Newly elected islanders take their seats on school board

Four newly elected school board members took their seats and were sworn into office last week.

Four newly elected school board members took their seats and were sworn into office last week — marking the first time in island history that all five seats on the board have been occupied by women.

Two of the new board members — Martha Woodard and Juniper Rogneby — won contested races in November to claim their seats, garnering more votes than their respective opponents, Angela Marshall and Jake Jacobovitch.

Kaycie Alanis, another new board member, was elected in what became an uncontested race after her opponent, Holly Gilman, dropped out of the race. Lucia Armenta — chosen as the board’s new chair on at the Dec. 14 meeting — ran an uncontested race to retain the board seat she was appointed to a year ago.

The new board members join Allison Krutsinger, who did not face re-election in November.

At the meeting, the board elected new officers, unanimously selecting Armenta as board chair, Rogneby as vice-chair, and Woodard as the board’s legislative representative.

New members also volunteered for other assignments: Woodard and Alanis will represent the board on the district’s Budget Advisory Group; Alanis will attend Vashon School Foundation meetings; and Woodard will attend Park District meetings that pertain to the district’s Commons Agreement, governing the availability of district fields and other spaces for use by sports clubs and other community groups.

Armenta and Rogneby will represent the board at meetings of a new community workgroup led by the DOVE Project, formed this spring to advise the district following the conclusions of district investigations that resulted in the resignation of two teachers accused of grooming Vashon High School students for romantic relationships.

Members of the workgroup include students, parents, teachers and district administrators.

Armenta, Krutsinger welcome newcomers

At the meeting, Armenta recognized the efforts made by Woodard, Rogneby and Alanis in their quest to become board members, saying that her experience of joining the board had been different from theirs.

“You worked so hard to be here,” she said. “Thank you so much.”

Armenta is a childhood educator who was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the United States in 2000. She has taught in Illinois, Seattle, and Vashon and is the small business owner of Caterpillar Farm, a play-based, Spanish immersion, outdoor preschool. She taught for four years at Vashon Green School.

Prior to her board appointment and continuing throughout it, Armenta has taught a limited number of Spanish workshops at FamilyLink, a school district program for ages K-8 for students whose primary educator is a parent.

Her most recent contract, approved by an October board vote from which Armenia recused herself, stipulates a total payment of $2,160 for such workshops in the 2023-24 school year — an amount that falls below guidelines developed by the Washington State School Director’s Association (WSSDA) to prevent conflict of interest among public officials.

WWSDA’s guidelines allow school board members to enter into contractual agreements for “non-salaried transactions” not to exceed $1500 in any calendar month.

Krutsinger, the board’s outgoing chair, welcomed the board’s new members and spoke to them about her focus on the passage of the district’s proposed property tax levy that would provide $1.95 million a year to the district for safety, security, capital improvements and technology needs from 2025 through 2028.

Funds from the levy, if passed in the February 13 election, will account for about 7% of the district’s approximately $28 million operating budget.

“Given general election results from many districts across our state that had failed levies and failed bonds, mobilization is going to be really important for our community,” Krutsinger said, adding that she had been taken aback by the number of school levies and bonds that had not been successful in November.

New seating chart

At the meeting, the board joined student board representatives Nora Lavigueur, Kora Murphy, and Hazel Nielsen around a newly configured seating arrangement that put the students at the center of the table.

The board chair and Superintendent Slade McSheehy, who had previously sat in the center of the table, were seated on the far right side.

In remarks made during the meeting, Rogneby made it clear that the new seating arrangement was an intentional change.

“It may seem symbolic and it may seem small, but to have moved our student representatives to the center of the table feels really meaningful,” Rogneby said. “…The work we do here is meaningless without true student voice at the table.”

Rogneby spoke directly to Lavigueur, Murphy and Nielson, praising the “competence and courage you all display in sharing your thoughts and insights. To have such strong clear voices is important to me.”

She also encouraged members of the public in the room, and live-streaming the board’s meeting from home, to make their voices heard as well.

“We welcome community input — whether it is your own lived experience or your own frustrations,” she said. “We can’t promise to take on everyone’s grievances as our own but we can promise to listen with open minds and work hard for the greater good of our learning community.”

Woodard and Alanis also both shared their excitement to join the board, with Woodard pointing out the new board’s historic, all-female makeup — which included its three student representatives.

“As the oldest female here, I remember the really bad old days when women were by law second-class citizens,” she said. “And it is now a pleasure to see this change.”

Alanis also said she was excited and honored to serve, and thanked the public for the opportunity.

“I’ve thought about joining the board for many years,” she said. “This seemed like a really exciting opportunity to be part of a whole new crop of folks sitting on the board with just a different perspective.”

Public comments

Anna Waldman, a district parent and member of Vashon’s newly formed Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), spoke during the public comments section of the meeting about her group.

SEPAC, said Waldman, has been formed to create support for the parents of families whose children receive special education services in the district and to advocate for positive change for those families and students.

“We want to promote education and provide resources to families, especially [those] who are new to the process,” she said. “It can be a little overwhelming to start an IEP [Individualized Learning Program] or to have a child with a disability.”

The parent group has already met three times and collected feedback from parents. Three working groups will be formed, Waldman said, focusing on issues related to busing for special education students; special education staff turnover in the district; and creating resource materials for special education parents to be placed on the group’s website.

Parents interested in learning more or joining the group can email

Angela Marshall, who lost her close election race to Martha Woodard, submitted a written public comment to the board, welcoming the new board members and providing a list of immediate policy changes and actions for members to consider.

In her letter, Marshall used language reminiscent of her campaign, referencing her belief that the former board had not provided adequate direction and oversight of the superintendent — a position they were tasked with managing.

“All public agency decision-making must be rooted in principled and defensible reasoning, and not simply the easiest, less risky path forward,” she wrote. “Decisions made in the last year regarding teacher predation were especially problematic and sent the wrong message to our children and our community. I have no doubt that most of your constituents share this sentiment. You have the tools and support from your community, to ensure these failures are not repeated.”

Marshall’s suggestions, enumerated in the letter, included creating a new policy that clarified that certain settlement agreements signed by the Superintendent could not be executed until the Board had approved the agreements; and a modification of the Superintendent’s contract to correct what she called “a nearly automatic annual extension.”

Marshall’s letter is viewable in its entirety here.