Although Vivian Song Maritz did not reside in Seattle Public Schools District 4 before this year, she felt enough of a sense of urgency to run for School Board that she moved just to become eligible.
Maritz, a mother of four whose family lives in Capitol Hill, is renting an apartment in Ballard after briefly living in Queen Anne, and admits she moved to District 4 rather than wait for the seat in District 3 to come up for election.
“I really want to serve my community at this moment,” Maritz, who said.
Maritz is facing Queen Anne’s Laura Marie Rivera in the Nov. 2 general election for the seat that is currently held by Erin Dury, who is serving the remainder of Eden Mack’s term. In the general election, Seattle residents can vote for candidates in every School Board race, not just the ones in their district.
Maritz said she had two reasons for running for School Board at this time.
The first is because Seattle Public Schools is experiencing a challenging year on many fronts, not least of which is that it is underfunded, she said.
“And I felt we needed more leadership from a financial perspective,” Maritz said.
Maritz has a master’s degree from Harvard Business School and more than 15 years in finance and management in the private sector, including working for Goldman Sachs. She is currently a member of the Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council.
Maritz said her biggest concern is making sure the district has a financial plan in place to support its goals and that money is being spent "impactfully."
She said it is the board’s duty to understand what is happening in the district and how the money is being allocated. If elected, she said she'll specifically looking at where the investments are to support the goals in the strategic plan.
She said the district has pledged to have all students reading at grade level by the third grade because many studies have shown that year is crucial in determining future success in school and beyond.
“It’s a very worthy goal for our district to have,” Maritz said. “I don’t see an express financial commitment to achieving that goal.”
Maritz said the school district could be facing a big challenge this year because decreases in enrollment will mean less money coming from the state. Depending on how much less money the district will receive could result in a number of cuts.
“My hope is that we prioritize funding so that the last things that are cut are the things that directly impact the classroom,” Maritz said.
Special education funding is also not to where it needs to be. This is an issue dear to Maritz because she is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids.
She said SPS is the largest district in the state, but the Legislature has a put a cap on spending for special education services that does not address the need in Seattle schools.
Maritz said the second reason she is running for School Board is the lack of Asian representation on the board or in senior leadership positions.
Maritz, who is of Chinese descent, said she was bullied as a student growing up in Ohio, and the rise in anti-Asian sentiment in this country and violence concerns her.
“I don’t think any child should go to school and feel unsafe and unwelcome,” she said, adding that at the height of the coronavirus pandemic she did not feel comfortable speaking to her children in Mandarin.
She said she saw other Asian students in the district were feeling unsafe, as well.
“I see that our students were feeling unsafe and really felt I could bring that representation to our district,” Maritz said.
“I think [physical] isolation and restraint is a very serious issue that the district is grappling with,” Maritz said.
For all the challenges, Maritz said the school district has a lot of positive things going for it.
“I don’t come into this thinking that the school district is a disaster,” she said.
As a member of the Superintendent’s Council, Maritz said she sees that the district has good schools and teachers and she agrees with the School Board’s focus on achieving greater equity.
“We know what we need to do,” she said, adding she is serious about bringing racial justice to the district.
Maritz also wants the School Board to set reasonable goals when hiring its new superintendent.
“I think that this magical unicorn doesn’t quite exist,” she said.
The new superintendent will have both strengths and weaknesses, and Maritz said the board needs to ensure that the new person has the tools in place to play up their strengths and support the areas in which they are weaker.
To learn more about Maritz, go to https://vivian.school.