Q&A with Judith Milstein: School Board Candidates Answer Questions on Topics Shaping the Future of Snoqualmie Valley School District

This November 7th, three Snoqualmie Valley School Board positions are on the ballot (two unopposed), including Position 2, currently held by Geoff Doy. Linda Grez and Judith Milstein are running for this position.

Although candidates must reside within their director district boundaries to run for the position, ALL Snoqualmie Valley School District registered voters cast ballots in each school board race.

We asked Linda and Judith three questions (submitted by current and former parents in the SVSD District), and they both graciously submitted their answers to help voters understand their positions and priorities.

Ballots for the November 7th General Election will be mailed tomorrow. They must be dropped at a ballot drop box or postmarked by election day.

[The articles were run in order of which answers were returned to Living Snoqualmie first. Below are the answers for Judith Milstein]

Question 1:  What weakness do you see within the district, and what steps would you take to correct it? So many paint the district as perfect, but it does have some room to grow; as a parent, I want to know that whoever I am voting for understands that the district can be good and still has things it needs to work on and that whoever I am voting for understands at least a general direction they need to steer to strengthen those weaknesses.

With a District like ours operating at such a high level, we have to resist the urge to be “good enough” instead of always striving to improve for what is best for students.   My husband and I have two children currently in the Snoqualmie Valley School District. Both kids attended North Bend Elementary, Twin Falls Middle School and now Mount Si High School.  Overall, we have had a great experience in the District AND I certainly believe there are improvements that should be made.   

As we face the realities of learning loss, budget constraints, and aging facilities, this is the right time to identify what those improvements should be for our current environment and how we will implement them.  That starts by hearing from the community, especially from the families and students SVSD serves. Knowing we have limited resources and time, prioritization for improvements is key.  The School Board’s role is to identify those areas based on the community’s input and collaborate with the District to make sure they have what they need to put that vision into place.   For example, with a freshman and junior, I have seen firsthand the leap from middle school to high school…twice.  As a parent, I would suggest more rigor and higher expectations to get students ready for that big transition.  

I am not an education professional so I’m not the right person to say exactly what that should look like.  I trust we have the right professionals in place to determine what is best for students using research, best practices, and experience.   However, as a School Board Director, my job would be to help identify necessary improvements, support SVSD to make them, and monitor that they happen.  Students should be at the center of every decision made and pretending things are perfect, or worse “good enough” does not serve them well. 

Question 2:  How will you ensure you are representing the wishes of the voters, the staff and the students when making decisions while at the same time ensuring you are using good research and best practice? An example of a bad decision was having a freshman campus for example. 

As I’ve been running for the District 2 School Board position, I’ve given this plenty of thought.  The reality of serving on the Board is you will not please all the people all the time.  If you are doing a thorough job, you won’t please the District all the time either.  Although that could be uncomfortable, I accept that and will use my influence for what is in the best interest of our students. 

I will base my decisions on community feedback, student voice, input from teachers and staff, validated research and best practices proven in other school districts.  Community, student, and staff feedback can be gathered in a number of ways including constructive surveys, forums, informal discussion, public comment, and PTA groups.  Targeted surveys can be a useful tool with short, direct questions, and space to comment.   When community feedback is in direct opposition to the other inputs, I will rely on my best judgment and common sense leaning more towards the research.

Question 3:  The school board is receiving input from a committee tasked with assessing the district’s facilities and making potential recommendations for the next school bond or bonds. The district’s most recently passed bonds were primarily related to increasing building capacity to provide learning space for enrollment growth. This committee is currently contemplating a bond to replace aging school buildings, and with enrollment growth stalled, there is a huge question as to whether the voters will support a bond (or a series of bonds) to replace aging buildings. The current idea is to replace North Bend Elementary, Snoqualmie Middle School and Fall City Elementary School. The price tag was once estimated to be over $300 million, but that was before significant inflation. The committee is primarily comprised of parents from these three schools. It seems that once we go down this road, replacing aging school buildings, there will need to be a series of bonds, not just this first one, Tax bills are high, and many valley residents are at their limits. As a school board director, how would you process this decision? Do you believe that voters will support this approach, and if so, why? And, if not, what is your suggestion? 

I had the opportunity to tour Snoqualmie Middle School, Timber Ridge Elementary, and Fall City Elementary with each Principal over the summer.  I’m familiar with North Bend Elementary and Twin Falls Middle School as our kids attended those campuses. 

When you visit the newer and older schools in person and compare the safety and security, layout, learning spaces, gym space, performance areas, classroom size, and temperature control in the newer versus the older schools, there are serious inequities and safety concerns that must be addressed. 

I do believe the community will support a thoughtful and financially sound bond proposal to replace Snoqualmie Middle School, North Bend Elementary, and Fall City Elementary.  I understand the concerns about increased taxes.   SVSD will have to effectively and with total transparency communicate the reasons why it makes sense to combine all three buildings on one bond.   They will have to make the case to gain the 60% plus 1 approval necessary – that is a high bar.  A compelling reason for me is the cost to replace will just continue to increase due to inflation.   Putting off the inevitable likely results in additional, unanticipated maintenance costs to keep the older schools operational.   None of these three schools have been remodeled in almost 25 years and all are between 51 and 84 years old. (SVSD Summer2023 Newsletter).  While it is true enrollment is slowing, 37% of total elementary capacity is still in portables, the equivalent of two elementary schools.  For example, by rebuilding North Bend Elementary, the permanent capacity lifts from 325 students to 650 students in the actual NBE school building. (SVSD Capital Facilities Plan 2023) 

SVSD is sharing the work completed by a parent advisory committee and deciding how to move forward.   I encourage citizens to attend one of four upcoming community meetings to see firsthand why these rebuilds are necessary and to provide your valuable feedback. 

Judith’s Bio: Judith has lived in beautiful North Bend for over 16 years. She and her husband, Marc, have two children currently in the District. Both kids attended North Bend Elementary, Twin Falls Middle School and now Mount Si High School. Since leaving a Senior Manager role at T-Mobile USA when their daughter was young, she has worked part-time for her Dad’s small business. Working part-time has provided Judith with the flexibility to be an active volunteer in our Valley.

Judith served for eight years in school PTA leadership including as President and Treasurer at both NBE and TFMS. She participated as the parent representative for the NBE Learning Improvement Team from 2015-2020.

Judith is very proud to be a mentor in a local elementary school for the last four years with Youth Success! Mentoring, a program of Empower Youth Network.

She recently completed the inaugural North Bend Citizens Academy, broadening her understanding of city government and operations.

She is an active Board Member for the Mount Si Wildcat Volleyball Boosters and also volunteers for the Snoqualmie Valley Food Bank.

Judith graduated from the University of Texas in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development – High Honors, Elementary Education.

Judith looks forward to serving in a different capacity as a School Board Director bringing her years of volunteer experience and as a parent in the District to this new role.

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