MABTON - There were plenty of people interested in the open position No. 1 at-large Mabton School Board seat after director Peggy Zeebuyth opted not to file for re-election this past July.
The initial filing period fielded four candidates, Teresa Ahumada, Sandra Alaniz, Rachel Ruelas and Jeanette Williams. Now, that field has been narrowed down to three after Alaniz recently withdrew from the race.
But as the remaining three candidates prepare to face one another in the primary election a few weeks from now, there are still plenty of issues to talk about.
Ahumada is a graduate of Mabton High School and has three children of her own, two daughters in elementary school and a son in high school.
She works as a nurse for the Washington State Migrant Council.
Ahumada said she decided to run for a school board seat because as a parent and a community member she has concerns about some of the matters taking place in the school district.
"We need to change some things for our parents and for our kids," she said. "I feel I need to be a voice."
Ahumada said one of her major concerns is a need to help students who are struggling in school. She elaborated by saying there is a significant dropout rate in Mabton, explaining the difference between the number of students who attend elementary school and graduate are staggering. Ahumada also wants to address other issues, such as developing more healthy school breakfast and lunch menus.
Parent involvement is another key issue for Ahumada. She said there has been a significant increase in parental involvement since March of this year, but the school district doesn't seem receptive to that input.
"They are not really hearing the parents," said Ahumada. "I feel parents need to be heard."
Ahumada said there is also a need for interpreters for parents because of the large Spanish speaking population in Mabton.
"We need somebody to represent them," she said.
Ahumada feels she would be a good addition to the school board. She said she is involved in numerous committees in the district and has a vested interest in what happens, having grown up in the community.
"I would like to do more," said Ahumada. "I am going to try my best."
Ruelas wants to be a voice for the children of the Mabton School District. Ruelas is a life-time resident of Mabton with five children in the school district.
"I think we need change for our children within the district," said Ruelas. "I feel concerned for our children. I want them treated with respect, encouraged to do their best and their families welcomed into the school setting."
Ruelas, a former business owner, said she is concerned with the school board's lack of attention to parents' concerns. She said the board has promised the community it will address issues and nothing is happening.
"When parents go to a board meeting they should be able to voice concerns," said Ruelas.
Ruelas said she feels the board members have lost touch with what is going on in the schools since many of them no longer have children attending classes.
Ruelas said she wants to work on improving communication with parents, if elected to the school board. She would also like to see professional translators at the meetings.
She is also concerned with the testing scores of the students, which she said are among some of the lowest scores in the state.
"Our dropout rate from sixth grade to 12th grade is over 50 percent," said Ruelas. "Things just stay the same. We can't change the past, but we need to have a voice in the future."
If elected to the school board, Ruelas said she would be a strong voice for the students and their families. She would encourage parent participation in meetings.
"We have a good group of kids in the Mabton School District," said Ruelas. "I think we have a good school district. We just need to change the system."
Williams has lived in Mabton the past seven years and has three daughters, ages 9 to 16, who attend Mabton schools.
Williams works as a project administrator for White Shield International Inc. and is a pre-school teacher for the Grandview Adventist Junior Academy.
Williams said her main reason for running for the school board is to be involved in the education of her children.
"I feel it is important to know what is going on," said Williams. "I care a lot about the education of our children."
Williams has been involved in the school district coaching summer softball and long distance track.
Williams hopes to bring a positive voice to the school board, if she is elected.
Communication with parents and the community is one of the first issues Williams wants to work on if elected to the board.
"The parents are not well enough informed on what is happening in the district," said Williams. "The (increased) communication will solve a lot of the issues we have."
While test scores are rising for students in the district, Williams still feels there is a need to establish even higher standards for students. She said with higher established learning standards students will do better in school.
If elected to the board, Williams said she would want to hear from the community and interact in a positive way to solve issues.
"I am the type of person when there is an issue before me I research it," said Williams. "I hope people would be comfortable talking with me."