify whether it would be an announcement of another campaign.

He — and any challengers for open or occupied seats — has until May 17 to make their intentions known and file their campaign with King County Elections. (Here is a guide from the county on how to do that.)

Each board member represents a different geographic slice, or “district,” of the city. This election will affect mostly North and West Seattle residents:


  • District 1, Scott Pinkham: North Seattle — Broadview, North Beach, Olympic Hills neighborhoods
  • District 2, Rick Burke: Northwest Seattle — Greenlake, Greenwood and Fremont neighborhoods
  • District 3, Jill Geary: Northeast Seattle — Sandpoint, View Ridge and Bryant neighborhoods
  • District 6, Leslie Harris: West Seattle and South Park

Being on the School Board can feel like a full-time job, current and former members say, but with little compensation: Members receive up to $4,800 in compensation per year for meetings. Expenses related to their role, including travel to conferences, can get reimbursed by Seattle Public Schools. School Board members are expected to attend regular meetings, convene often with their constituents and hold district staff accountable.

The board could also lose another member after Election Day, which is Nov. 5. Central District board representative Zachary DeWolf recently announced his campaign to challenge Kshama Sawant for her City Council seat.

If DeWolf wins, the board will have to appoint someone to replace him until the next election cycle, which is in 2021. If not, he plans to stay on.

With the exception of Betty Patu, elected in 2009 to represent South Seattle, all board members are serving their first terms.

The election season will run in tandem with another summer of bargaining for a new teacher contract. Negotiations last year broke down when the 6,000-member teachers union voted to authorize a strike, which was averted only when the district and the union agreed to a one-year contract. That contract expires Aug. 31.