Bethel School Board President Amy Pivetta is nothing if not tenacious. When she sets her sights on a goal, it’s unwise to bet against her.
Pivetta admits she wasn’t exactly a scholar in high school, but once she decided she wanted a college education, nothing was going to stop her. It was a slow process that began at a local community college, moved on to the University of Washington, and ended with a law degree from the University of Montana.
The cash-strapped Auburn native even started her own janitorial business to help pay for school.
“I needed a flexible job so I could go to classes, so I started cleaning my dad’s insurance broker’s house and from there referrals got me more work,” she said.
All that hard work paid off. Pivetta ended her scholastic career with a Juris Doctor Degree in her hand and a desire to make a positive change in her community.
As she debated what to do with her career, Pivetta thought back to her childhood home near the Muckleshoot Reservation. She remembered how members of the tribe were treated differently, and the memory sparked an interest in both tribal culture and general equity.
Those interests led to a job as a policy analyst with the Washington Indian Gaming Association. It was at WIGA that Pivetta got the itch to enter politics.
“When I started working at WIGA I developed a love for policy and legislation, and this was a really good way to do that locally and start that process of being involved as an elected official,” she said.
Pivetta spent four years working with local tribes — first at WIGA and later as an attorney for the Skokomish Indian Tribe — before starting her own firm in 2010. While working at WIGA, Pivetta and her husband, Jason, moved to Frederickson, and it wasn’t long before she was thinking of ways she could be of use in her community.
“I decided I wanted to be more involved and more aware of the issues in my community,” she said. “I wanted to do something that was going to benefit people who lived in my community, people who had the same issues that I did as a resident here.”
Cut to 2012. Pivetta learned about an opening on the Bethel School Board and began attending board meetings and studying the issues facing the Bethel community.
She ran for the seat and, in 2013, was elected. While she is focused on all aspects of the job, Pivetta is especially interested in making sure each and every child in the district is given an equal opportunity to succeed.
“Everyone wants that, but the question is always how you get there?” she said.
One way to get there, according to Pivetta, is for the board to use data to set rigid goals for itself.
“I don’t think we’re afraid to set numbers, because we’ve got nothing to lose,” she said. “If we’re not good at our jobs and we can’t set policy and budgets that make the rest of the district successful then we should be replaced.”
While they hope to use numbers to measure success, Pivetta and her fellow board members understand there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the district’s problems. Chief among the current set of problems is the district’s overall lack of space and adequate infrastructure.
The community is growing, and the district needs to make sure it has the space to offer every child a high-quality education. It’s an unpleasant part of the job, but Pivetta says sometimes the district has to appeal to the larger community for financial help.
“We don’t bring bonds to people for fun, and we don’t do it flippantly,” she said. “They’re very serious and we know it’s a lot to ask for, but we’re just outgrowing all of our facilities.”
Bethel is a large district, and it would be impossible for school board members to speak with every resident about their individual concerns. That said, Pivetta insists she and her fellow board members have a “boots-on-the-ground” mentality about getting out into the district to find out what’s bothering residents.
“I want people to understand that we have a pretty comprehensive view of what’s going on in the community,” she said.
Sitting on the school board is a tough, oftentimes thankless job that won’t make you rich or famous, but that’s okay with Pivetta. She knows there are things more valuable than money, like when she is given the honor of standing on a stage each June and watching Bethel’s seniors graduate high school.
“That’s our profit, walking those kids across the stage. Knowing that everything we’ve done has contributed to those kids walking across that stage,” she said. “It’s really special. It’s a very proud moment. It really does make you feel part of the community. I’m just so happy for these kids and their parents.”