Washington State University GEAR UP program coordinator Becky Waggoner-Schwartz announced her candidacy for Position 2 on the Walla Walla School Board in this November’s election. The seat is held by Terri Trick, who is running for re-election.
Waggoner-Schwartz coordinates the GEAR UP program through WSU Tri-Cities at Walla Walla High School. The program helps high school students prepare for college after graduation.
Waggoner-Schwartz moved to the Walla Walla Valley as a teenager. She worked in the wine industry before switching to work in the public sector as a grant administrator.
Waggoner-Schwartz has four children — three whom have gone through the Walla Walla Public Schools system and one who is currently a WWPS student. An interest in her children’s education has kept her involved in several programs and is driving her run for school board.
“I really got involved in the school system here once my kids got in there,” Waggoner-Schwartz said. “My daughter was part of the Hi-Cap (Highly Capable) program. So I became a parent leader within the parent organization there and was on a community with the public schools.”
She first joined that program when her daughter, now in college, was in elementary school.
“We did a lot of changes to the program while I was on the committee,” she said. “Just around equity and access. We changed the system by which students were brought into the program.”
Waggoner-Schwartz said the program shifted from a nomination entry system to a testing system.
She said she’s been involved in local education since. Her interest in running for school board, however, expanded while watching her son navigate distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This last year has been a trial year for a lot of new things,” Waggoner-Schwartz said. “I have a student in high school right now that was accessing distance learning. We were fortunate that I was working from home so that I could oversee that. But overseeing it opened my eyes to some of the pitfalls that was going on.”
She said she spent time reaching out to school board members asking questions about what was going on.
“I just didn’t feel like all those questions were getting addressed,” she said.
This helped lead her to her decision to get more involved. She said she wants to see more parent involvement in school matters.
“I would like to see the access to the board change a little bit,” Waggoner-Schwartz said. I would like to make it a little more friendly. Right now, from a parent perspective, it feels the board is this big formal board … It doesn’t feel as accessible as it could be, or even as it wants to be.”
Waggoner-Schwartz graduated from Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University, majoring in business administration.