Letters to the editor | Oct. 19 edition

Readers write in about schools, The Beachcomber, and Gaza and Israel.


Why the School Board matters

I am writing in support of Kaycie Alanis, Angela Marshall, and Juniper Rogneby for Vashon School Board and to make a pitch for why the school board and informed voting matter to our community.

These candidates are collectively committed to accountability and transparency in the work of the Board. They will be clear about their role as well as the specific roles and responsibilities of the superintendent. Additionally, they will bring community input to the district along with teacher, student, and union voice into meaningful conversation.

Whether or not we have kids in the district, the health of our schools and the experience of students, teachers, and parents reflect on the health of our community.

Our district, and the board, are grappling with budget constraints, personnel issues, racial and gender equity, and changing demands on teachers. School boards in some local jurisdictions are taking the kinds of actions that tear at our democracy…book bans, anti-trans policies, and the rewriting of our history, for starters. It’s important to pay attention.

The depth of responsibility and the complexity of serving on a school board includes:

  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent
  • Reviewing and approving the annual budget
  • Establishing short term focus as well as vision and goals through strategic planning work
  • Setting policies and procedures
  • Approving curriculum
  • Collaborating with and responding to stakeholders

Angela has specific expertise and leadership skills in budget and contract scrutiny along with labor relations and laws.

She has a history of union involvement as a former vice president of the Washington State Labor Council and union representative at IBEW Local 46. She unequivocally believes in the power of unions and the rights and voice of teachers and staff as fundamental to their equitable participation in the schools.

We need the skills, experience, and commitment on the board that will match the needs of our district in this moment. Please read their statements, consider island issues, and be an informed voter.

Kim von Henkle

School Board needs culture change

There is an election for the VISD School Board vote coming up. I understand that I was unable to proceed past the primary. I appreciate the support from those who voted for me. There needs to be a radical culture change from the top down, and it is unfortunate that I was unable to garner the votes to start that change.

I will continue to work for the safety of our children in the district and on the island.

I want a safe, equitable, and inclusive district where children, families, educators, and support positions (paras, facilities, office, etc.) feel they belong.

I do not feel that either candidate for Position 3 goes far enough or is up to date in their equitable and pedagogical practices.

I am not going to endorse either candidate for Position 3.

I will vote for the following – if anyone really cares who I’m voting for.

Position 1: Lucia Armenta

Position 2: Kaycie Alanis

Position 3: Write in – Gator Lanphear

Position 5: Juniper Rogneby

Please vote.

Gator Lanphear


Thanks to our principals

As October unfolds its vibrant colors, crisp autumn breezes and morning deluges, we are also in the midst of National Principals Month, a time when I would like to recognize and celebrate our dedicated building leaders who shape the future of our students. Today, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to our outstanding principals, assistant principals, and administrative intern of VISD, who exemplify excellence in education.

Our schools are not just buildings; they are the heart of our island community, and at their core are the leaders who inspire, guide, and support our students and staff. The exceptional leaders of VISD are more than administrators; they are mentors, visionaries, and advocates for our children’s growth and success. Our principals, like the sturdy anchors of a ship, provide stability and direction to our schools. Our assistant principals are the unsung heroes, tirelessly working behind the scenes to ensure the smooth operation of our educational institutions. Our administrative intern brings fresh perspectives and energy, contributing to the innovative spirit of our schools.

The past few years have provided more than enough challenges and our educational leaders have repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary resilience and adaptability. I am extremely proud of how they have made our schools a place where kids are welcomed, known, and treasured. Their dedication, compassion, and unwavering commitment to the well-being and education of our children are truly commendable.

In the spirit of this month, let us continue to support and uplift our educational leaders as they continue to shape the future of our Vashon Island community.

Slade McSheehy, Vashon Island School District Superintendent


Thank you and cheers to newspaper’s writers

Many thanks to Elizabeth Shepherd for her heroic and steady hand in keeping The Beachcomber in print and filled with news during the very long period when she handled it all alone.

Welcome to the new editor, Alex Bruell. Best wishes on keeping up with our island(s)!

Also heartfelt thanks to Scott Durkee for sharing his courageous cancer journey with Beachcomber readers. His bright spirit shone through every piece with insights about living life to the end with grace.

Andrea Avni


Oct. 27, 2023 Editor’s note: With the permission of both the original letter-writer and letter-writer Suzanne Greenberg, The Beachcomber has appended this brief letter, which clarifies the letter that follows it:

Barry Grosskopf wrote a letter to the editor about the vigil for peace at the Havurah. He said: “The agreement during the candlelit vigil was to avoid speaking directly about the situation, as dialogue could easily tear people apart with passionately divergent opinions.”

Some have been confused and took this to mean that the Havurah decided we should all avoid speaking about the situation in general. He was referring to the vigil itself, where we read poetry and sang prayers and songs rather than opening up the floor to discussion. Please know the Havurah would never put a mandate on people’s lives and how they should approach discussing world events.

Suzanne Greenberg

Community holds vigil for lives lost

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the Vashon Island Havurah held a vigil in the wake of the war in Gaza and Israel. Thanks especially to the islanders outside our community who came to support us and the cause of peace.

The agreement during the candlelit vigil was to avoid speaking directly about the situation, as dialogue could easily tear people apart with passionately divergent opinions. A few days ago, one of my closest and oldest friends told me he sees Jewish Israelis as “colonizers,” while I see Israel as a refuge established by the United Nations 75 years ago for people who had no place else to go after the Holocaust. My friend and I have since agreed to avoid discussing Gaza and Israel.

My cousins, with whom I lived as a child in a displaced persons camp from 1945 to 1949, went to Israel, while my parents managed to take me to the United States. So here I am, unable to safely talk to friends and family, while my cousins now weep for their five grandsons who have been sent to the front lines.

Barry Grosskopf

We are complicit in war crimes

As a Jew and an American, I implore Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representative Jayapal to seek an end to the Israeli government’s war crimes.

I mourn and find reprehensible the murder of 1,300 Israelis. But it is not something I can do anything about today. I know that dehumanizing Palestinians does not make Jews safer or Israel more secure.

It has taken me decades to unlearn the inculcation I received as a child growing up in Israel and as the granddaughter of Jews who went to Palestine to “build a Jewish homeland.” I now know that effort was predicated on the forced and violent removal of over 750,000 Palestinians, and that it was a crime, not justified by the Holocaust. I now know that Israel has perpetrated occupation and apartheid rule for decades since then.

I and many other American Jews had been taught that we as a people had no choice but to unconditionally support Israel. I now know that we can demand better. Israel has made the choice to exact collective punishment through indiscriminate and targeted bombing of civilian residences, health care facilities, schools and critical infrastructure; use white phosphorus in densely populated areas; and displace people without providing for safe passage and essential human needs.

These actions, war crimes by international law, do nothing to solve problems; they are simply revenge, or more ominously, a strategic move to permanently remove Palestinians from their homeland.

“I saw a young girl staring in trauma…, her entire family decimated,” said Palestinian legal scholar Noura Erakat this week. “What will happen to this young girl in 20 years? What will we tell her? That Israel had no choice?”

The U.S. has choices, too, beyond fueling revenge and funding war crimes. This catastrophe has no military solution, yet for decades our government has insisted – through its unconditional support and $3.8 billion per year in military aid to Israel – that there is one.

Yve Susskind