[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff. We could not find any donations from the Letter writer to this candidate via the PDC.]
I am an anti-racism educator, a front line social justice activist, and I just cast my vote for Melissa Petrini, for Highline School Board position 4. Here’s why:
I am also a pragmatist. I evaluate what is and isn’t working and make adjustments as necessary. What I have seen in the past decade while being involved in Highline school district, is very concerning to me, and has impacted my family directly. A trend has developed and seemingly become the norm, whereas aspiring edu-celebs use well-intended tax dollars to grant big contracts to companies who can further their own careers. None of this is beneficial to Highline students, and it depletes dollars that could be allocated to incetivizing new teachers to come on board, experienced teachers to stay, hire tutors for struggling students, and so much more. Companies like Panorama are eager to sweep up all of the expiring Esser funds, and even include on their website form letters for central office staff to build a case to contract with them, using the ESSER $$$. Panorama collects data on students through surveys, which are co-designed by the districts they contract with. In Highline’s case, those surveys contain many questions about the issue of race, and are required to be administered twice per year by school staff, with no cleat opt-out path for families who find the surveys invasive or offensive. In fact, families do not even have access to the answers their children give during the surveys. The district claims this is all part of their mission of creating a “culture of belonging” and “equity” but from our perspective as a family with Black children, it does quite the opposite. A mostly-white staff, ambushing our kids with race-related conversations during their school day, when they already have to navigate the world from a marginalized position, is certainly not giving them a sense of belonging. The truth is, the 300k that Panorama receives from Highline delivers one thing only: returned favors for the staff who sign over the funds. Exposure, consulting gigs, and more can be gained, for the right price.
Not surprisingly, these same staff are very interested in maintaining a school board that will approve the funds they need to keep the arrangement going. And they most certainly don’t want pesky board members who do their jobs by asking questions, and providing oversight and accountability to the superintendent and his staff.
Enter Melissa Petrini. Melissa has endured a smear campaign like none other. District staff are working overtime to make voters think that a vote for her is a vote for everyone’s favorite orange villain. There’s a problem though – even Melissa doesn’t support that villain. Nor does she support racism, anti-trans sentiment, or any other form of hate.
I sat down with Melissa and her darling daughter Pearl, over some hot chocolate. Since I was forced to withdraw my 10 year old daughter from Marvista elementary last year after they failed her on many levels, and most importantly teaching her to be a strong at-level reader, she was part of the hot chocolate crew too. I was interested in finding out just where all of these accusations were coming from, and assessing for myself if Melissa Petrini was the threat to humanity that she was being cast as. For 2 hours we talked, while her 3 year old with down syndrome, and my 10 year old with no classmates, played nearby. I consider myself to be skilled in getting to the heart of issues like racism, transphobia, etc, and educating when necessary. I have been moderating for White Nonsense Roundup on twitter for 7 years, and often have best selling anti-racism authors send me their books to read and review. I’ve also extensively mentored Highline school district leaders on equity in school systems. So I felt confident and ready for any turn the conversation could take.
We talked about everything. Religion, racism, kids with special needs, our Highline experiences, our kids, our lives, and our hopes for all students in Highline district. By the end of our conversation I was heartened in the belief that Melissa is a person who has lived experience, great visions and ideas, and a very open heart to learning. She is committed to equipping Highline students with tangible skills and tools they’ll be able to transfer into adulthood. She has met with Muslim families and heard their stories. She reads, asks questions, and has her eyes wide open to the challenges Highline families are facing. She also has a strong belief that a school board director should be committed to objectivity, and work for the best interest of all Highline students. Melissa wanted me to know that she doesn’t work for any organization or special interest group. This seems important, as the board provides checks and balances to the district.
Melissa showed integrity by never disparaging her opponents in the race, and vowed to stick to the important issues, which, in her mind – are the basics: literacy, math, science, and history. She made sure to let me know she does not advocate for book banning, supports common sense social-emotional learning, and is dismayed at the recent dismissal of the beloved Evergreen band leader.
It really feels as though Melissa Petrini has her hand on the pulse of the district, and is ready to work hard for the students. I’m looking forward to the fresh air she’ll bring if elected, and look forward to more conversations with her in the future.
– Danielle Stubblefield
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