Martin Barron Seeks Another Term on Wenatchee School Board
Martin Barron is currently serving on the Wenatchee School Board in Position #3 but is running for a 2 year term for District #5 At Large seat as the Board is electing members under the new district voting system.
Barron recently interviewed on KPQ's Agenda Program
KPQ: Why are you seeking another term?
Martin Barron: I had intended to be a one term person, and I think it would be good to have fresh blood on the board but the same time you need experience. But we're in a time of significant change or five positions with redistricting up for reelection. We're on our third superintendent in three years. And I'd served as president during that transition. And a number of people approached me and said it would be very helpful to have some continuity and stability. And I enjoy doing the school district job and I hope and think I'm useful. And so it made sense to me and the at large position if you want to make light of it is only two years, not four years. So I decided that yes, I and my wife supported me was I was willing to run.
KPQ: If you are successful, would you consider after that two years, another term on the board or would you feel like if you fulfilled that commitment?
Martin Barron: I know I would not run again. I think that the transition would be handled with two years, and it would be time for fresh blood.
KPQ: The WSD Board voted to eliminate over 75 positions and reduce staffing by 8% over the next two years to save at least $8 million. The cuts were attributed to the end of federal COVID funding and declining enrollment. Declining enrollment is still projected at 300 fewer students in the next 3 years due in part to declining birthrates. This means reduced state funding so how does the WSD get out of this spiral?
Martin Barron: Really, this is an exercise of right sizing I come from a management and finance background amongst other things. And you have to do that if you looked at this series of budget cuts, you're right 1/3 of it was a gradual decline in enrollment which is a national situation not local and its demographic. And as we see in Wenatchee, we see a lot more people coming here. It may be interesting to see five, eight years from now what that impact is, but right now in the very short term, it is a decline and that's what's projected. We also had temporary funding about a third of the adjustment was adjusting to the loss of special funding during the pandemic. And then there was a question of timing and some of the timing we've actually made up with favorable budget variances enabling that to be done. So I think that it's a goal. The goal is to get to a stable, managed service, right sizing if you call it that, not easy human impact in the short term, but necessary and I think very doable.
KPQ; What did you learn and what are your take-aways from the COVID-19 shutdowns, masking and vaccine mandates should there be another pandemic or surge in COVID cases?
Martin Barron: I would say two things to introduce that this is more than schools. This is the whole of the United States. Is the one and the next crisis will not be identical to COVID. So while it's difficult, I don't think there is an automatic answer. We learned an awful lot. I think education gained, transformed itself gaining a lot more power learning how to do things remotely, learning how to use technology, learning about mental health, a lot more than we knew about before. So I think it's actually a healthy transformation of education and dealing with uncertainty. We have to and we did follow health regulations, which the schools do not control and they won't control health regulations next time. What we have to do is adapt for the people within our community in the best possible way we can. And I think I digress a little bit when we were on half days I spent a day shadowing a sophomore through the high school. It didn't provide me answers, but it told me something about what was going on. And so I think you have to be adaptable. I don't think you can say I've got the answers. I think it is schools and the whole world around us. And I don't, as an individual person, have an answer I would like to see and I think you're right here. The more our emergency organizations and our health organizations, statewide and nationally, think about how you would do and we have stronger reinforcements. We do need to do that. That's an unfinished job. It will continue. But I don't think we'll be able to anticipate everything and therefore we have to be prepared to work together, being kind to each other. I think that's important too, and thinking about the issues so we learnt a lot, but I don't think we have the perfect answer for the future.
KPQ: What did or what should we have learned about learning loss and be trying to address should we have to face it again?
Martin Barron: One of the things that I think the district did very well was open up an internet Academy. And that was a great success. And some students actually performed better. Let's say for example, somebody with a certain kind of autism would in that environment than in a classroom. So we've learned how we can do that. The one thing we're sure we know is that learning loss was an equitable families with more resources and more ability to handle it did better. So we are going to have to look in the corners and see who's hurting most that's the lesson of how to do it in the future.
KPQ: The Washington State report card shows varying results but in every grade less than half and often many fewer WSD students met grade level standards in Math, Science or Reading. What are we doing wrong, what can we do better?
Martin Barron: I like what can we be doing better? I don't think it's right to say what are we doing wrong? And I'm going to step back a little bit to what learning loss it's a real factor that it makes it very difficult to go back and compare three years ago to today. So we do have some ground to catch up. So I look at it as we've got to be future oriented. Look at what we're doing training teachers working on the mathematic and literacy programs to make them stronger career and technical education. And recognizing the change in the workforce. And one of the things that district talks about is every student has to be future ready. That means they've got to be able to defend themselves and survive in one sense. It also means they need to be adaptable in their careers for something that isn't just you train for one thing and you have it for the rest of your life. You've got to be able to learn. So I think it's the dynamics looking forward. It is important to have statistics and look back you talk about those percentages and not ones to write home about but they are very much in keeping with what similar districts have. So we as a nation, would like to have our students reach the schools better prepared, and then we pick it up. But I think our challenge is to make it continually continuous improvement, better, better, better and work at it. Don't over promise and keep on it.
KPQ: The WSD student population is 54% hispanic, 41% white, 23% english language learners, 60% low income, 6% homeless, 14% migrant, 16% with a disability. What should the WSD be doing to make sure all these kids have an opportunity to excel?
Martin Barron: Well, the way I look at diversity and that center of what the school district recognizes and is working on, is that's a question of finding all talents. Not all talents are equally visible. And that's we've got to do we've got to find people and then create opportunities. That match their talents. And that's differences in ethnicity and, and personal background and different kinds of opportunities. I have I consider myself somewhat multicultural. I've worked in many different countries and I see that so as a development economist, that's what it is. It's finding talents, it's being efficient, it's not wasting talents. And it's more than just saying, Hey, I've got diversity. You've got to recognize the diversity. You've got to structure your teaching and you're finding and you've also got to make families feel that they are able to ask and seek a lot of people who are new to the committee community and a need to learn and be comfortable and confident that they can ask and seek things for their children. One of the things that I've been very pleased to be involved with is the introduction of high school students to committees with their parents. And what I've noticed, particularly if you deal with bilingual groups I work with the bilingual Parent Advisory Committee quite a lot is the introduction of the young adults I'll call them, they create a much stronger dynamic for everybody to know how to look for. Look for what you might call the American dream. So that's really what we're looking at. We're looking at diversity being how you find and then you how you structure it. And everything in education is long term. You have to be patient if you take a kindergartener, it's going to be 13 years before they graduate. And so if you want to transform something where your your high school graduates are struggling, you may want to be able to have that stream from kindergarten through there, gradually change fix or dramatically change that it is something that you have to stick to with determination and work on.
KPQ: Why did the WSD wait until a Title IX complaint was filed over the lack of softball facilities to move ahead with a planned $4 million proposal in Triangle Park?
Martin Barron: Well, I can only speak for the term that I've been on the school board. And what I can say is I personally have felt that this was critical and important from day one. And that we have when I say we the school district has tried to solve this as rapidly as possible from in the last four years and recognizing it as an issue. It is a litigation and a civil rights issue. And you're right it's been around for a long time. But what I can say is in the time that I've been on it it's been getting approval. It's it's been more of the delay than the school district putting its best foot forward. And in fact, I think I can say that some some responses have been Why are you pushing this so hard? Most schools in trouble like this, try to slow it down. We've been trying to get it to be solved. Something else I want to say about softball is an our whole extracurricular and athletics programs is they are the school district and the school has to fund the amenities and the facilities. But really this is a community asset. It's an entertainment and recreation. And it would be nice to have partnerships. And if you look ironically at part of the difficulty we have with soft Bill softball is how generous the community was for some of the boys sports and that creates part of the problem. But no, I can't answer as to what happened before I was on the school board. But I can assure you that we are really being diligent. And I think we will we want the facilities to be a really good community amenity not just for softball because it impacts a lot of other things as well in other sports.
KPQ: Bills that would prohibit transgender male athletes from participating in girls' sports have been introduced but failed in the Washington Legislature. The WIAA policy states that each athlete will participate in programs "consistent with their gender identity or the gender most consistently expressed." There are no medical or legal requirements and an athlete can appeal a question of eligibility. How would you address the question of transgender male athletes competing in girls sports?
Martin Barron: When I'm dealing with policy, I always start with the law and discrimination and individual rights. And you're right sometimes it's not completely defined. And so schools operate within a total community I I'm going to step back a little bit school directors don't write laws. They're not the executive for the for the school district. They don't write the instructions that come from Oh SPI. We can be catalysts we can have opinions, we can ask for things that fundamentally in areas like this, we are in the ocean, that is the whole community attempting, to the extent that we have some authority to guide the school into a situation that caters as best as we can. For all of the different interests. I realize I'm not answering the question, and I don't think I can answer as complex and difficult a question is this simply. But what is really important is to have the Goodwill for differences in the community to try to seek something that's compassionate to all fair. And when you raise transgender athletes, there's not just the comfort aspect, there is the ability to perform in physical competition. And this is a global national and the school district is like the tale of the tadpole. You don't call them tadpoles and American what's before the frog. And so, you know, we will have to work with that. Our policies are developed coming down from the law, and that's what we have to do. So no, I don't have a definitive answer.
KPQ: What are your priorities if elected?
Martin Barron: Okay. I think the school district has a very good strategic plan. And I'm going to say that I wasn't part of that committee and there's certain things that I would have thought should have been different, but it is a good strategic plan. Dr. Corey, Kandahar is our third superintendent in three years. And so my priority is to have maximum momentum for the good things in his under his leadership as he starts and under the strategic plan. So it's momentum is that word and I do have some of my own interests, but my greatest interest is to make the system work better. And that's where you got continuity and stability. We don't want to be chopping and changing direction and losing that. So I think there's good momentum, the training and the morale is really crucial. I sit in a board meeting after Bill equals one term that I think the greatest thing he left us with was a strong and healthy culture, and ready to go ahead on that, in that sense. I do have interests and when I talk about my own campaigning, for example, I'm excited about the effort and mathematics effort in literacy began two or three years ago. Mathematics is a national element of fear and a mindset. We, too often say, Oh, it's okay. I can't do math either. It's possible to do math that you have to start in the elementary school and get everybody to change their attitude, career and technical education which I talked about earlier, getting ready for the future. That is really, really critical as well. Getting more input from youth we I sit in always on the Student Advisory Council just to listen to them. I think getting youth input is quite educational for adults. So I have my own personal interests in that area. But I think they're secondary to using the resources of everybody and working all the corners. And steadily moving forward in the school district. So that's really my goal. It's an organizational momentum and development goal.
KPQ: Why are you the best candidate for this seat on the WSD board?
Martin Barron: I do think I bring some things. I am a lifetime learner. I can count of IQ six careers ranging from engineer to development economist to logistics and agribusiness, finance. So I have a lot of diversity that way. And I've been working helpful, I think on the Budget Committee as we've dealt on that I call myself multicultural. I do speak Spanish reasonably fluently, which is very useful in this community. I spent a lot of my time with a Latin American community. And so I think that's a big asset. And I ascended culturally as well. I've worked with humble people and I've worked with powerful people. And so those are characteristics of myself. I focus on my oath on the oath of office, which is you obey the law, the Constitution, and your job is to make education better. That sounds like what I've been saying earlier as well. But that kind of attitude and approach is critical. I think so I bring the experience. I bring open mindedness. I'm independent and nonpartisan. I try to do everything on merit. I really believe in mutual benefit. It's much better to get a win win solution than have somebody defeat somebody else and get their way. What we've got to do is look for things that we can get synergy on momentum on and go forward. And that's why I think I'm able to do that I'm a bridge builder. I'm a person who can make systems and people perform better. I know how to say thank you. I forgot to say that. That's one of the things I didn't wasn't born with it. I learned it by observation. Gratitude is important in helping an organization.
The General Election is Tuesday, November 7th, 2023. Ballots will be mailed out October 20th, 2023.