Highline School District Board Candidate
Whether we have kids in school, are childless, or our children are grown and on their own, we all want to ensure that every child has the foundation to build a successful life. Public school is a huge part of that foundation and the Highline School District Board is an important piece of the governing body. Vince Koester wants to bring his experience and caring to Position #5 of the Board.
Vince was born and grew up in Tukwila, eventually moving to Des Moines where he’s lived for the past 42 years. He spent 14 years in public schools growing up and his two daughters were also part of the public school system; one graduated from Mount Rainier High School and one from a local private school. “Seeing both public and private schools gives me a good vantage point to see the pros and cons of each,” says Vince. Since deciding to run for the Board, Vince has attended all the Board meetings to get up to speed on the issues being discussed and the concerns brought by the community. “Public education in this country is not what it should be. We’re the most industrialized nation with the poorest public school system.”
Being around a friend’s grandson recently gave him a renewed appreciation of kids. “They’re so wonderful and open, yet they face a world with a lot of problems. It made me stop and seriously think about how we ensure they are able to cope with what’s thrown at them so they can successfully navigate life. We all want the best for them, but how do we make it happen? I may not have all the answers, but I want to try to help. I’m not sure what I can do, but nothing will happen unless I try. I’m at a point in my life where I have the time to devote to the Board. My business is set up in a way that allows me the liberty of using my time in ways that can help the community.”
Vince has been a Commissioner on the Highline Water District for the past 22 years and is the current Secretary until his term expires in December 2021. He has also been a Commissioner on the Midway Sewer District for the past 21 years. “I have an in-depth understanding of how boards operate and the chain of command. For the School Board, you don’t need to be an educator, it’s really more helpful to know how to successfully run a business. The Board needs to ensure that the right people and priorities are in place to do the things that they are trained to do. The Board doesn’t execute, they see the big picture and make suggestions as to what the priorities should be and how they can be carried out. They need to commit to an agenda that assists the schools, administrators, and teachers.”
Highline’s School District Board has five positions. This year, two positions are open. One is due to a member leaving, and Position #5 is currently held by someone who was appointed to complete the term of someone who left. Vince’s view of coming into a board as a new member has him, first and foremost, sitting back and listening to better understand what’s going on, which is why he’s been attending the meetings as a non-member. “The School District Board has the power of five. As an individual, you have no power. The members need to work together, make decisions, and present a unified front. That’s why it’s important to get to know the other members, understand their personalities, and what’s critical to them. You may not always agree with each other, but you can always be civil and effective as a team. Your agenda only goes as far as the other board members allow. The Board is also a place where people can be heard. While the Board can’t necessarily act on what is brought before them, they can review it to see if it’s something that should be brought to the attention of the Superintendent. The current board members, I feel, have done a good job in listening respectfully to issues brought before them.”
Vince brings a common-sense approach and the ability to complete projects with happy endings.
With the successful running of his own company and board experience, he knows how to work with people effectively.
His experience as a Commission on the Water and Sewer Districts, he has legislative knowledge and knows a number of elected officials.
He knows what teachers care about, both through his family connections (teachers), his monthly lunch with former teachers and coaches, and friends who have children in school.
Vince’s top priorities are:
“We need to bring about reliable, consistent funding so the District has the ability to provide all educational needs to all students to the best of the students’ abilities. In addition to regular studies, I feel that our kids need real-life education so they can survive in the world. Some kids don’t get this at home so they’re not as prepared to step out on their own. I want to learn how much the District provides now and how we can improve, if need be, on that foundation.”
Vince’s daughter and son-in-law are teachers, and his daughter’s mother-in-law works in the front office of a school. He sees their struggles with funding. “There are times when my daughter chooses to spend her own money on special supplies; that’s her choice. But she shouldn’t have to spend her money on basic supplies. Seventy percent of students in the Highline School District are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. They shouldn’t be asked to bring their own supplies to school. We need to ensure the school supplies what each student needs to take advantage of all they can learn.”
“We need to support our teachers. I had a basketball coach and an English teacher who were very influential in my life. A good teacher can make a huge impact on a child, and every child deserves that attention and chance. We should be doing all we can to assist those teachers in helping their students.”
“Our children are precious. We want them to be safe on the way to school while learning, and after school. We don’t have a lot of control on coming/going to school, unless they are on school transportation; or what happens at home; but we need to ensure that they are able, physically, mentally, emotionally, to learn while at school. If they are afraid or feel unsafe, they can’t learn.”
Vince has a passion for music. He has raised thousands of dollars through the Rotary Club for the Music for Life program, helping procure instruments.
“I know that music is a very important part of kids’ lives. If they’re involved with music, their energies are spent on something good. A sense of accomplishment is fairly easily attained: just a quick lesson or two can have them producing sounds. That immediate ability can excite them to keep going. In the Wenatchee School District, 70% of students are involved in some kind of music program whether it’s a mariachi band or the orchestra. We often cut arts programs as nonessential; I feel they are essential.”
“Every child matters is something I say a lot. It may be a generic phrase, but it helps get people thinking about ways to show children they matter. I feel that the Highline School District has done a good job of showing this on the surface, ensuring they know the kids’ names and generally paying attention. The more challenged a child is, the more important it is that they know they matter to someone. But you can’t overlook the middle-ground kids, the ones who do their homework, don’t cause problems, and come to school every day. High-performing kids get accolades and are ‘seen.’ Challenged kids get, and should get, attention to help them reach their goals. The middle sometimes gets dropped. Every child matters.”
The Highline School District Board should be filled with people who know how to work within the system to improve the school experience for all concerned: students, teachers, administrators, parents, staff. Vince’s board, business, and volunteer experience will be beneficial to all involved. His focus on funding, safety, and music/arts programs can help every student have their optimum scholastic experience.