Local runs for school board, hopes to increase accessibility

Board position oversees middle, high schools, state committees

School board member Susan Weed has an agenda that includes pursuing a regional skills center for students.

COURTESY OF SUSAN WEED

School board member Susan Weed has an agenda that includes pursuing a regional skills center for students.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

A local mother is challenging one Pullman school board member with 13 years of experience in the district’s only contested position, hoping to increase education support for students with disabilities.

Beth Ficklin is running against school board member Susan Weed for the Director District No. 1 spot on the board. The position oversees Lincoln Middle School, Pullman High School and is a part of various committees on state organizations, such as the Washington State School Directors’ Association and the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Both candidates want to see more education opportunities outside of the traditional college route at the middle and high school levels.

Ficklin said she heard from her daughter at Pullman High School how much she wants real-life skills to be taught in school.

“We have some of that there, but she just feels like that’s missing,” she said.

Weed said during her 13 years as a board member, she has not had an agenda until recently. That agenda includes pursuing a regional skills center for students to have access to opportunities outside of the college track, such as trade school.

“Why not pursue a career where you’ll be making $100,000 a year right out of the gate instead of being in debt [with] that same amount of money,” Weed said.

Ficklin, who is the outreach director for Families Together in Pullman, said she wants to help the board put kids and families first. She works with children with disabilities and wants to help the school district work better with students with disabilities, she said.

She said the district is starting to move in the direction it should with its program for students with disabilities, but the changes in the district’s review of the program should happen faster.

“Overall I’d just like to see the schools become something that belong to the community again instead of feeling like a separate thing,” Ficklin said.

Weed said that education in the U.S. has a problem with funding and the district cannot afford to provide individual help for every student because of the limitation of federal funding.

“The reality is our budget can’t make that happen,” Weed said. “I would love to see it but it’s just not possible.”

Ficklin said she has seen her four children interact with every level of schooling in the district. She said she would like to see more parental involvement at the elementary level.

“When we came from South Carolina [in 2015] there was a lot more parent involvement in the elementary school,” she said. “There was a parent in the classroom every day, all day long and we don’t quite have that.”

If elected, Ficklin said she wants to change the “buy-in mentality” the school board has for its students.

“The answer is always, ‘Oh, the kids have to buy into it,’” she said. “I’d like to change that idea because that should be coming from our community and our families.”

She said she felt like the district’s strategic plan went through committees before going out to the community for approval.

“It’s kind of like they did it backwards,” she said.

Weed said the community has been more involved with the school board than in previous years and their willingness to share opinions helps the board.

“We’re merely one of five,” Weed said. “Even with a specific agenda, you have more power as a citizen.”

Shannon Focht, Pullman Public Schools communications coordinator, said that while the board may see the vision for the district, it is ultimately up to the superintendent to run the day-to-day business.

Focht said it can take many years for a new member to get acclimated to school board operations because knowledge of the education system must be built.

Weed said another goal of hers is to advocate for the expansion of Lincoln Middle School with the upcoming bond.

Ficklin said Weed has done a great job representing people she meets, but their age and occupational difference mean different voices will be represented if she gets elected.