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Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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Celebrating Our Dedicated School Board

Highline Public Schools School Board

January is School Board Recognition Month. Today and every day we are grateful for the dedication of our five board members. These individuals volunteer their time and energy to lead our public schools and ensure students graduate prepared for the future they choose.

During these especially challenging times, we appreciate their commitment to serving our students, staff, families and community. 

We want to spotlight each of our board members and their work. We asked our board members four questions to help you get to know them better. 

Angelica Alvarez, President

Head Shot of Angelica Alvarez

What has been your favorite moment while on the school board?

I love to see students and families light up with smiles at graduations. Before the ceremonies begin, we gather backstage with staff, and they often share stories about the graduates. I love seeing them so proud. 

Something else that has stuck with me was when we passed a resolution honoring the Seal of Biliteracy program. We had a group of families come to the board meeting in tears, thanking us for honoring their home language.

What is challenging about the job?

I try to turn challenges into opportunities to learn how to do things differently. I think the most challenging piece is knowing the needs of our families, students and community, and not being able to support them much as I would like to, both personally and as a system.   

What have you learned this last year?

‚ÄčThere are always different ways of doing things, and this last year gave us an opportunity to try new things. Technology is not all bad and it does provide some of our students and families with a way to stay connected.

What is your hope for Highline in 2021?

I hope we can focus on and continue to find different ways to support our families. All of the challenges this last year have provided new opportunities. How do we continue to learn to support our families and students in new and better ways? 

Fa'izah Bradford

Head shot of Faizah Bradford

What has been your favorite moment while on the school board?

I think I’m still waiting for my favorite moment. A highlight for me was the first time that I chose not to code language for White Supremacy Culture, systemic racism, and anti-Blackness; and daylighting their foundational roots in our system. Another highlight and quite frankly my joy is in knowing that students, families, the community, and staff can look upon the dais and perhaps see some representation of themselves.

What is challenging about the job?

Some of the greatest challenges that I find with this job is the burden of responsibility in making decisions for the whole community, knowing that every decision does not effectively and/or positively serve parts of the community. 

I’m also challenged by the very structure of a school board system that elects volunteers to make and/or uphold decisions that require one to be deeply informed of the complexities and nuances of our public education system and its funding structure. 

I’m also challenged when I hear from students/families or see the data for whom our system is not and/or slowly working for. As a system leader, I feel that I’m not doing enough–and in some ways, complicit.

What have you learned this last year?

Whew. This last year is still teaching me–and I’ve struggled to curate all of my learnings.  Something that is pretty salient is that systems can change in an instant, and that will seeks out skill and that skill may come in many forms.

What is your hope for Highline in 2021?

My hope for Highline in 2021 and beyond is that we will take full advantage of the momentous opportunities of 2020 and create a movement of systemic liberation.

My hope is that we will genuinely and authentically engage, follow the lead, and believe those who are furthest from justice and opportunity in our system, and genuinely and authentically engage them in the process of dismantling systemic racism and co-creating an antiracist institution. 

My hope is that no student will be harmed by the beliefs, actions, and inactions of our system. And that we would know what is good and have the courage to do what is good–even if it gets us into “good trouble.”

Bernie Dorsey

Head Shot of Bernie Dorsey

What has been your favorite moment while on the school board?

After 14 years on the board, there have been many favorites. One of my most consistently favorite moments is when we celebrate our student superstars every month. Meeting these students and learning about their connection to their school is always inspiring. Hearing from their teachers and watching the pride in the eyes of their parents warms my heart. They are the best examples of why we all do the work!

What is challenging about the job?

It is always challenging to know you are not going to please everyone. As hard as we may try, and as much as we may want to, when it comes to big decisions, someone will be disappointed. That is a reality, and at times, it can be not just challenging, but agonizing. Nevertheless, we always do everything we possibly can to serve the best interests of all of our students, staff and families.

What have you learned this last year?

I have learned that the human experience can be incredibly resilient at times. We have seen how our students and staff have adapted to the hurdles encountered this year. How they continue to creatively address less than ideal situations, daily, and still find ways to fulfill our mission. It inspires me. It also gives me so much pride in the work of staff.

The lessons of this year will influence our district for years to come. Our experience has brought to the forefront the numerous inequities our students and families experience, from the lack of technology access to food insecurity to economic devastation and instability. Yet our community continues to support each other and to persevere. I am filled with pride but also filled with an indelible commitment to a more equitable system.

What is your hope for Highline in 2021?

My hope is that we are able to heal. That we are able to recognize that the solutions to too many of society’s issues are dependent on our ability to educate the next generation of problem solvers. I hope that we are able to step back and recognize that the path forward is not with the thorns of conflict and division but the salve of compromise and unity.

Aaron Garcia

School Board Director Aaron Garcia

What has been your favorite moment while on the school board?

Any opportunity I get to interact with students tops the list. I recently shared my story and journey with a seventh-grade class. After the class, the teacher shared with me that it was the first time a student had turned on their camera and asked a question all year. I really enjoy connecting with students. 

What is challenging about the job?

We’re in the business of creating amazing, well-rounded scholars. This is our mission and a goal. But on any given day or week or month, we get pulled in different directions from what we want to accomplish. This year especially, with a global pandemic and civil unrest. Sometimes it feels like the world chips away at what we want to accomplish. 

What have you learned this last year?

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary on the school board. The work is fast. But the pandemic made us work even faster. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a board member, how to set the culture and a vision for a large organization, and that making big system changes is a lot of work but worth it. 

What is your hope for Highline in 2021?

I hope all of ours students, families and colleagues are healthy and happy, and that we can focus on wellness. I think if we can accomplish this, then the learning will be able to happen.  

Joe Van, Vice President

What has been your favorite moment while on the school board?

I love being able to work and collaborate with our staff, students and community. I would say the best moment is handing out high school diplomas to our graduating seniors.

What is challenging about the job?

That having one solution is not good enough. As a board, we look for opportunities that supports most of our staff and students. The exceptions are the ones that keep me up at night and try to figure a work around. We have very smart people that we collaborate across the network, not only in ours but other districts and know that we can't make everyone happy.

What have you learned this last year?

I've learned that our staff, students and community are resilient! They are able to adapt to changes that have been put forth by the state. We learned that the impossible is now possible and that we have different ways and opportunities to teach our students.

What is your hope for Highline in 2021?

‚ÄčI hope our students get back into school if they so choose to and that we take all of the lessons learned and apply it to other opportunities for them to strive and thrive.