Tricia Cleek is a candidate for Wenatchee School Board Director District #5 At Large.  She appeared on a recent edition of KPQ's Agenda program to discuss her campaign.

KPQ:  Please highlight your background and qualifications fr this seat on the school board

Tricia Cleek:  I'm a taxpayer and a resident of Wenatchee. I grew up in the East Wenatchee area since I was about four years of age.. I homeschooled my own three boys and learned a whole lot doing that. So kind of got an insight into all that goes into that and you have to stay a few steps ahead of that as the teacher so that's, that's about it.

KPQ:  You're from your the healthcare field, correct? 

Tricia Cleek: I'm a nurse.

KPQ:  Why did you decide to run for the Wenatchee School Board?

Tricia Cleek:  I was made aware of the state of the schools and the failing test scores and I was just alarmed by that and a lot of the sociological ideologies that are coming into the schools. I am very concerned about our kids being taught those kinds of things too. So I thought maybe we should jump in there and see if we can do something to get more of a neutral approach to education.

KPQ: What did you learn and what are your takeaways from the COVID-19, shutdowns, masking and vaccine mandates should there be another pandemic or a surge in COVID cases?

Tricia Cleek:  Well, first off, I'll say I'm against vaccine mandates. I don't think anybody has the right to tell somebody that they have to get a vaccination. The masks were highly controversial as far as their effectiveness. And as it relates to the school. I really feel that that should be left up to the parents. Whether they want their kids to go and wear masks and continue their education or be kept at home.   I wasn't involved in the school board at that time, so I'm not sure how they reached the conclusions they did. But I would hope that we could continue education in classroom. If we have another surge.

KPQ:  The board had to eliminate many positions, around 75 in staff reductions over the next two two years to save about $8 million. The cuts were attributed to the the ending of federal COVID dollars and declining enrollment.  We could see 300 fewer students over the couple of years with declining birth rates. So that's going to continue the reductions in state funding. So how should Wenatchee School district respond?

Tricia Cleek:  Well, first of all, I'd like to address other aspects of the declining enrollment. During that COVID period. Homeschooling increased by 9000 students in Washington and private education increased by 16,000 students, so obviously, whatever was going on during that time, parents weren't happy with at least a segment of them. And I believe that's continuing to happen. I've been door belling and I've spoken with people who've pulled their kids out of the school.  They're homeschooling their kids.  When I knocked on the doorbell they said, Yeah, I would not put my kids back in the public schools. It's chaos, and I don't want my kids there.

KPQ:  So, again, the question remains with that element, because those kids aren't going to be enrolled that affects the state funding levels.  How does the Wenatchee School district deal with that element added to the funding deficit?

Tricia Cleek:  I think we need to step back and get a community shared vision for our schools and focus on academics solely.  You know, society's extremely polarized right now. And I think if education can focus on academics and do that, well, we'll get a lot of unity in our community and increase the numbers if parents feel confident with the schools, enrollment will increase.

KPQ:  The state report card for Wenatchee shows varying results but in every grade level, less than half and sometimes, far less than half of Wenatchee students are meeting grade level standards.  How can we get better results?

Tricia Cleek:  First of all, like I said, I think we need a shared community vision to get everybody involved. Parents have to be involved the community.  We need, we need help to get the academics back up to where they need to be.  Let's eliminate all of the controversial ideologies and focus on academics solely. We can all agree on that. Get the kids educated, get them competent, able, at grade level, to meet every test and graduate successful and be future ready.

KPQ:  Public school districts have to deal with all comers and the recent numbers for the Wenatchee school district population show it is 54% Hispanic,  41% White, 23% English language learners,  60% low income, 6% homeless, 14% migrant and 16% challenged with some sort of disability. What should the Wenatchee school district be doing to make sure that all of these kids can excel and help improve the test scores?

Tricia Cleek:  Well, first I would reference Brad Hawkins and Mike Steele both put out reports on Education recently they sent them to voters in email. Those were fascinating to read. There's a lot of social programs and whatnot happening. But apparently whatever we're doing isn't working. Well. I think that the community just needs to stand back listen to what's going on. What would best serve the Hispanic population?  What would best serve low income kids? We have a lot of social programs going on, but academics needs to be the focus in the schools. So how can we help you academically succeed and talk to parents, community members, whoever.  Attendance is like 62% for students and if parents aren't getting their kids to school, they can't learn. I mean, it's just impossible. Plus there's no continuity in the classroom if people aren't showing up to continue their study. So there's a lot of aspects we need to look at it.  I think a community forum. Where are we here? Okay, what are people's concerns? What do you have to offer? What are your ideas, you know, people have great ideas out there and we can build a structure, build something that will will serve all these populations and help them succeed and get people to come alongside each of these groups of students.

KPQ:  Why do you think the attendance is so low? 

Tricia Cleek:  I don't understand the reasoning behind it.   I know there's a lot of single parents out there and maybe they're at work and so the kids are just ditching when they're supposed to be going to school and the parent is unaware. I don't know. I recently heard from a parent who hadn't been informed that their child hadn't been attending school so parents have to be in the know so that they can make sure that these things are being remedied.

KPQ:  In Olympia, we've had bills introduced to prohibit transgender male athletes from participating in girls sports but no legislation passed.  The Washington Interscholastic athletics Association policy says that each athlete would get to participate in programs consistent with their gender identity.  There are no medical or legal requirements. And an athlete can appeal a question of eligibility.  How would you want to address transgender male athletes competing in girl sports?

Tricia Cleek:  As a female, and avid mountain biker and I have an app where you get rated for your your records on those certain segments.  I would get blown out of the water if the guys and gals are in there together.  I can't keep up with them. I had a guy pass me recently and he left me in the dust.  So you know, I feel sorry for the female athletes. As a board member. I think that a board policy should be implemented that would address this you know, and just say your gender assigned at birth is the one that you can compete in sports because nobody's rights should violate the rights of somebody else. Now, I know it happens all the time. But I think as much as possible, we should eliminate that and it's not right for the girl to lose out so that the male can come in and compete with them.

KPQ:  What will be your priorities if you're elected on November 7th

Tricia Cleek:  My first priority is basically addressing the polarization in society these days. I think that the school board needs to have neutral positions. We need to focus on academics, get the confusing ideologies out of there, the whole gender stuff. I think that we just need to establish board policies, written policies that state that we will be neutral on these things and we will not introduce any of that until the child is age appropriate to be hearing these things and obviously, protecting parental rights to opt out of those controversial subjects. I would promote local values and as a school board member, you represent the electorate, so I would listen to what the people want.

KPQ:  Anything else that's a priority if elected?

Tricia Cleek:  Academic improvement, serious academic improvement.

KPQ:  Why are you the best candidate for the District #5 At Large seat? 

Tricia Cleek:  Well, I think that from what I'm hearing out door belling there's a lot of folks out there in that electorate that are not happy with what's going on and I'm listening and internalizing and hoping to represent them well.

Ballots will be mailed out for the General Election by October 20th and are due back by no later than November 7th or postmarked with that date.

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