Anita Damjanovic (left) and Cassandra Sage running for the director district three position on the Lake Washington School District Board of Directors. Courtesy photo

Candidates for school board seat come with teaching experience

The race for district three director on the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors attracted three candidates to file for the November election, but one of the candidates has decided to bow out of the race.

Christian Cahua decided to not pursue his candidacy after seeing and being impressed by the qualifications of Anita Damjanovic, who is running for the seat against Cassandra Sage.

Since Cahua made this decision after the withdrawal period closed, all three candidates will appear on the Aug. 1 primary ballot.

District three includes the northeast portion of Kirkland, including Totem Lake, and parts of Redmond, including Redmond Town Center. (A map of the director districts can be found on the district’s website, lwsd.org.) Despite those geographical boundaries, all residents in the Lake Washington School District vote to determine who holds the positions on the school board.

Position three is currently held by Nancy Bernard, who has opted not to run for re-election this year. She has endorsed Sage to replace her.

Cassandra Sage

Sage, a Kirkland resident, has spent the last 22 years as an LWSD parent and she said that investment of time as a parent, volunteer and PTSA board member qualify her for the seat.

“I feel that I have the history we’re going to lose when Nancy Bernard retires,” she said.

Parent engagement is an idea Sage actively supports in her current roles and would continue to back if elected as a director. She said embracing the cultural differences in the community is key, including translating different messaging the district puts out such as social media posts.

“I love that idea of helping people understand what’s going on,” she said.

Sage, who has never run for office before, said the district does a pretty good job in handling the “growing pains” associated with the expanding population in the area. She wants to help the district with that process, especially as more developments pop up in Totem Lake.

She said she would like to see more vocational programs (including woodshop, metal shop and automotive) made available for students, as four-year college is not for everyone.

“You can’t outsource mechanics or nurses,” she said.

For those who do opt to attend college, Sage said she would like to see more resources available for students and parents, taking the burden off of school counselors, whose time she said is currently “stretched.”

She said she would also like to see more special education students integrated into general education classrooms, especially in non-academic settings such as physical education, choir and art.

“Inclusion isn’t just having lunch together,” she said.

In addition to endorsements from local politicians, Sage has the support of her family — her husband, three sons and one stepson.

“My husband said, ‘We can do this — I will come home early so you can go to school board meetings,’” Sage, who works as a family advisor at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said.

She has a degree in early childhood education from Green River College, and she has previously taught first through third grades.

“I understand how hard it is to be a teacher,” Sage said.

For more information about Sage, visit cassan drasage.com.

Anita Damjanovic

Damjanovic is currently on maternity leave and will return to work as a teacher at Sammamish High School in the fall. She also believes her experience as both a teacher and a parent will help her serve the district as a board member.

“I am very passionate about education,” she said. “I would love to give back to the community we chose as our home and the place to raise our children by serving on the school board.”

She has lived in Kirkland with her family — her husband and two young sons — for three years, and they previously lived in Bellevue.

Damjanovic has never run for office before, but being engaged in the political process has been of interest to her. She’s already been actively advocating to the state Legislature for education funding.

“I always knew I wanted to be more involved in public policy,” she said. “If I’m not elected, I would hope to find another way to contribute.”

If Damjanovic is elected, like Sage, she sees growth and a diversity of education options as priorities.

“We really, really need to be looking into our growth very carefully,” Damjanovic said, adding that the process of designing new buildings and schools should be done efficiently. “I don’t want to finish new buildings and then have to use portable units immediately.”

She also wants high school students to be prepared for life after they graduate, whether that’s further education, technical training or entering the workforce.

Retaining and recruiting teachers has been an issue across the region, and Damjanovic said she would encourage the district to be more aggressive in its recruitment strategies.

In addition to her upcoming work as a teacher, Damjanovic has taught at Price Elementary School in Louisville, Ky., Tillicum Middle School in Bellevue and the University of Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and art history from the University of Louisville, a master’s degree in teaching from National Louis University and master’s and doctoral degrees in romance languages and literature from the University of Chicago.

She just finished her doctoral degree last year, freeing her up to devote time to serving on the school board.

“I always give 110 percent to anything I do, and I would definitely give the school board that dedication and attention,” she said.

For more information about Damjanovic, visit anitaforschoolboard.com.

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