A mother of four with no school board experience will challenge incumbent Susan Weed for a four-year position on the Pullman School Board — the only contested post in the district.
There are five positions on the Pullman School Board. Two candidates, Jim Evermann and Allison Munch-Rotolo, are running unopposed this election season. The terms of Nathan Roberts and Amanda Tanner will expire in 2021.
Weed’s opponent, Beth Ficklin, said she has struggled with the district in the past, particularly over how children with special needs were being served in Pullman schools. She said that after years of advocating as a parent, attending school board meetings and addressing the district directly, it became clear that parents of children with special needs needed a stronger advocate on the board.
“Trying to make a difference through speaking at school board meetings, going to the district and talking just wasn’t making a lot of headway,” Ficklin said.
Weed, seeking her fourth term on the board, said she initially ran for the post at the suggestion of her husband. She said commitment to education values was instilled in her from a young age. After more than a decade as a school board member, Weed said she’s not ready to step away just yet.
“I have always had this just huge passion for kids and education — my belief is one of our best resources is little kids in the state,” she said. “To support these kids, our resources, is to provide them with the best education that we can so that they can succeed in life.”
If reelected, Weed said, she would spend the early days of the new term advocating for a bond supporting expansion at Lincoln Middle School. She also hopes to make progress on creating a regional skills center that would provide support for students hoping to refine career-technical skills while in high school.
“I know it’s going to be almost impossible, but I sure would like to try really hard to get the funding and start a regional skills center,” Weed said, noting college is not always a desirable or viable option for graduating seniors. “If our mission is to make sure these kids are all successful in life, then we need to provide those skills to make them so.”
Ficklin said an area she would emphasize if elected would be an increase in community and parental involvement. She said while there are ways for parents to engage the school district directly, many feel their input is only sought on the district’s terms.
Ficklin said a major issue she intends to address if elected is to shore up in-class support for children with special needs. She said Pullman schools need to direct more resources toward making sure these students feel included and comfortable in a classroom environment.
“We notice things more as special needs parents but I think some of the things that we’re noticing affect all of the kids,” Ficklin said. “If our kids aren’t getting what they need, then nobody’s getting it. It can be a struggle for our kids to get what they need, and if the teacher doesn’t have the time or resources or training to actually help our kids, then it can be a huge distraction in the classroom.”
Weed said Pullman schools don’t necessarily have the resources to expand and create programs that provide the many dimensions of support that students require. She said she would love to provide greater social-emotional support for such students, but schools must prioritize education above all else.
“We have a lot of kids with a lot of social and emotional needs, and mental health issues, but we’re an institution for education,” Weed said. “I would love if we can take care of every single thing for kids but it is an education institution. We’ve hired a mental health specialist but we can’t be the cure-all for everything.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.