Two well-qualified candidates are running for an open seat on the Olympia school board this fall. We favor Joellen Wilhelm over Jessica “Jess” Revelas.
Wilhelm impresses us with her thoughtful, thorough approach to issues. As important is her commitment to helping kids from low-income families and those who struggle most in Olympia schools.
Both candidates want to see improved funding for schools and pay for teachers. Both express concern about the amount of time spent on standardized testing.
Wilhelm, 38, is a former Peace Corps volunteer, who now works part time as a nonprofit consultant and grant writer. She recognizes an opportunity gap facing poorer kids and has seen it up close through her volunteer work at her young children’s home school, Madison Elementary. The small school has many students from homeless and low-income families on the city’s east side.
Wilhelm’s top priorities are to help guide the district through expected enrollment growth and the classroom construction that will be required by class-size reductions being funded in recent state budgets. She also favors expanded music and art offerings and wants to ensure a small school like Madison has a full-time principal.
Revelas, 45, is also a strong candidate and voices support for alternative education, which she’s been closely involved with at Lincoln Elementary, her children’s school. She is endorsed by her South Capitol neighbor, Allen Miller, who is vacating the seat that she and Wilhelm are competing to fill.
Revelas raises timely questions about school safety and says she wants to increase school spending on counselors to help kids.
In a sign of her willingness to take bold steps on safety issues, Revelas suggests sending a letter home with every district child that asks parents to sign a pledge to safely store and lock up any firearms in the home ensuring no kid can get at them.
The District 2 race is the only one of three that is contested. Running unopposed for re-election are Frank Wilson in District 1 and Justin Montermini in District 4. The election is Nov. 3.
Both Wilhelm and Revelas came to our community from out of state and attended The Evergreen State College.
Wilhelm got a bachelor’s degree at Ohio State University and earned a master’s degree in public administration at Evergreen. Revelas got her undergraduate degree at Evergreen and later earned a law degree from the University of Oregon.
Besides her volunteering at Madison Elementary, Wilhelm served as coordinator of Garden Raised Bounty, has been a member of the Olympia Food Co-Op’s board of directors, and served on an advisory board to the Olympia YMCA.
Revelas has served as president of a site group at Lincoln Elementary called the Options Community Council. Having had a child sick with leukemia, she said she understands firsthand some of the challenges facing families whose children are having a hard time.
Interestingly Wilhelm says she went around the district to visit every one of its schools. Revelas said she is following suit, but hasn’t yet seen them all.
Although we believe Revelas would be a competent and conscientious board member, we believe that Olympia schools need an active advocate for students who lack the middle-class advantages most families take for granted, and that’s clearly Joellen Wilhelm.