Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla School Board Elections: What Do the Candidates Have to Say?

On Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. PST, the American Association of University Women (AAUW)-Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce invited voters and observers in Walla Walla County to attend the 2023 General Election Candidate Forum on Zoom. 

The event was hosted by Renee Hadley and Arlene Alen, President of AAUW-Walla Walla and CEO of the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, respectively. 

The debate’s participants were all incumbent candidates who had previously worked together on the school board; new candidates running for contested positions each chose to abstain from the forum or were not present for other reasons. 

The main focus of the forum was the candidate’s individual hopes and priorities, particularly following the decision to use a $65.25 million bond to renovate Walla Walla schools.

Derek Sarley has served on the Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors since 2015, and has been responsible for representing the board during negotiations and has been elected president three times.

Sarley used a portion of his time during the forum and conversation with The Wire to explain how he feels the district has grown and improved under his leadership.

 “I worked hard to embed my vision of progress into the next strategic plan,” Sarley said.

Sarley also explained that Walla Walla Public Schools (WWPS) offer an education rich with opportunities and diverse avenues. 

He also emphasized that Walla Walla is ahead of its time, providing post-high school opportunities for all. 

Ruth Ladderud, two-time Board president and candidate for re-election to Position 3 on the WWPSD Board sympathizes with other candidates’ emphasis on the bond. 

Ladderud said that during her time, the board has had free extracurriculars. 

“Sports or drama or music or school dances and things like ASB fees no longer exist in WWPS.  Families and the public can attend events at no cost, also. We even have Driver’s Ed as a class — and it has no fees,” Ladderud said.

Ladderud spoke about her qualifications regarding her experience with the community. 

“Re-electing me will provide the community with an experienced board member who is thoughtful, reflective, loves learning and cares passionately that each and every kiddo deserves the opportunity to succeed in school and beyond,” Ladderud said. 

Incumbent Alayna Brinton explained that her top priority is children’s mental health.

“Investing in students’ emotional well-being is not only the right thing to do, but it’s essential for their academic and personal success,” Brinton said. 

Brinton added that prioritizing policies that focus on mental health will equip Walla Walla students with the emotional resilience they need to thrive. 

Brinton also said that WWPS’s Equity and Inclusion initiatives are one of her chief concerns.

 “I believe in fostering a district where every child, regardless of their background, has access to an excellent education. It strengthens our entire community,” Brinton said.

Brinton expressed that she believes that for a quality education to ever be within reach, teachers must receive adequate support and attention from the board. 

“Our educators are the backbone of our schools,” Brinton said. “A motivated and appreciated teaching staff is indispensable for the success of our schools.” 

Brinton said her dedication to championing these policies will make the impact on mental health and teacher empowerment she hopes to achieve, uplifting students’ opportunities without changing the standard of quality based on their circumstances. 

“My dedication to these principles, my experience and education, and my passion for serving the community make me an ideal candidate for the role of a school director,” Brinton said.

The Wire attempted to contact all candidates running for the seats; only Sarley, Ladderud and Brinton responded prior to publication.

As election night in Walla Walla inches closer, set for Nov. 7, 2023, many are awaiting the future of the district’s schools with a watchful eye.

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