Mukilteo’s Laverty elected chair of state board of education

Laverty served 3 terms on Mukilteo’s school board from 1999-2011
By Nicholas Johnson | Oct 04, 2017
Kevin Laverty

As the state Board of Education’s new chair, Kevin Laverty of Mukilteo says he’s focused on encouraging innovation in Washington schools, especially as it relates to preparing students for a greater diversity of jobs.

“I want to enable schools and kids in our state to try different things, whether it’s taking more field trips or hiring captivating teachers,” he said. “I think we want to see as much innovation as we can out there.”

Laverty, who moved to Mukilteo with his family in 1994, served three terms on the Mukilteo School District’s Board of Directors from 1999 to 2011. His daughters Sheena and Patricia graduated from Kamiak High School in 2001 and 2005, respectively. He said Mukilteo’s schools were definitely a draw when moving to the area, especially as the district had recently built new schools and refurbished others.

“It’s unbelievable the value we get here as people who live in this school district,” he said. “Not to say it’s perfect, but in terms of a public school system we’re all so lucky to be in this district.”

Laverty was first elected to the state board in 2012 following his tenure on Mukilteo’s school board, as well as stints as president of the Mukilteo Schools Foundation and president of the Washington State School Director Association’s (WSSDA) board of directors. He said he defeated an incumbent, as well as several other candidates, for a seat on the 16-member board that provides advocacy and strategic oversight of the state’s public education system.

Laverty said he came onto the board with a minority view that the board’s plan to require students to earn 24 credits to graduate was more an aspirational goal than a tenable plan.

“To be fair to the board members who pushed it at the time, you sometimes have to have an aspirational goal to move the system along,” he said. “Aspirations are fine, but if we don’t have the wherewithal – meaning the money – to do this, it won’t work. When I came on the board, I was saying these aspirational ideas are going to butt up against the practical realities on the ground.”

That plan has evolved over the years as the state board has allowed districts to defer implementation and more money has been secured from the Legislature. In Mukilteo, which deferred implementation, this year’s freshman class – the class of 2021, will be required to earn 24 credits to graduate.

Laverty said he’s proud that the board has also improved how the state determines proficiency pursuant to the testing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Rather than looking simply at whether a student passes a test, Laverty said, the state now considers how far a student has come, how much growth they’ve shown.

“That’s something we ought to be looking at because it can tell us whether they’re going in the right direction,” Laverty said. “Let’s not just look at whether they pass a test but what kind of growth they’ve shown.”

In the last few years, Laverty said the board has focused heavily on the state’s High School and Beyond Plan, which gives students personalized plans designed to help students set, visualize and work to achieve goals for completing high school and pursuing their desired career.

“I’d love to see us get to a point where every child has a personalized education plan,” he said.

He said he’s particularly interested in helping students such English language learners make successful transitions from high school to further education and a career. That means giving students more ways meet high school educational requirements.

“If a student is learning auto body, fashion design or culinary skills, the things they would learn in an algebra class are being included in that curriculum, allowing us to say an auto body class is course-equivalent with algebra,” he said. “Now we’re allowing kids who don’t learn the same to get the same standard of education through other kinds of classes.”

In the last year, the board has held of a series of community meetings in which they hear about how school districts and colleges in communities around the state are collaborating to help students transition.

“We’re very focused on career education and linking up with community groups on how we can work together to enable this,” he said, noting he expects to see that outreach continue.

Laverty will serve as chair of the board until his term ends in January 2020. He previously served a two-year term as vice chair of the board beginning in July 2015.

“I am honored by the confidence my fellow board members have placed in me as chair,” he said. “The board has shown its commitment to ensuring an equitable, high-quality education that prepares all students for college, career and life. I look forward to continuing to work together with the board to realize this goal.”

The board is comprised of five members who are elected by school board directors, seven members appointed by the Governor, two members who serve as student representatives, and one who serves as a private school representative. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is also a member.

The board chair presides at meetings, provides guidance to the executive director of the board, is responsible for the conduct of the board, and is the official voice for the board.

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