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Meet School Board Director Kathy Yang
Meet School Board Director Kathy Yang
Posted on 05/19/2017
Meet School Board Director Kathy Yang

Puyallup School Board Director Kathy Yang is highly invested in the community in which she lives. Her family moved to Puyallup in 1999, her children were raised here, she volunteers in the schools, and has been a school board director since December 2014.

Every Tuesday morning Yang is at Karshner Elementary School volunteering as a reading tutor with second graders in the Good Samaritan Readers program. Through this program volunteers meet with students in kindergarten through third grade once a week in a mentor role which emphasizes that an adult relationship is crucial for academic success.

On many afternoons she is watching Puyallup High School baseball games, as her son is a student there and plays on the team. Her daughter also graduated from Puyallup and now attends college in Chicago.

It is clear that the passion Yang brings to the school board is a desire to meet the needs of each and every student.

Kathy Yang

One of the first things Yang discovered as a new school board director is the complexity of running a school district. She laughs as she looks back to the beginning of her role as a board member, “Who knew the district would be so complicated?” She said she quickly learned there are many different, yet related, parts to the district and when one of them changes it affects the others.

“As a board member you realize in a big district not everyone is going to get everything they want. I had to step away from ‘what is best for my kid?’ to ‘what is best for our community?’ We can’t offer everything to every child, but we can offer something for every child. I have two kids, and they are very different from one another. What was best for my daughter is not necessarily best for my son. Having choices is really important. We want all students to have a pathway, and we don’t want any kids to fall through the cracks,” said Yang.

Strong financial policies and well-trained staff are critical to the success of the district. Evidence of the district’s strength in this area is the recent 15th consecutive clean audit by the Washington State Auditor’s Office. “In the last few years we have been working to become as efficient as we can as a school district. Under the leadership of Superintendent Tim Yeomans we have reviewed every department to ensure we are running as efficiently as we can,” she said. For example, significant transportation efficiencies have been made in recent years with improved routing schedules and the purchase of more efficient buses, some of which were purchased with grant money received from the Department of Ecology and Environment Protection Agency.

She recognizes that preparing children before they start school, with preschool programs and parent education, can help them thrive in critical early years. One such effort is Linkages where early learning providers in the community and the district come together to prepare children academically and socially before they start kindergarten.

“I love the Linkages Program — we go out and talk to parents of preschoolers to educate them on what kids need before they get to kindergarten so they can thrive while here. The early childhood piece is so important because if they fall behind early it is very difficult to catch up later. It breaks my heart in society today that there are so many social problems that prevent a fair start to life. Kids come hungry and some are not spending enough time with adults. Anything we can do to get out there to educate and help the parents will benefit young students,” said Yang.

The focus on closing the achievement gap took center stage at a recent school board study session. Yang said she is pleased with the ongoing proactive efforts to identify struggling kids early and intervene before they fall behind and have trouble catching up.

She believes preparing students for post-high school opportunities means providing students with a variety of career path options. Yang said the district recognizes that not one size fits all.  She cites the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs as an example of choices available to Puyallup students. For example, CTE programs offer students opportunities to learn automotive, aviation, manufacturing and welding, Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC), and many more. The CTE program supports student college and career readiness through real world, real life skills requiring both academics and training.

“Our goal is to give every child the opportunity to succeed. We want each child to find purpose and passion and find something that they love to do and pursue it. We all have a personal stake in it. If our kids do well, the whole community does well.”  Kathy Yang, Puyallup school board director

Under Yang’s leadership the district recently formed a partnership with Graduation Alliance to provide resources for students who did not graduate from high school. “We have Puyallup Digital Learning, but there are kids out there who are now young adults who don’t have a stable home and food while they are trying to work. Returning students will have an adviser to help them meet basic needs so they can get an education. Graduation Alliance will help them navigate to receive resources and provide tutors that can meet their schedules,” said Yang.

She credits the board with a long-term vision that considers students throughout the district as well as what is best for the community. They ask questions like: What is this going to look like in five years? Where do we want to be in 10 years? The kids born this year — what opportunities do we want for them when they graduate 18 years from now?

 “It is a good perspective to keep as we make policy decisions. Our decisions have a greater impact because there’s such long-term planning going on now,” said Yang.

“The school board is a cohesive group who are thoughtful, respectful, and willing to listen. When issues come up we are comfortable to discuss it and truly listen to each other with mutual respect. No one has an agenda. We constantly ask ourselves, what is best for our children, what is best for our community, and what do parents want?”  Kathy Yang, Puyallup school board director