Q & A: Kendra Martin, Wenatchee School Board Candidate
Kendra Martin is a candidate for the Wenatchee School Board Director District #4 seat. Martin was a recent guest on KPQ's Agenda program and discussed her campaign for school board.
KPQ: Let's hear about your background and qualifications you think suit you for this position on the school board?
Kendra Martin: I was raised by a family of educators. My mom and both of my grandmother's on both sides of the family were educators and we had educators going back further than that. But those three women were core people who raised me and so I got to see an inside track of what schools look like in the special education field as that was the specialty of a couple of them. I moved here seven years ago in 2016. And in 2017 I took a role with Wenatchee School District in the Nutrition Services Department as the office manager. In 2019, I transitioned to an executive assistant role at Wenatchee High School. I have my own children, the oldest has just recently graduated from Wenatchee High school and have had experience in a wide variety of ways helping my own students to be successful in school and then serving on boards like PTO at Foothills (Middle School) and band boosters for the high school. So I've served in multiple roles with the district and have some insight that I feel lends to a great ability to serve as a school board member.
KPQ: When did you consider running for school board?
Kendra Martin: I think I've first really seriously started thinking about it around this time last year, as most people probably know my husband ran in 2021 and that's something that he has been passionate about for a long time. And with my role at the school district, I didn't really think about running for school board until I started feeling like my time at the district was coming to an end for my own personal reasons and most of that's because I felt like I had gotten to a cap in my career there. There was a career development for me there just based on the role that I was in. And I just felt like I wasn't really being of service to the degree that I wanted to be in the way that I wanted to be in the role that I was in with a district. So those things fueled my decision to leave the school district and August 31 was my last day at the high school and subsequently with that, prepare to run for school board.
KPQ: The Wenatchee School Board is cutting over 75 positions as part of $8 million in budget cuts. COVID funds that are no longer available from the federal level and declining enrollment were contributing factors. With projections of 300 fewer students expected over the next three years, that's going to continue cuts in sate state funding. So how does the Wenatchee school district best address this?
Kendra Martin: That's a great question. You know, we have had a lot of those budget cuts come from llower salaried positions in the district and some of that's because those are the positions that we can quote unquote afford to cut in terms of continuing to maintain state mandated student to teacher ratios. Special education, obviously comes out of a different bucket. And those positions are not only paid differently, but there's different parameters around how we make sure we are supporting our students in those roles and others. I think that we could have done a lot to avoid getting in this situation in the first place. But I think that having a realistic evaluation of what's affecting our enrollment, controlling the things that we can control, which would mean gaining the trust of our stakeholders and making sure that we're really being of service to our students, and to our stakeholders in our commitment to making sure that our students are reaching academic excellence and they see Wenatchee School District as a place for their children to achieve that. Those are the things that we can control. We can't control the declining birth rates. We can't control people moving out of the area, but we can control making sure that we do provide the best educational opportunity for the valley.
KPQ: So what about people making a decision? You alluded to it there, that maybe some parents feel like the school district isn't the best option for them and may consider homeschooling? Is that a controllable factor?
Kendra Martin: I do believe to some extent that is a controllable factor. Ultimately, we can't control whether a parent decides to put their students in a different type of schooling program here. There are now more than ever, even seven years ago when I moved here, parents have more options than ever right here in the valley to get the educational needs of their students met. But I think if we're seeing people pull their children out of Wenatchee school district to put them into a different program, whether it's homeschool, or Pinnacles Prep or another private school situation, then we have to ask ourselves why? And if they're leaving because they don't feel like their student's needs are being met, then we need to evaluate why that is and how to address it.
KPQ: What did you learn from the COVID-19 shutdowns in terms of masking or vaccine mandates?
Kendra Martin: Well, I was in a unique position at that time because I was working at the high school in a role where operationally, a lot of the decision making was. I was part of executing those plans at the high school and how we responded to those things. And so I got to see firsthand what that decision making looked like at the school building level at least. I think that there are some things that we should look at and evaluate on whether we did a good job with them or not. And then the element of the stress of that put on students as well. You know, I think that there are a lot of mixed reactions and I'm not a scientist, nor am I a doctor and so for me to say the vaccines work or not work is not a position that I can confidently say because that's not my field of expertise. I think that people should have the right to choose, just like we do with other vaccines. I think if we're going to put a mandate in place for vaccines for anything, just like we do for teachers and students have to have certain vaccines or a waiver, then that waiver shouldn't be treated any differently than it is for any other vaccine. We have waivers for chickenpox, and it seemed like there was a lot of turmoil around staff turning in those waivers in order to be able to work and the approval or denial of them. And this wasn't just the school district. This was nationwide that this this was a issue. And so I think that we shouldn't be treating it any differently than we do those other vaccines.
KPQ: You said you were part of implementation, anything else you care to share about that process?
Kendra Martin: I think that we did a really good job of being thoughtful about how to execute and communicate. That is one thing that I actually lost a lot of sleepover that was one of my responsibilities at the high school was communicating out. You know, that was just part of my basic rule at the high school is communicating out to our families. And when you don't have students coming to the building, you lose an element of ability to communicate with them. So how are we going to make sure we have enough cross sections, that we have a very fine mesh instead of big Swiss cheese holes in our communication efforts. And I think that we did a good job of attacking that from a lot of different angles and doing our best to provide engaging content, whether it was online or when we moved back to hybrid to keep our students engaged in learning to the best of our ability.
KPQ: Let's discuss Wenatchee School District results in the state report card that shows grade level standards are below 50% or well below in math, science and reading and so how do we get those results where they should be?
Kendra Martin: I think that we have to stick to the commitment in our big six strategic plan, though that strategic plan is designed to specifically address among other things, math and reading readiness, and you know, between COVID and just the the political climate of the nation that has bled into the school district. We've lost sight of some of those things, and our school board and our cabinet and people who make decisions at the district level to be implemented at that schools have been distracted by these things that don't have anything to really do with education. I mean, obviously COVID had an impact on how we did education and making sure that students feel safe at school has an impact on their learning. Just like being hungry has an impact on our learning. But I think that we need to just get back to the basics of education. And remember that our number one goal is to provide students with the best education we can. We have a lot of resources at the schools and that we use through our community to meet the educational and academic needs of our students. We just need to be better at using them and keeping our focus there.
KPQ: Supt. Kalahar has reported the Wenatchee School District student population is 54% Hispanic, 41% White, 23% are English language learners, 60% are considered low income, as many as 6% are homeless, 14% migrant and 60% with a disability. What should the school district be doing to help all of those youngsters improve their performance?
Kendra Martin: I think putting intermediary frameworks in to make sure that we are addressing the the particular boundaries of each student and the barriers of each student or each population of students. You know, that's a little bit of a misnomer though, because just because a student isn't a native english speaker and they're being taught by an English teacher doesn't mean that they can't perform well in that class. But making sure that we do have the framework of support. So is that hiring more bilingual para educators to be present at every building to help to help students who need help with translating materials, so that they can understand the content? Is it hiring more, or changing the makeup of our staffing so that we do have a more representative staff of what our school district student body looks like? You know, just asking those questions and then remembering that, our math teacher should be teaching math our english teachers should be teaching english. And our reading teachers should be teaching those reading skills as well, and science and so on and so forth. And we should be sticking to that content material that the state requires that we teach and that we know as a school district and a learning center are important for our students to have success when they leave the school building.
KPQ: A few candidates have mentioned something that you described, and that is to consider whether the teaching staff reflects the cultural makeup of the student population. Is that to say that perhaps someone who is Hispanic is going to learn better from someone who shares that same culture?
Kendra Martin: I would say not necessarily. But I would say is that when we are in an environment where we feel like we can relate to other people, and I'll give an example. My daughter worked in orchards this summer. And so she a white girl, she does not speak any Spanish. And on her first couple days of the job, she was very uncomfortable, because nobody looked like her. Nobody spoke her language. And it was a really great experience for her because she's not been in that situation before. You see predominantly English speaking and at least fifty fifty White students around her. And so she had another supervisor that looked a little bit like her and spoke English as their first language and that helped her feel a little more comfortable. All in all, she was able to still communicate with people she didn't know the same language and work through those those barriers, to make sure that she and her co workers had a good work experience. So I think when we are able to put people, especially in front of students who are in a big intimidating building, and put a familiar face or background in front of them then it helps them have somebody they can connect to.
KPQ: Proposed legislation introduced in Olympia that would prohibit transgender male athletes from participating in a girl's sport has not passed. The WIAA policy (Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association) policy states athletes can participate in sports consistent with their gender identity. But provides no medical or legal requirements and stipulates only that an athlete could appeal a question of eligibility. How would you address the question of transgender male athletes wanting to compete in girls sports?
Kendra Martin: I think the first thing we have to do is address the fact that we are building in inequality when we talk about transgender male students versus transgender female students. There are transgender students that transition gender from both male to female and female to male and, you know, I will say this about my personal opinion if we're going to if we're going to pass legislation for one than it has to be for both. And people will say people who are born and assigned male at birth or born a male have a athletic advantage over people who are who are born female. And that's where the argument comes from. But I would argue that we're doing a lot to set back our own society, if we start drawing different boundary lines, instead of drawing a circle around everybody. And so when that comes to addressing that as a school board member and for our district, I think that we have to really think hard about and ask a lot of questions about what this means and who this potentially impacts at our school. Is this an issue that is currently a non issue but might potentially become an issue? Are we talking about one or two students are we talking about 10 to 15? The landscape of how we approach a lot of things, I think, has changed, because we have a lot of social issues that schools have not faced before prior even prior to COVID. And so I think that we just have to carefully examine what that looks like and really, you know, speak to the students even that it might impact because we want to make sure at the end of the day, that we are again not getting caught up and tangled in the weeds because our focus is education. And then secondly, making sure that we are providing a safe environment for all students to feel welcome.
KPQ: What would be your priorities if you're elected to the board?
Kendra Martin: My priorities if I'm elected is to make sure that we stay focused on education. We talked about our big six strategic plan a little bit earlier, and the core components of that are academically based and to get our students reading ready and algebra ready and prepared for life outside of high school. And with those things in mind, we have to be diligent about making sure that the things that are affecting our social climate, not even just in our valley, but in our nation. And I mean, we're going into a year that is completely politically charged because we're going to be electing a new president next year. We have to make sure those things don't influence the way that we teach education because none of those change changes the rules of algebra. None of those things change what our history looks like. None of those things change how we read, and maybe there's new tools that come along to help us be more efficient with that, but those political things don't change. Don't change the facts of algebra. And so we shouldn't be changing how we're teaching to address political agendas. So the second thing that I would say that I'm most passionate about is making sure that our staff is well taken care of, especially in an environment that's very volatile for them because they go to bed at night. Not knowing if they're gonna have a job tomorrow, because we're still dealing with budget cuts, just the way that the district and the Cabinet foster a sense of community around this very uncertain time, especially for certain groups of staff members, and making sure that those staff members feel heard by the cabinet and board and district members. They have a voice and their voice is important. And without them, we don't get to educate students at all. So it's important to make sure that their voices are heard and valued. And then the third piece of that would be to just closely examine the budget and make sure that we're held accountable as a board holding each other as peers, and then the cabinet, accountable to really looking at those budget numbers every week when they come by, and not just checking the box on it.
KPQ: Why would you be the best candidate for this seat on Wenatchee School Board?
Kendra Martin: I would be the best candidate for this seat because I'm not interested in pandering to one group of people or another I'm interested in drawing a circle around our entire student body and our staff as well. My philosophy when I worked at the high school and in my opening meeting in 2019 to my staff there because I oversaw the secretaries. I said we don't teach students but what we do impacts the way our building runs. So our job is to make sure that if somebody comes to us with a question whether it's a student or a staff member or a parent, we're identifying what it is we can do to remove that barrier so that their student or the teacher has the ability to successfully teach or the student has an ability to successfully learn. That's our job. And so with that in mind that transitions to school board as well. The whole school board's intent is to make sure that we have a district that's running appropriately so that we can service all of our students. And we can set a large plan for that and then deal with the outliers that come along, like students who need extra framework or different frameworks to make sure that they are also included in that learning plan.
Ballots are due postmarked by November 7th for his year's General Election or deposited in a ballot drop box by 8pm on Election Day.