Vashon voters made history on Nov. 7 by throwing their support behind four candidates who will serve on what will be the first all-female school board in the history of Vashon Island School District (VISD).
Longtime islander Mike Kirk — who was hired as a teacher in 1966 and became principal of McMurray Middle School in 1978 — confirmed the likely milestone, saying he remembered when Barbara Field became the first woman elected to the school board, in 1969.
But since that time, he said, Vashon’s school boards have always included men, though in recent years, women have been more well-represented on the board and at times even held the majority of seats.
Island historian Bruce Haulman also confirmed the milestone, after combing through records at Vashon Heritage Museum.
The winning candidates were Kaycie Alanis, Juniper Rogneby, Martha Woodward, and Lucia Armenta, who ran unopposed to retain the seat she was appointed to fill in January. They will join Allison Krutsinger, the current board chair, who was not up for re-election.
Alanis, running unopposed for another school board seat after her opponent, Holly Gilman, dropped out of the race, was elected with 82% of the vote. Gilman, whose name was still on the ballot, received most of the balance of the votes, with an additional 2.8 percent as write-in votes.
Alanis, in a statement to The Beachcomber, thanked islanders for their support and said that she had many goals for her service on the board, but that her two overarching priorities were to first help “build a board culture that prioritizes deliberation with time to investigate and ask questions; and to re-center those at the heart of public schools, the students and families we serve.”
Rogneby, a human resources consultant and facilitator for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, garnered almost 63 percent of the vote against Jake Jacobovitch, a 46-year island resident who had touted his prior experience serving on many community boards, including stints on the school board and as a Park District Commissioner.
In a statement to The Beachcomber, Rogneby thanked her supporters, saying that islanders had shown they “support a realignment to an appropriate board-superintendent relationship, increased transparency, and centering and engaging student, teacher and family voices in district decision making.”
The newly elected board, she said, will need islanders to remain engaged and to hold the board accountable as it faces current and future challenges.
“I will lean on the insights [of community members] and consider various stakeholders’ needs with the widest possible lens,” she said. “I look forward to being a conduit from the collective wisdom, creativity, and brilliance of the Vashon-Maury community to the VISD Board of Directors.”
Jacobovitch did not respond to a request for comment.
The closest contest in the races for school board seats was won by Woodard, a popular teacher at Vashon High School who retired in 2016. Woodard received 2397 votes in the race, about 53% of the vote.
Woodard’s opponent, Angela Marshall, a district parent who works as Deputy Director in the Office of Labor Relations at King County, had received 2084 votes as of Monday — 888 more votes than she received in her performance in a field of four candidates in the August primary, in which she came in a distant second to Woodard, with about 29% of the vote.
In the general election, Marshall, Rogneby, and Alanis had campaigned together, running on a reform platform that called for, in part, more oversight of the superintendent and more transparency by the board.
Woodard, in a statement to The Beachcomber, thanked her supporters and also acknowledged those who had voted for Marshall.
“I know that those folks who voted for Angela Marshall supported a person with integrity and passion who will continue to work to make our schools better,” Woodard said. “I will work hard and do my best. It is a privilege to serve.”
Her top priority as a board member, Woodard said, will be “whatever will make our district function better,” adding that she was “looking forward to working with a group of knowledgable and dedicated women” on the governing body.
Marshall, in a statement to The Beachcomber, also thanked those who voted for her — but said her campaign had not been about her.
“It was about the voices of families, students, community leaders, and school staff; people demanding a change in the way the school administration and board conducts business,” she said, adding that she believed their voices had been heard.
Decisions made by the district in the past year in response to two investigations of teachers who were accused of grooming students, Marshall said, were “especially problematic and sent the wrong message to our children and our community.” Her campaign, she said, had sent a different message, one that won wide support in the community.
She also urged islanders to remain engaged in the work of the board — something she intended to do as well. Her statement further detailed a number of immediate changes in policies and practices she planned to recommend to the district and new board members.
Superintendent Slade McSheehy, in an email, thanked both outgoing board members and welcomed the newly elected ones.
Praising Toby Holmes, Zabette Macomber, and Mariel Thuraisingham for their dedicated service to public education and the community, McSheehy said he had been grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them.
He also extended his congratulations to Armenta, Alanis, Woodard, and Rogneby, saying that he was confident each would bring valuable insight to the board.
“As we embark on this new chapter, I am also enthusiastic about collaborating with the incoming board to uphold the Vashon Promise – ensuring that every student is welcomed, known, and treasured,” he said. “Together, we will continue to foster an inclusive and nurturing educational environment that empowers our students to thrive academically and personally.”
“I am excited to begin work with the new board members on behalf of the students, staff, and community,” said Allison Krutsinger, the current board chair.
Lucia Armenta, who was also asked for comment on Monday, said she did not have time to quickly respond.