When Bethel School Board member Brenda Rogers moved to Graham some 30 years ago, she didn’t envision herself entering the world of public education.
Rogers came to the area with her new husband, who had taken a job with Boeing. Her adult children from a previous marriage were out of the house, and Rogers and her husband hadn’t planned on having more kids.
But the world works in mysterious ways, as the Rogers family soon found out. The very same year she welcomed her two grandsons into the world, Rogers gave birth to her youngest daughter, followed soon by a son.
Rogers and her husband have a deep appreciation for education, so when their youngest children reached school age they spent countless hours researching schools.
“We looked at everything,” she said. “We looked at private schools. We looked at the public schools in the district, and in the end we decided we were going to go with the neighborhood school. We also decided we were going to be very involved to make sure it was working for our children.”
That neighborhood school turned out to be Kapowsin Elementary. Rogers, who had previously worked in the high-stakes world of industrial construction management, began focusing all her energy on helping the Kapowsin staff make it the best school it could be. She volunteered at the school and eventually became president of the Parent Teacher Association and chair of the Site Council.
Rogers shined in her new role, and in 2003 a member of the Bethel School Board took notice and approached her about running for a seat on the board. Intrigued by the idea of helping shape the entire district rather than a single school, Rogers decided to run for the seat. She was elected that same year and has been on the board ever since.
The school district happens to be in an area that gets little media attention, which means it can be difficult to stay up-to-date with what the school board is working on. Because of that, Rogers says members of the Bethel community don’t always know how much thought goes into every issue.
“It sometimes looks like we just rubber stamp things, but the reality is that before we make that vote that looks so fast, we have studied the issue — possibly for years, but at least months,” Rogers said. “If it’s an important issue then we’ve looked at it and talked about it from all different angles, so when we get there for a vote, we’re ready to vote.”
While she’s proud of the work they do, Rogers is frustrated that — for whatever reason — the board hasn’t been able to involve the larger community in a meaningful way.
“We need to keep emphasizing that we need to have ongoing, comprehensive input from the public,” Rogers said. “I’m very determined to find a systematic way for the board to hear from all of our constituents, including students and parents and staff — teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers. I want to hear from every one of those people.”
Rogers, like the rest of the board, feels a deep responsibility to the men, women and children who live in the district and whose lives are affected by decisions the board makes. One of the biggest decisions any board can make is calling for a bond or levy. Asking residents for money is never easy, and it’s not something the board takes lightly, according to Rogers.
“I put a lot of faith and trust into my community. I truly do. If they say no, I think there’s a reason why they say no and I think we need to fix it,” she said.
Rogers has held her position for nearly 15 years, and she’s not sure if she’ll run again when her current term is up in 2019. What she is sure about is that however long she’s on the board, she’s going to put everything she has into strengthening Bethel in any way she can.
“Make no mistake, we know that we have the responsibility to see that we have a functional district that’s fair and equitable to all of our citizens and our students,” she said. “We work every day to make sure we do a good job in that regard.”