Q & A With Miranda Skalisky, Wenatchee School Board Candidate
Miranda Skalisky is a candidate for Wenatchee School Board Director, District #4. She stopped by The Agenda program on KPQ to discuss her campaign for a seat on the board.
KPQ: Describe your background and qualifications for a seat on the Wenatchee School Board?
Miranda Skalisky: I grew up here in the Wenatchee Valley. I graduated from Wenatchee High School here in 2008. I moved back here about ten years ago. I currently work for the Department of Social and Health Services with Adult Protective Services. I think last time I interviewed, I worked for Chelan County Superior Court, so in the last year and year and a half, I've made a little transition. Currently, I investigate elder abuse in Chelan and Douglas County and sometimes Okanagan County on occasion.
KPQ: What interests you with that type of public service?
Miranda Skalisky: What intrigued me most is that you're it's helping helping the community, you're helping the vulnerable community, not just elderly individuals as well. I work with developmentally disabled folks as well. I can work with individuals that may not have capabilities to meet their basic daily needs independently and need some extra assistance here in the community. My main focus was trying to give back to the community and that's what I've been advocating for this entire campaign is all the years of volunteer work I have done in the Wenatchee Valley, I still want to continue and give back in some way.
KPQ: Any other volunteer work that you'd like to highlight?
Miranda Skalisky: I was an intern with Wenatchee Police Department in 2015 as a community outreach coordinator I have volunteered as a Special Olympics coach for skiing and track. I have volunteered at North Central Campfire at Camp Zanika. I am currently their board president and advocating for youth to learn more outdoor skills and social interactive skills. I have also been a tutor and advocate in the Wenatchee School District.
KPQ: You are running again for Wenatchee School board rather quickly as the District moved to a district voting system. So even though you weren't successful in that recent campaign, what did you learn with that effort?
Miranda Skalisky: I's been about a year and a half almost two. I believe it's just by 100 votes 100 or so. Like I said before, I want to advocate for our students, our teachers, our families and community here as a whole and I still would like to do that.
I think it was just the community networking and just meeting with a wide variety of different folks here and and it was really humble and just amazing just to meet with everybody, like there's businesses, just families and other educators that want to help be proactive and give back to the community. And I think that was the most positive thing out of the campaign and just really connecting back with those folks and just keep pushing through saying that we need to make a positive difference in our school district because it is it is needed.
KPQ: The board voted to eliminate over 75 positions to save about $8 million. Cuts were attributed to the end of federal COVID funding and declining enrollment that is projected to fall by 300 fewer students over the next three years due to declining birth rates. That's going to mean reduced state funding. How should the Wenatchee School District respond?
Miranda Skalisky: You can't adjust the birth rate that's statistically showing statewide and we are in the situation now that we are having to cut those budgets for staffing and extracurricular activities, a whole wide variety of stuff that the school district used to offer. I think it is a hot topic for a lot of people. What are we going to do financially to benefit the students, to benefit teachers and our families. What allocated funds do we have currently, where are we getting grant money? Where is the money being spent? And how can we wisely spend it to where it's going to be put to good use and not put it into something that may not be as high a need. Almost everything can be a need or a benefit for the school district for students, teachers and families. But I think now that we're on a stricter budget, we need to be more wise on how we're going to spend that to benefit for everybody. We're gonna have to get more bang for the buck.
KPQ: Have you been able to identify any areas where those next difficult decisions are going to have to be made?
Miranda Skalisky: I think some that's been an issue is student athletics, student extracurricular programs, what outside clubs and organizations that we already contract with the school district. I think those were some of the bigger ones that come to mind, first
KPQ: What did you learn and what are your takeaways from the COVID-19 shutdowns, masking and vaccine mandates? Should we have another pandemic or a surge in COVID cases?
Miranda Skalisky: Well, I hope we don't face something like that again. I think it was very traumatic for everybody as a whole at some form of capacity. What I have learned is that the board, they have to follow the state mandated guidelines. We have to follow what the state is advising and directing us to do and you know, as much as some folks don't want to follow or abide that. I don't want to see something to be shut down and then not being a benefit for everybody. I think that happened. And not here. Not here in Wenatchee. But in other nearby areas, is just trying to put our best foot forward on how we're going to best advocate for everybody also abiding by what the state law on this or what the mandate will be to the best of our ability.
KPQ: The Washington state report card shows varying results but in every grade less than half and often far fewer Wenatchee School District students met grade level standards in math, science or reading. How do we improve that?
Miranda Skalisky: The test scores in math, reading and science. If you look at the OSPI, you can see it's not just here and I think that's some people may not realize that it's statewide. My older stepdaughter is attending the Pasco school district and they are facing similar numbers, and not being as high as we would like them to be. I think it's from having to go from in person for so long to online learning, and that's making that setback because it doesn't benefit for everyone to be online learning and we all can understand that. But you know, some students did thrive. So you kind of see that little bit of a balance. Now how are we going to do that? Moving forward is, I think, as part of the board and educational staff is working with the student and the parents individually because parents know their kids better than probably anybody. Teachers may know their students to some capacity but the parents know better and meeting with them and building that connection of what are we going to do the best advocate for your student? What are the positives and negatives of how are they learning and how are they adapting because there's kids that have more hands on learning than others. There's other kids that can just open the book and read, you know, it's finding that common middle ground I think is crucial to see what are we going to do to help our students so we can get those percentages back to where we want them to be?
KPQ: The Internet Academy was cut as a part of the $8 million savings?
Miranda Skalisky: It was really disheartening to see because I've seen and read from just social media of families that loved the internet Academy, they loved the staff. They loved the environment that the kids were in and the fact that you get to do some online learning but you did some hands on learning like field trips. That's an unfortunate cut to see but I do know that they have Valley Academy. I have some colleagues and some friends that have taken their kids there.
KPQ: Wenatchee School District, student population is 54% Hispanic 41% White, 23% English language learners, 60% low income, 6% homeless, 14% migrantand 16% with a disability. For those test scores to be higher. All of those kids have to perform better. So what do you think Wenatchee School district can be doing to try and give all those kids an opportunity to excel?
Miranda Skalisky: I think it's meeting with the parents because the parents know their child best and seeing what's going to best advocate for them and then for a lot of it is an underserved. Some of I've met with folks be actually out in the community door belling last week and they said they feel like they're not being advocated for because it may be a transportation issue. Sometimes it is a language barrier and how are we going to best approach families because even though some some parents may not be fully English speaking, having a child to translate in between may not be the best practice. So I know that we have the blooms app which was the former Remind Me app. I know they're providing the newsletters every week and then the meeting minutes from the board. But also I feel that the school, the school district and the schools themselves with the educators can do more community outreach to meet with these folks and see what are we going to do to help your child succeed. Especially for those that may have that language barrier or a financial component, as well for for those students that are homeless. I think part of that can turn into a bigger bigger issue after COVID with cost of living and with jobs and put those families in a difficult situation. So if that is the case, then I'm hoping the school district can help intervene or provide those networking resources to help them at least find a transitional housing at that point.
KPQ: Bills that would prohibit transgender male athletes from participating in girls sports had been introduced in Olympia but nothing has passed in the Washington legislature. The WIAA policy states athletes will participate in programs consistent with their gender identity, or the gender most consistent consistently expressed. There are no medical or legal requirements and an athlete can appeal a question of eligibility. But how would you want to address transgender male athletes competing in girls sports in the Wenatchee school district?
Miranda Skalisky: It is a hot it is a hot topic and then I feel like with the policy that's currently in play now, I can see one side of it it's a it's a gray area on clearly identifying that because I'm not I'm not a medical expert. I'm not a legal expert and I'm going to respect a student's choice of what they want to be identified or what they want to be called because they are a human being to with with feelings and I'm going to respect it. Also. I want all students to have that opportunity to play sports. I think it's a vital thing for kids to have that opportunity because there are so many extra sports that I feel are underappreciated that can provide scholarship opportunities for kids such as swimming and golf. That's something that my husband will tell you like golf and swimming are some of the underappreciated and if kids are good at it, they can get those scholarship opportunities. But also, when I think of this, I see it's like also in a way saying that girls cannot compete in wrestling. We have high school girls here competing in boys wrestling and it's saying that if if it were to come to it boys who wanted to play girls volleyball or beach volleyball, not allowing that. I see that now, not here but other more populated areas where girls can play football because they can have that capability. It's fine. It's defining that with a fine tooth comb what that policy and procedure is. And that's something I would like to see when that arrives here in the school district.
KPQ: What are your priorities if you make it onto the school board?
Miranda Skalisky: The financial budget is interesting to me I want it to be so that we are financially accommodating for our students and educators or admin and our families because it's an unfortunate situation on how it came about. But it happened, we need to move forward and now we need to be creative and think outside the box. How are we going to best approach it together? Moving forward and advocating for those that need those resources the most? And what are we going to have to make the difficult choices and cutting down and what are we going to be financially providing? I think that is one of the key issues I want to help advocate for and then also like what we discussed earlier with just the current job that I have. I want to make sure that our students and families have those free community networking resources because with my job and meeting with folks that I currently do for my line of work there's probably a vast majority that didn't know that these resources even existed here in our valley. I know it's heavily advertised, but some of those folks may still not have access or to hear about those resources. And so that's what I would hope for the board and other educators or families, to advocate and promote that there's actually transportation, meal resources, housing resources as well or if students want to work, there are job opportunities as well.
KPQ: Describe why you think you're the best candidate for the District #4 seat on the Wenatchee School Board
Miranda Skalisky: I have a stepdaughter, she's eight years old, she attends to mission View Elementary. Watching her go through the motions with the school district. That is a big, big reason why because I want to advocate for kids like her to make sure they get the resources and they're they're being represented. Also just to give back to our community I've lived here my whole life and I want to give back. From all the volunteer work I have done, I want to serve our valley as a whole. Watching my mom serve the Wenatchee Valley for as long as she did, she worked for Wenatchee Police Department for nearly 20 years and watching my in laws. My father in law helped build Westside High and worked there until he retired. And his dad was a teacher at Wenatchee high school for a very long time and an athletics coach. Watching them even after they had retired. To see them give back to the school district to put their time in and volunteer to give back to the community. I idolize that I can I applaud them for that and it's a big motivator for me as to why I want to run because I feel like everybody should be represented at some capacity.
The ballots for the General Election will be mailed out approximately October 20th and are due back postmarked no later than November 7th or deposited in the Election Drop Boxes by 8pm on Election Day.