South Whidbey School Board Position 5 is contested by two candidates. Each has decades of experience in education and each is running for office for the first time.
The candidate chosen by voters this November will replace Jill Engstrom, who has decided not to seek re-election. The seat carries a four-year term.
Hoping to fill the open position are Betty Bond and Rocco Gianni.
Bond has lived in Langley for three years and has more than 37 years of experience in education. She is running because she feels dedicated to the education of South Whidbey’s youths. Bond studied teaching at several universities and earned a master’s degree in teaching. She has worked as a teacher mentor and a university instructor. She said since she was five years old she knew she wanted to work in education.
“Every child has a right and equal opportunity to succeed,” she said. “I believe I have so much to contribute to South Whidbey with the number of years I’ve dedicated my life to education.”
Bond cites her past leadership experience as a strong quality for the position. She said she has come around full circle with those skills, from a teacher and mentor and now to a school board candidate.
“I have a lot to contribute in terms of collaborating information and working together so that we continue to move forward and meet the needs of the community and kids,” she said. “Every kid deserves a right to move forward in their own education.”
Gianni has resided on South Whidbey for 33 years and had three children make their way through the South Whidbey School District, plus one grandchild who is currently a student at the elementary school. He has 41 years of experience with education including a long career at Langley Middle School. Gianni has worked as a special education teacher and physical education teacher in several districts and has worked as a university adjunct faculty member. Gianni has a master’s degree in physical education and a fiduciary background.
Gianni said he is running because he wants to enhance existing programs and provide opportunities for children who are just beginning their education.
“I see the hopes and possibilities in the eyes of my students, that’s what drives me,” he said. “I want to give back to the community that gave me the opportunity to make their kids be the best they can be.”
Gianni wants to develop more programs that involve the community to teach children skills in manufacturing, technology and research at no cost to the district. He said he knows numerous people at businesses and organizations who are “chomping at the bit” to create their own work force with district students.
“Not everyone is going to college, but all kids are geniuses in their own right,” he said. “I want to provide the opportunity for kids to be successful. All kids are good if they are given the opportunity to do good things.”
If elected, Bond hopes to bring a fresh and objective perspective to the board and work to ensure the continuation of improvements in student achievement with existing programs.
She promised to look at the big picture when setting policies and to constantly assess, make changes and be flexible so the district will move forward.
Gianni’s top priorities are to make sure children have every opportunity to be successful in school programs, make sure facilities and grounds are maintained and updated, and to ensure the district is being fiscally responsible by utilizing money in the best way possible.
He also said he would like to facilitate more commingling of South Whidbey students with community arts partners.
For teacher evaluations, Bond plans to work with teachers and administrators to support any needed improvements. Collaboration will be key so all sides are understanding of each others goals, she said.
Bond emphasized she is a hard-working and dedicated educator. She plans to continue that mindset as a board member and work hard for students, parents and the community.
“I want to continue to work hard in the community so it thrives,” she said.
Gianni said the policies of teacher evaluations are determined by the state and teachers are evaluated by the superintendent.
His wife, Kathy Gianni, is a teacher at Langley Middle School. He said if there ever is an issue where a conflict of interest arises he would recuse himself.
“I would do the right thing, whatever it was,” he said.
Gianni said the same thing goes for passing the budget, one of the primary functions of a school board.
The negotiation of teacher salaries and benefits, which makes up a large part of the district’s budget, is done by the superintendent and the teachers’ union.
“When it comes to us, it’s basically just for approval,” he said.
“I don’t foresee a problem,” he added.
As to fewer students enrolling in the schools over the past decade, Bond said having a healthy school and thriving community will attract younger families. She said the district has those features and is an excellent place for children to learn.
Gianni said he would tackle the issue by showcasing the work of teachers and students so people outside the community would know just what kind of work is coming out of the school district. He hopes such promotion will draw prospective families into moving to South Whidbey.
Election ballots will be mailed around Oct. 16 in Island County. The general election will take place Nov. 5.