I was born and raised in Snohomish Washington and I still cherish that small town upbringing. My wife, Kim, and I are raising our family in historic Tumwater, Washington. I grew up the youngest of eight children. It was my public education that gave me a chance to break the cycle of poverty. In school and on the athletic fields I was not a low-income kid, or the son of recovering alcoholics, or any of the other labels that hold us back. I was simply a hard-working student, and with the support of my family, teachers, and our community, everything was possible for me. I went on to be the first in my family to go straight to college. I put myself through college with multiple jobs, scholarships, grants, and student loans. But the truth is, nobody does this alone! I am the benefactor of a state and a community that was committed to giving me opportunity. That is the very definition of public education – the great equalizer. I have dedicated my entire life to public education so I can break down barriers to ensure that every child, regardless of income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, or geography, has the same opportunity at success that was given to me.
I began my professional career as a school teacher, I’ve served on a local school board, spent 14 years as an executive in our state’s public community and technical college system, six years served in the Legislature, and the last four years as your State Superintendent. I have experienced education in this state from nearly every perspective. My wife is also a former classroom teacher, school board member, and has worked for the last 20 years in school counseling. Our family eats, sleeps, and breathes high-quality public education every day! I am the first state superintendent in more than 50 years with children in our public K-12 system subject to the policies, decisions, and outcomes of my leadership. The stakes are high for my kids, your kids, our economy, and our shared future.
I hope you will take the time to read through some critical policy values I hold. There is nothing more democratic, more forward thinking, or more critical to the future of our state, than our excellent K-12 public school system. Despite the incredible challenges of this global pandemic, we have to keep innovating and keep striving for the resources we need for our students and our educators.