Tacoma School Board candidate kicks off campaign at King’s Books

Keating (right) with with City Council member Catherine Ushka (left) — Photo courtesy of Lisa Keating

“She’s taught me so much in my life, how to be just me and it’s ok to be me, to show my emotions and open up to people,” a child of about eight years old said regarding Lisa Keating, one of the candidates for the upcoming Tacoma School Board election.

A crowd of children gathered behind the microphone at the back of King’s Books on April 17. They voiced their appreciation for Keating, who announced her run for the Tacoma School Board at a celebratory kick-off event that evening.

The room was supportive, filled with family and friends of Keating. The event was a casual celebration of Keating’s career, a recognition of her success and a request to support her in her campaign. The event was defined by Keating’s clear support for her community, specifically focusing on LGBTQ+ youth.

Lisa Keating has worked with Tacoma schools for years, first getting involved when her daughter, now finishing eighth grade, started elementary school.

“Our children spend so much time in schools; it can feel very isolating if you don’t know how, as a parent or guardian, to access that,” Keating said, sitting down with The Trail.

She became involved with the school system to advocate for her daughter and other students. Part of Keating’s platform is centered around transparency. She wants parents and students to feel that they can access local government and be able to understand the complexity of the school system.

“Part of the role of the school board is to help the community be informed,” Keating said.

Keating’s career is a reflection of her passion for advocacy. She has business experience, but most of her endeavors seem to focus around supporting her community. She started as a member of the Parent Teacher Student Association, moving up to the position of Community Building Chair. She is also the founder of My Purple Umbrella, an organization working to support LGBTQ+ youth. Through My Purple Umbrella, Keating has organized Allies In Action, an after-school program that provides kids with the skills to advocate for themselves and others.

“Equity and safety and inclusion are the cornerstones of why I do what I do,” Keating said, discussing her platform as the students of Allies in Action stood around her. In her short speech she appeared grateful to the community in front of her.

“I feel honored because I know I’m not doing this by myself, and I know I’m not doing this for me,” she said, looking at the kids. “I’m doing this for our community and to make our community better and to make our schools better.”

Catherine Ushka, a former member of the Tacoma School Board and the current City Council representative for district 4, stood up to give her endorsement. She called attention to the amount of money it takes to run a campaign like this, estimating about $40,000.

Other endorsements included Nate Bowling, a teacher at Lincoln High School. Bowling has worked in Tacoma public schools for over a decade.

“I just think she’s the right person based on her experience and who she’s willing to sit down and listen to,” he said.

“Frankly there’s a need for change in our school board,” Bowling said. “If you look at her opponent, she’s been on the school board since I was in fourth grade, and I’ll be 40 this year, and I can’t point to a significant policy accomplishment of hers, or an initiative for equity she’s driven,” he added.

This year Tacoma Public Schools are facing a budget cut of about $30 million. Keating believes that she has the experience to be able to handle the tough decisions that follow deep budget cuts.

“When cuts are being made, when programs or services are being funded, my questions are then how are those funds directly impacting?” she said, drawing on her experience as an Appointed Commissioner for Tacoma Human Services. In her career, Keating has had to make these decisions and she understand how emotional and personal it can be.

“There isn’t any easy answer,” she said.

“She’s great and what the school board needs,” sweet pea Flaherty, the owner of King’s Books, said. Though King’s Books doesn’t officially endorse political candidates, Flaherty personally supports Keating.

“She is a champion both for queer and trans youth and also for racial justice,” Flaherty said.

Keating started the “Queerest Book Club Ever” at King’s Books, an inclusive book club for LGBTQ+ youth and allies. Flaherty and Keating’s personal relationship took off from there. King’s Books was a welcoming space for Keating’s launch.

Many of the attendees seemed to be highly involved and devoted citizens of Tacoma, working for the betterment of their community. The aura of the event prompted The Trail to ask Keating why a college student, maybe in Tacoma for only a few years, should care about a race like this.

“It’s still a community that they’re a part of,” Keating said, referring to college students. “Supporting the kinds of candidates that share our lived values is really important.”

Supporting the people that share your values, showing up for the things you believe in, fighting apathy — these are the reasons to care about Keating’s run and local politics in general.