Profession: General Manager – Public Utility District #1 of Whatcom County
Years in Washington: 27 years
Experience as a volunteer/public servant: City Administrator for cities in Minnesota, City Administrator for City of Lynden, Director of Economic Development and Marine Services for Port of Bellingham, and General Manager of Public Utility District #1 of Whatcom County for 15 years. Served as board member of Lynden Park and Recreation District. Served as board member of Lynden Public Schools for 10 years.
Question 1: Why do you want to be on the Lynden School Board? Are there any specific issues that caused you to seek this office?
Steve Jilk: I have had the privilege of serving on the Lynden School Board for 10 years. Working with other board members and working with district administration in developing the vision and goals to provide the best education for our students as we can. Addressing issues of curriculum, safety, building space, diversity, funding, and changes in district leadership are a few of the many challenges our district has and will continue to face in the next years. I want to continue my work with other board members in support of our students.
Question 2: What do you most like about the Lynden School Board, and Lynden School District in general?
Jilk: I believe we have a school board that really represents the broad, diverse makeup of our community. We have a school board that works closely, deliberately and collaboratively in listening to our families and make the best decisions we can for our students while being good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. Schools are really the core and identity of what Lynden is as a community. Public schools as well as our wonderful private schools. Listening to our families, our students, our taxpayers in sustaining and improving our schools to keep that focus of what we are as a community, the value we place on our children and how the school district can make our schools a place where all students are valued and are successful in their education. I believe our school board and the district represents the best effort in that work.
Question 3: If elected, what would you most like to see changed at the Lynden School District?
Jilk: I don’t see the work ahead as something to change, but a path forward of continued improvement. There is such energy and passion of our district administration, our teachers, all district staff and our board, to find ways to improve our work with and for students. COVID-19 put significant challenges before us on the work we developed in the last couple of years such as looking at curriculum resources, teacher training, technology improvements, building needs, safety, and equity discussion. Our administration, our principals, our teachers, all of our staff did a wonderful job ion getting us through the last 18 months dealing with the pandemic, but it caused us to slow the pace, and in some cases paused, work on some of these issues. And our leadership team has been working hard to prepare for the fall. We need to put more resources in moving to post-pandemic and beyond.
Question 4: If elected, what do you believe would be your greatest responsibility to the Lynden School District’s students and their families, as well as the district’s teachers, administrators and other employees?
Jilk: Listening to families, listening to student needs by working with our teachers, principals and administration. Then identify ways that we believe we can continue to improve ways to support our students. Supporting teachers by giving them the resources, curriculum, technology and training to make the improvements. Operating a school district like Lynden, now we have over 3500 students, preschool, three elementary schools, a middle school, high school, the Lynden Academy, community transition program, community services, has so many facets to it. Board members are representatives of the community, elected to make decisions on the community’s behalf in support of our students. Understanding how school districts run, what are all the facets of education, and working with district administration as a team.
Question 5: What would be your greatest responsibility to Lynden School District taxpayers?
Jilk: Acting as a steward of the dollars the taxpayers provide to the district. The cost of operating the Lynden School District is significant.
Planning for and implementing budgets and using our financial resources, taxpayer dollars for operating the schools and also maintaining and building schools is a big part of what we owe our taxpayers. Our school board has created several different committees, such as finance, planning, building, communication. We place a high importance in the use of these committees, like finance to work closely with administration and the other board members to make sure we are managing and acting as good stewards of our community taxpayers’ money. Developing long-term financial plans, building plans and communicating with the community on these is a way we listen to and communicate with the community to help the community know what we are and why we are doing what we are doing.
Question 6: What do believe are the most important issues facing Lynden School District stakeholders and how would you deal with those concerns?
Jilk: The most important issues facing our district in the next few years I believe are:
-Choosing the next permanent superintendent. We have hired an interim superintendent, Mike Stromme, to help the district/board move through the next 12 months. Mike will be able to help us move some of our paused work forward and help us in our process to choose a permanent superintendent.
-We need to proceed though, in making progress on some areas such as curriculum updates, alignment of our teaching across the district, technology improvements.
-We need to continue to develop our building plans for our high school, and a potential fourth elementary school. We have realigned our elementary school boundaries recently because two of our three schools are way beyond capacity, even adding portables.
-Dealing with ever-changing state funding while keeping a close watch on the use of local taxpayer dollars.
Question 7: How do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has affected meeting the needs of the Lynden School District? What would you like to see different at Lynden Schools in 2021-2022?
Jilk: Because we have had a district staff that worked so very hard to maintain the best support and education, they could over the last 18 months it drew so much time and energy away from the momentum we had building on implementing some key work.
Keeping kids safe, keeping teachers and staff safe, supporting as best we could our students and families who were hurting, emotionally, was our focus and keeping our kids academically progressing was very difficult. Our district leadership, along with teachers and all staff have been developing plans for real time in person school this fall. Getting ready for that and using financial resources, technology and training to get us back to almost normal for our families and students this fall.