Schmeck gets top votes in Sequim School Board race

Kristi Schmeck

Kristi Schmeck

SEQUIM — Kristi Schmeck, a candidate for the Sequim School Board who can’t serve because she had withdrawn from the race, has won more votes than Virginia R. Sheppard in the board’s only contested race.

After Wednesday’s second count of ballots, Schmeck had 6,876 votes in the multi-county race (55.9 percent) for the district’s at-large Position 4 seat, to Sheppard’s 5,266 votes (42.8 percent).

“I was very surprised at the results,” said Schmeck, who listed her professional experience as an educator/coach for more than 25 years and a charter school athletic director in the Clallam County Voter’s Guide.

“And yes, I do want to serve on the school board. I would love to serve and represent this community. It would be an honor for me.

“I’m going to call the PDC and see what is required and what my options are.”

Sheppard said Wednesday that she can’t imagine doing anything differently in her campaign.

“I did what I could do,” Sheppard said.

“(The other candidate) did absolutely no campaigning, no signage, no nothing, except for one forum.”

A key issue for Sheppard is keeping Critical Race Theory out of Sequim school curriculum.

“I’m not out of the picture; I’ll still try to hold this school board accountable, however I can,” she said.

Schmeck signed an intent to suspend her campaign in June with the Public Disclosure Commission. She told the Gazette in an Aug. 18 email that she withdrew for personal reasons, but that after speaking with elections staff and seeing the primary results, she changed her mind.

“I will be campaigning from this day forward,” she said.

Kim Bradford with the PDC said in an email that candidates who file formal statements of termination with the PDC after candidate filing week agree not to campaign for election, solicit or accept campaign contributions, make campaign expenditures, and not accept the office if elected. The PDC’s Statement of Termination adds that Schmeck must withdraw through the “appropriate elections office, and not with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).”

Bradford said Schmeck must contact the Sequim School District and tell them of her intent not to accept the position. If that happens, the Sequim School District’s board of directors would appoint someone, Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said in a previous interview.

According to Bradford, if Schmeck accepts the position or violates any of those provisions, she would “be subject to PDC enforcement action for not filing required reports (under RCW 42.17A).”

“The ball’s in Kristi’s court,” said Sequim School Board president Brandino Gibson. “She has to express her intentions. Then (if she intends to step down), the position becomes officially vacant, and we follow the process to fill the position.”

The board would have 90 days to take applications, conduct interviews and then appoint a new member.

Sheppard said she would apply.

“There are several other people that I know that will step up and apply for the position (as well),” Sheppard said.

Gibson, who is not running to retain his position and will be replaced by Johnston when new detectors are sworn in come January, said school board director candidates should have strong ethics and be able to set personal issues aside to make the best decisions for students.

“(A good director is) somebody who cares about the district, moving it forward in a positive direction,” he said.

Johnston said her background as a family law attorney should be a benefit for the current board.

“My main goal is to restore the community’s confidence in the leadership of the district,” she said Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot of controversy, and this is going back several years. I thought my background as an attorney could be helpful. I have an open mind; I haven’t prejudged anything. There’s a lot of information I haven’t been privy to. I’m just really looking to get that information … (and) move forward with a focus with what the kids need.

“It’s just not healthy, having so much focus on the functioning of the adults. It should be, ‘What do these kids need?’ The adults need to all get on the same team.”

The school district has dealt with multiple complaints from staffers and had three administrators put on administrative leave in the past two years, including its assistant superintendent. The district is also in the midst of hiring a superintendent to replace interim superintendent Jane Pryne for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Whatever housekeeping issues need to be taken care let’s (do that) and move on,” Johnston said.

“We’re a small district with committed administrators and teachers, and a community willing to pull together, as we saw last night.”

She said she hopes to focus on needs of the many students who are struggling with being engaged in schoolwork with more than a year-and-a-half of pandemic-forced changes in learning.

“We have to figure out, what do they need to be re-engaged?’” Johnston said.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

Virginia Sheppard

Virginia Sheppard