By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News
On a momentous Thursday, November 30, a modest yet meaningful gathering of family, friends, and fellow tribal members offered their support as Tulalip tribal member Eliza Davis was sworn in for her newly appointed position on the Marysville School Board.
Eliza faced a challenging setback in a closely contested race, losing the primary by a mere 20 votes. However, fueled by a united effort from the Tulalip community and voters of Snohomish County, Davis made a remarkable comeback, securing victory with a lead of 671 votes and a total of 7,400 votes cast in her favor. With this triumph, Eliza Davis now joins an esteemed group of Tulalip tribal members who have had the honor of holding a position on the Marysville School Board.
Amid the anticipation of a promising future, Eliza assumes her role on the Board, stepping into a term riddled with challenges for the school district. The situation is underscored by a significant budget shortfall of $10.8 million, as reported by the Everett Herald. Their reporting delves into the potential consequences, including discussions on merging schools, downsizing counseling staff to meet minimum state requirements, and possibly closing the Marysville Pilchuck High School pool. State advisers have recommended that the district make monthly cuts of $1 million, highlighting the gravity of the school district’s financial predicament.
You were elected during a tough time for the school district; where do you see yourself navigating the challenges the school district faces in the next couple of months?
I had some reservations about that because it is a scary time for MSD. If we can’t figure out the financial part, the next step would be the dissolution of MSD. I plan to get in there and learn about their discussions with the deficit. I also plan to bring outside-the-box ideas. For example, some school districts have foundations, but MSD doesn’t. That’s an opportunity to bring in more funding.
We got into this position because our voters didn’t pass a levy two years in a row. Also, the formula for funding schools is outdated. The levy system is not equitable when looking at different areas, socioeconomic classes, statuses, and taxes coming into certain areas. We need to advocate for that. I will investigate my opportunities to be that person who gets to advocate at the state level. I will get in there, learn everything, and use my strengths to move us forward.
How vital is Tulalip’s representation in the Marysville School District?
I think it’s crucial because if we pay attention to the state of MSD, when I left in 2017, we had over 1200 tribal students, and now we only have around 700 students. Many of our students are leaving the district, which tells me the district is failing our kids. We are a large portion of that population, and our students have been underrepresented for too long. So, having a voice for our kids is enormous.
What made you decide to run for the school board?
Tulalip Tribes asked me to run. But I feel it’s always been a calling to be in education. I have been in education for many years as a language teacher and a Native American liaison. I worked for the tribe as a custodial manager and then in my current position as the director of general services. I miss that work in education.
Having been a liaison for the school for so many years, what skill sets from that job will you bring to the school board?
My job was to be an advocate for our students and families. I understand the systems in place with MSD and our students’ rights. Also, I know what the teachers and staff need and go through. I will weigh all that knowledge in any decision we make as a board.
What was it like to be surrounded by your family and community the night you took your oath?
I knew people would show up. That’s what we do as a Tulalip community. We show up for our people. I am so grateful for my family, support system, and community that believe in me and support this role I am about to embark on. It felt amazing; I was overwhelmed with so much gratitude and blessed. I am much more at ease knowing I have such a sound support system.
What does being on the school board mean amongst other past tribal members like Chuck James, Marjorie James, Wendy Fryberg, and Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch?
My grandfather Francis Sheldon has a Marysville school district gym named after him, The Francis J. Sheldon Gym. It makes me feel proud to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. He wasn’t on the school board, but he was a strong advocate for all education. I have had conversations with Penoke as he is mentoring me about actions and steps I should take and the support system I should bring to help make good decisions. It means a lot because we continue the work needed for our kids and all kids in the district.
How does representing the Tulalip people on the Marysville School Board feel?
I feel happy and proud to be a Tulalip woman. I also feel so glad to be a part of the education system again. That work is so meaningful. Sometimes, when you’re doing the day-to-day grinds, it doesn’t always feel significant, but when you can be a part of this work and shape the future for students, that means something, and I take that very seriously. I will not be afraid to be the only no or yes vote if the decision being made is not the right one, or is the right one. I am going to be strong. Penoke said, “Don’t back down. Speak your voice. You have a whole community behind you.”
What else do you want the people to know?
I cannot stress the importance of our community aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, big brothers, sisters, moms, and dads being good educational partners. In my years working in education, I strived for families to build their capacities as partners in education. That means being involved, volunteering with the school, keeping in constant contact with your child’s teacher, addressing concerns as they come forward, reinforcing all the lessons at home, and finding ways to be involved with the school with your kid. Do what you can to be a partner in education. We must have families participating for success in that system. We need all hands on deck to ensure our kids get what they need.
* Everett Herald, ‘At tense meeting, Marysville school stare down drastic cuts to sports, more’, Wednesday, November 29, 2023,