Betty Patu is sworn-in for a third term on the Seattle School Board by superintendent Larry Nyland, while Rev. Carl Livingston looks on. Photo by Joe Veyera
Betty Patu is sworn-in for a third term on the Seattle School Board by superintendent Larry Nyland, while Rev. Carl Livingston looks on. Photo by Joe Veyera

When Eden Mack stepped to the podium on Tuesday night to give her first remarks as a member of the Seattle School Board, she cautioned that she only prepared her brief speech minutes before.

“I have a feeling that might be how things are going to be going forward,” she said, “because there’s so much work that we do that I may not always have time to fully prepare polished comments.”

It marked the beginning of a four-year commitment for Mack, fellow newcomer Zachary DeWolf, and incumbent Betty Patu, as the trio was sworn-in during an Oath of Office ceremony at the John Stanford Center.

Mack said when she first engaged in advocacy with the district several years ago, she “didn’t ever expect that I’d be standing here today.”

But, she believes her time as legislative chair of the Seattle Council PTSA and as founder of Washington’s Paramount Duty has prepared her to fill the District IV seat previously held by Sue Peters.

“We’re really all working for the same goal, for every child in Seattle, and I believe that we can do that together,” she said.

DeWolf — who replaces Stephan Blanford as the District V representative — said he was completely humbled and grateful to be elected. He also discussed his own experience in public education, and the teacher that had the biggest impact.

“Coming from the reservation — no context or understanding of what public education was in a city, I was scared, I was nervous, and it didn’t take long for me to accept that I had to be quiet about certain parts of my identity and who I was at my core,” he said. “It was Mrs. Meredith who made me feel seen, made me visible, she made me feel valued and love for all parts of me. It was in her class I could bring my whole self. She is the reason I loved my experience in public education.”

With his election, DeWolf also became the board’s first openly gay member.

“To every single lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer student in our district, I see you,” he said. “You are visible. I am here for you, and you are enough.”

For Patu, now the longest tenured board member as she starts her third term, deciding to run again was a matter of realizing there was still work to be done.

“We’re not there yet,” she said, “but I know that we’re working and doing the best that we can to be able to provide all of our students that opportunity.”

To accomplish that, she said, it will take the contributions of everyone in the community.

Also on hand on Tuesday was State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who stressed that the present is, “one of the most remarkable times in public education in this state,” with large-scale changes in accountability, school funding, and a new light on inequities in the school system.

With one of every 20 students in the state attending Seattle Public Schools, the district is uniquely positioned to grapple with those changes.

“You sit in the economic breadbasket of this state,” he said. “The diversity of this district is more reflective of our future than our past, and when we try to close gaps and we think about completely transforming accountability systems, it’s the work of this district that really represents that best of what we have in front of us, and the biggest risk if we don’t do it well.”

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