Running for seats on the Bellevue and Seattle school district boards, four Asian women hope to use their unique immigrant perspectives to mold the children of today into more equitable and accepting citizens of tomorrow. This week, we introduce you to the Seattle School Board candidate.
Vivian Song Maritz, Seattle School Board District, Position #4
Originally from Ohio, Vivian Song Maritz lived in California and moved to Seattle with her husband to raise their four children, three of which attend public school. Maritz loves Seattle, especially its friendly drivers, who are more forgiving than their Californian counterparts.
Maritz’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil and Taiwan.
“I was that little girl sitting in the back of a Chinese restaurant doing her homework, chopping vegetables, and wiping tables,” she said.
Maritz had an excellent education from a public school where a hearing disability was identified by a teacher. Speaking Mandarin, she started school with English as her second language.
“I benefited from teachers being resourceful and supportive to overcome challenges,” she said.
Maritz went to Harvard to study Economics and has a master’s degree from Harvard Business School.
“I had many opportunities because of my public school education. I feel passionate about creating those same opportunities for Seattle kids.”
Maritz is a private sector professional with finance and operations experience.
“Our school has a billion dollar budget, and there are no school board directors that have finance experience,” she said. “For things we want to achieve, we need to make strategic financial investments.”
Keen on representing the Asian community, Maritz said, “I would be the only bilingual school board director and am excited to talk to some constituents directly in Chinese or help other school board directors with families who speak Chinese.”
Why the bid?
Recent anti-Asian hate is one reason Maritz launched her bid. She acknowledges the difficult year the Asian American community had.
“My parents left their home in California only twice during Covid—to attend a Black Lives Matter rally and to vote. That’s the family I grew up in.”
So, when her parents were vaccinated, she was heartbroken to learn that instead of being excited for life to return to normal, they felt scared to go out for fear of racist attacks.
“When you look at Seattle Public Schools student data, and this is true nationwide, the percentage of Asian students wanting to go back to school in person is very low, compared to other racial groups,” Maritz said.
“When I look at the school board and district leaders, there is little Asian representation. Of 150 school principals, only two or three are Asian,” Maritz said. “So, who is being thoughtful about the racism and microaggressions our Asian students experience in school buildings,” she asked.
With Seattle Public Schools buildings closed for more than a year and the burden of remote learning feeling heavy for students and teachers, Maritz believes that in order to emerge from the pandemic, the school district needs thoughtful leadership around students’ needs.
Mental Health: Maritz’s top issue is making mental health services essential in schools.
“I have been advocating for more school counselors and school nurses even before the pandemic, so I feel tremendous urgency to have those in place when students are back.”
Seattle Public Schools fund only nine school nurses across 105 school buildings. Maritz finds this concerning. “My children happen to go to a school where the PTA fundraises money to pay for a school counselor.”
However, she thinks it is inequitable because not all schools have parents who are able to raise funds. She cites the work on social and emotional learning, being an ally, and anti-bullying that her kids learn from their counselor.
“That kind of education is important when our vision is raising future citizens.”
Transportation: Growing up with parents working multiple jobs, Maritz was dependent on riding the yellow bus to school. She strongly believes that the city is not providing sufficient transportation services today.
She offers ideas on how to get better transportation for students in a cost-efficient way.
“A few parents and I did some data analysis, looked at bus routes, and wrote a white paper about transportation.”
She explains the last superintendent hired a task force to come up with solutions, one of which was that bus routes are currently based on eligible students, and not kids who actually take the bus.
“That’s not an efficient way to transport students. We are not coming up with the best routes that serve the students who want to ride the buses.”
Teachers and staff
Maritz believes teachers and staff should reflect the diversity of the student population.
“One of the things I hope to push forward as school board director is recruiting and retaining more teachers of color.”
Martiz didn’t have a teacher of color until she was a sophomore in college.
“As a person of color, you make assumptions about who holds knowledge and power, but that has been your educational experience,” she said.
“When talking to city leaders who are coming up with plans for affordable housing, I will advocate and communicate the need to support affordable housing for our staff and teachers because they are working in our communities and should be living in our communities. That is what makes a community.”
“Immigrants do not get to vote, but their experience is incredibly unique and cuts across different races in Seattle,” she said, underscoring how she doesn’t see that representation in the school board. “When the district is making policy decisions, are we being thoughtful about how this is impacting immigrant families?”
While Maritz lauds the district for providing translations of its communications, she doesn’t think it’s enough.
“As an immigrant family, this is a school district that is unfamiliar to you and the education you received. It’s hard to navigate, especially when you are in the driver’s seat for your children’s education.”
As school board director, Maritz feels she will be able to have a greater impact on advancing mental health services, addressing racism that students experience in school, improving academic outcomes, and getting translation services so families can easily participate in their children’s education.
“These are things I have been working on, and I realized my reach is only so far,” Maritz said. “Readers should support my candidacy because not only do I have the lived experiences on issues that are relevant to them, but because I am a real collaborator, a good listener, and am excited to help the community.”
Next week, we’ll highlight three women vying for seats on the Bellevue School Board.
Janice can be reached at email@example.com.