Michelle Sarju
Michelle Sarju

For all of Michelle Sarju’s career, children and their health at various stages of their life, have been a central focus.

Sarju is running for the Seattle Public Schools District 5 position against mechanical engineer Dan Harder. If elected she will replace Director Zachary DeWolf, who did not run for re-election.

In the Nov. 2 general election, Seattle residents are allowed to vote in every school board race, regardless of where they reside in the district.

Sarju, a 34-year resident of the Central District, has been a midwife, social worker and maternal health professional in her career and is currently managing a children’s healthcare program with King County Public Health. She is a mother of three adult children who all attended Seattle Public Schools and has served as a PTSA member at TOPS K-8 and Garfield High School.

Sarju said, if elected, she will advocate and consider what is best for all students when helping set policy.

“When it comes to children, this is not about politics,” she said. “This is about developing kids and having them grow in to happy, healthy, productive adults.”

Sarju said, if she is elected, she wants to know how the current systems and policies in place in the district are working for the children and their families in the district, while ensuring that teachers have the classroom support and tools they need to be successful.

“I believe every child should have access to a high-quality public school education,” Sarju said, adding access to programs should not be impacted by race, zip code, socioeconomic status, different abilities or language a student speaks.

Sarju said one of the strengths she will bring to the board if elected is her background in social work.

“I understand the social, emotional and mental health needs of children,” Sarju said. “That’s my skill. That’s my super power I’ll be bringing to the board.”

She expects her experience developing and administering health programs for the county will serve her well because she regularly makes decisions keeping all children in mind, not just the ones the programs specifically serve.

“For me it’s not a lens,” Sarju said of equity. “It’s everything I do. ... We can no longer have equity be in its own silo.”

Sarju also welcomes participating in hiring a new superintendent. She said she has seen seven new superintendents get hired to the district in the last 34 years and feels the revolving door needs to shut.

“We need to be clear about what we want and not settle for less,” Sarju said.

She wants the new superintendent to not only have leadership skills, she wants this person to make children’s well being, including long-term mental health, a focus, and develop a transportation plan that is sustainable and equitable.

“The kids who need to be prioritized are over and over again not being prioritized,” Sarju said.

She also wants the superintendent to be actively engage with community members and vows to do that as a School Board member if elected.

Sarju said she already has some experience with that as former School Board District 5 Director Mary Bass is a friend of hers, and she learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes by helping Bass with administrative tasks, specifically setting up and running meetings between Bass and parents. She also wants to ensure parents are informed about the decisions the district and board members make, especially when it comes to COVID-19.

“COVID is still our No. 1 priority,” she said.

Go to https://sarjuforseattleschools.com for more information about Sarju.