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Seattle School Board narrows field to eight finalists for two open positions


(The Center Square) – The Board of Directors for Seattle Public Schools has announced eight finalists to replace two board members who stepped down last month amid questions about their residency.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the board whittled the field of candidates for the District 2 seat from 11 to four: Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Director of Public Policy Sarah Clark, Inspire Washington Board Member Danielle Gahl, Shawn Sullivan, and Allen Institute for Brain Science Scientific Program Manager Carol Thompson.

District 2 includes the Sunset Hill, Ballard, Loyal Heights, Whittier Heights, West Woodland, Phinney Ridge, Green Lake, Magnolia and Interbay neighborhoods.

Only four candidates applied for the District 4 vacancy, which represents the Fremont, Queen Anne, Westlake, South Lake Union, Belltown, Denny Triangle and Central Business District.

The four candidates include Boatsetter Chief Data Officer Gabriela Gonzalez, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Secretary-Treasurer Joe Mizrahi, Google Senior Product Marketing Manager Rachelle C. Olden, and Pacific Publishing Company contributing writer Laura Marie Rivera.

The eight candidates will participate in a candidate forum on March 27 at Lincoln High School. The district expects to have the appointed directors take the oath of office in April.

Under Washington state law, school board directors cannot receive a salary for board service. Instead, they receive per diem payments of $50 per day, up to $4,800 per year.

The Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors are working to fill the two vacancies after former School Board Directors Vivian Song (District 4) and Lisa Rivera (District 2) stepped down from their respective positions in response to a The Seattle Times story that found Song violated a state residency requirement since moving out of her school board district at some point in 2022. Rivera also confirmed that she had moved out of her district as well.

The chosen candidates will join a school board tasked with addressing a projected deficit of $104 million for the 2024-2025 school year, $129 million for 2025-2026, and $153 million for the 2026-2027 school year.

The district cites insufficient funding from the state, a decline in enrollment, and previous staffing decisions as the primary reasons for the structural shortfall.