As a teacher and then a school board member, Linda Racicot has dedicated decades of her life to making sure students on South Whidbey have a good education.
Racicot, currently the president of the school board, has been a tough guardian of the district’s finances and a level-headed decision maker who helped to lead the district through some difficult times.
But what the district needs right now is a passionate, energetic individual who can rally the community in support of the district and communicate effectively by getting people to listen.
That person is Brook Willeford.
He is a graduate of South Whidbey High School and a member of a well-known South Whidbey family. He left the island for a fancy college, worked in technology and game design but returned to his home. He is a stay-at-home father of a toddler and the husband of a Coupeville teacher.
He paid attention when parents, teachers and others descended on the school board in the spring to complain about a wide range of issues, from the whopping raises handed to school administrators to bullying at schools. Willeford said he decided he wanted to do something to return the district to what he sees as its former glory.
Racicot is right that some of the complaints weren’t fair or were based on misunderstandings, but her immediate reaction was to be defensive instead of listening, taking note and considering. The biggest problem in the district is communication, which she admits, and people felt they weren’t being heard.
And that hasn’t changed, at least not enough.
Willeford may not fully understand the challenges of running a school district — not the restriction on what board members can do — but he promises to consider creative and innovative ideas, to examine information from the school administration more fully and to keep in close touch with the community.
Hopefully, those who are weary of the status quo in the district will feel invigorated if Willeford wins and helps rebuild a connection between the community and the schools.