Vote Darene Follet

School Board Position 5

Darene Follet

I am running because it is a tough time for the schools. I believe being a CPA, a CEO, a parent, as well as a parent of a special needs child, puts me in a position to be able to have a broad perspective that is needed at this time.

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Experience

Below are a collection of highlights that show my experiences that are relevant to earning your vote.

2023

Asked to sit on the Hiring Committee for the new Director of Inclusive Services as a community member.

2022 - Current

Member of the Budget Advisory Council

2012 - Current

Member of the Superintendent Advisory Council

2019 - Current

PTA Member of AMS and AHS

2019 - Current

Anacortes Lacrosse Treasurer

2020 - 2021

Anti-Racist Advisory Committee

2020

Special Education/504 Stakeholder Group

2017 - 2019

Island View Elementary PTA Treasurer - I continue to complete their F990-N filing requirements.

2014-2016

Whitney PTA Treasurer

2012

I co-wrote with MaryJo Christianson and Maggie Thompson the Community Service Action Plan (CSAP) for Anacortes to be recognized nationally as an All-America City.

Fidalgo Democrats - Primary Election Forum

Introduction: 15:54 - 17:36, Question 1: 25:01 - 27:30, Question 2: 42:27 - 44:34, Question 3: 52:10 - 54:01
Unmute the video after clicking play.

What is your name and what is your experience with public service?

My name is Darene (pronounced day-reen), and though I have never run for any type of office or been a public figure, I have been active in the community since coming to Anacortes in 2008. I have sat and continue to sit on many different boards and have helped to try and give back to the community as much as I can, starting when my older child was of preschool age being a Mentor Mom for MaryJo Christionson and the good work she did for early learning. Back then, I helped to write the Community Service Action Plan (CSAP) with her and Maggie Thompson. This was so Anacortes could be recognized as an All-America City which recognizes communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation to successfully address local issues. A primary focus was coordinating public and private preschools to support teaching standards so that every child entering Kindergarten started with essentially the same basis and getting every child into preschool. I have been a part of the Superintendent Advisory Council over the last three administrations and was on the Budget Advisory Council. I have been a prior treasurer for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, the PTAs of Whitney and Island View for many years, and I am currently the Treasurer for the Anacortes Lacrosse Club.

What is your job?

I am both the CEO of Puget Sound Refinery FCU, a closed membership federal credit union for the HF Sinclair Puget Sound Refinery on Marches Point, as well as a Tax Partner/CPA for Shamballa Centre LLC, a local tax and accounting firm specializing in local small business and not for profit.

Why are you running? Why do you think people should vote for you?

I am running because it is a tough time for the schools. Being a CPA, a parent, as well as a parent of a special needs child puts me in a position to have a broad perspective that is needed at this time. No one likes to cut a budget, and everyone will feel the effects. I am used to dealing with the numbers, unfunded mandates in general, and within the school systems. I have worked with the schools over the last 13 years very closely and have actively been trying to build better and clearer pathways of communication between the schools, parents, and the administration. I was even invited as a community member to join the hiring committee for the new Director of Inclusive Services. People should vote for me for many reasons. I am embedded in my community and have been actively trying to make it a good/better place to raise children for over a decade. My youngest is turning 13 and will continue to be in this school district until he is 21, and then he will forever be in this community. We are finishing our forever/aging-in-place home with him in mind. I have a very active and vested reason to have the best interests of the schools and community at the top of my mind.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the School District right now? What are you going to do about it?

Budget is a vast topic, and the decisions being made do and will affect more and more students. We have actively tried to keep it as far out of the classroom as possible, but there is no way for it not to impact our students. This, in turn, impacts the workloads of teachers and the resources we have for mental health and access to better outcomes across the board for all students. As I have stated before, I have been actively trying to voice concerns and guidance regarding what the community is feeling and facing around decisions being made. I will continue in that work and look at alternatives to fill gaps that the budget shortfalls will be leaving and what we as a community can do to bridge those gaps.

How do you think the School District could be more transparent with the public?

The school district has been making efforts to be transparent with the public, but something else can always be done. They have invited the community to be active and participate before all decisions are made or finalized. Still, the fact is that the school makes internal decisions as a business that we can only know about after they must be made. Being one who has shown up for many of these communication opportunities, I am always amazed at how many people do not show, who I know are unhappy. For some, it is a factor of times/schedules and working conflicts, and I have suggested later times or different time offerings in the past so that everyone who wants to come can. As a working professional, I find it hard to make it to a 5 pm meeting myself! I also know many parents who do not have childcare. Taking a child with provided childcare or an online virtual option would be helpful. Finding as many options as needed so that more people have opportunities to engage with the district is essential. It is also vital for the community to show up and voice opinions so the district knows what is important and what matters to them and their families. We are all different with differences of opinion and viewpoints, and they are all important, so having an opportunity to voice them is imperative. I have seen this administration take a different course of action or consider different avenues because of the community's feedback, so I know it makes a difference.

For the budget cuts the district made this year, were you involved with the process? What do you think about how the district went about this process? Do you agree with the decisions of administrators?

I was on the Budget Advisory Council and was involved in the process. There are no easy black and white I agree/disagree decisions when talking about the termination of jobs and beloved positions such as paras in the Libraries, which was a big one for our community. I understand the reasoning behind it because of what was being looked at and how difficult it would be to unwind the Science Specialists, which would mean going back to the bargaining table and unwinding the STEM focus that the district has had for many years. There are also time constraints where decisions had to be made by specific dates, so even if there was another avenue, time was of the essence. Do I like all the decisions made? No. Can I understand why they were made? Yes, and as a community, we can ease some of what feels drastic only because we have not had to deal with the absence before now. I am thankful for the opportunity to voice concerns and opinions and that the administration has been focused on this all year rather than cutting things off at the knees quickly and what seems drastic and abruptly like I have seen in other districts without asking or giving any opportunity for feedback.

In other areas of our country, we are seeing people joining school boards, and then advocating for such things like banning books meant for education about racism and the LGBTQ+ community. I would like to know how you plan to uphold the ASD non discrimination policy if you are elected to the school board?

First off, history, for better or worse is the history that happened. I am not interested in a rewrite to make it more palatable for some. To invoke a change to let’s say history curricula, a teacher would have to bring forth the request, gather a team and research different or other curricula and present findings that then would be voted on by teachers. This is not a direct act a school board member can instigate or bring about. I do not believe in banning books. I do agree there should be access to age appropriate books. I want Free and Appropriate a Public Education (FAPE) for all children. Access to books are imperative to learning, and children need to know they are not alone and they as an individual are worthy and their lives worthwhile.

I advocate on the daily for our LGBTQIA community. I have close friends who are a part, or their children are a part, and some who themselves are transitioning or they have children who are transitioning. It is heartbreaking to learn that the surveys put out by the schools were answered with our children in these communities are not feeling safe at school. We can do better. As a parent of a child with special needs I advocate for those who don’t have a voice or resources to advocate for themselves, and have done so within the schools systems directly for over a decade. I like to say I bang my drum of “presence does not equal participation” so loudly someone has got to listen! As a community member since 2008 myself, in everything I do, I try and be respectful of all differences and advocate for inclusion and representation. Personally, prior to becoming a CPA I worked at Safeway as a Person In Charge (PIC), and as a hiring coordinator for 17 years. My personal hiring practices brought the entire Everett District over their hiring goals of underserved and underrepresented populations. This, I will freely admit, was easier to do in Everett where reflecting our community in the North Everett Broadway store nearest the projects was easier because our community was extremely diverse. But it still speaks to my personal, very long term (since the early 90’s) focus on equity, representation, non discrimination and diversity that I would continue as a board member of ASD 103.

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