Laura Marie Rivera
Laura Marie Rivera

Queen Anne resident and mother of four Laura Marie Rivera has always been an educator. Now she wants to take her experience and apply it to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors.

Rivera is running for the District 4 position against Vivian Song Maritz.

Rivera said she was inspired to run for School Board director in District 4, which includes Queen Anne, Magnolia and some of Ballard, after previous director Eden Mack resigned at the beginning of this year.

"A quality education is the best thing we can provide children," Rivera said.

She said Mack's resignation got her thinking about Seattle Public Schools and saw opportunity.

"We've got 50,000 students in Seattle Public Schools, and we've got 50,000 futures that we've got to think about."

She said the school district not only has the ability to teach students, it has the chance to expose them to other educational opportunities post high school,  such as trade apprenticeships for students who may not be interested in attending traditional college after graduation.

"We need to make sure we're creating these opportunities," she said, adding she would advocate for this as a board member. "That is what my idea is: unlocking opportunities for the future."

Rivera said she would like to see the school district "open doors" to create more opportunities for students, whether it is through advanced level classes or introduction to careers that don't follow traditional paths, with a focus on equity and opportunity for all students.

She said she would like new policies or partnerships created in the community to support those objectives because Seattle is an amazing city with opportunities in a range of career fields. She said it is also important for the school district to introduce educational opportunities and programs to students much earlier than high school.

As well, Rivera said the school district needs to create a transportation plan that emphasizes equity to all students and gives them access to programs to supports their needs and interests.

Rivera also supports creating educational opportunities that go beyond just the traditional means because some students learn better outside of a classroom setting.

Rivera said she recognizes the district does not have unlimited funds, but her past work experience will be an asset on the School Board because working in education and nonprofits teaching the arts requires "being creative with what you have" and creating and maintaining opportunities and programs with limited funds.

According to her background information, Rivera has a masters degree in education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City and has taught in multiple disciplines, from kindergarten to school programs at an urban museum, to public and private sector arts education for children and adults. She is the current secretary for the Coe Elementary PTA and serves as the local Reflections Art chair and coordinator for the National PTA Arts Competition, according to her website.

One thing Rivera said she wants to bring as a School Board is greater transparency and communication, which she said has been lacking, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's difficult for families to see and understand what's going on at the district level," she said.

Rivera said, if she is elected, she will work toward removing barriers for families and advocates to be heard at board and committee meetings and wants to change how the district creates advisory groups and task forces to make sure that community members are being reached in their spaces.

She also said she will use her experience as a parent and educator to advocate for all students.

"I am very good at speaking my piece and following through and advocating for my children and for a group," Rivera said, adding, if elected she would listen to parents' ideas and concerns by meeting with residents in their communities and report them back to the School Board.

She said she also knows how to agree to disagree with other people and set aside differences to move on if a decision is made that she doesn't agree with fully.

Rivera said even if her ideas and thoughts don't result in immediate action, just sharing them is a form of progress.

"My feeling is that, at least with a different voice in the room, you're voicing your ideas and planting a seed," she said. "Things may not change today, and they may not change tomorrow, but you are planting a seed."

For more information about Rivera, go to lauramarie4seattleschools.com.