Four school board candidates enter race, but only two will stay

May 29, 2013

By Michele Mihalovich

Four candidates are vying for one Snoqualmie Valley School District board seat, and the four have very different ideas about what they would do if they win the District 4 race.

Two of the candidates are incumbents, kind of.

Scott Hodgins, the current board president, is the sitting member of District 4. However, when the school board redrew its boundaries in May 2011, Marci Busby, also a current board member, was moved into District 4.

 

Hodgins said his No. 1 reason for running again is because he has unfinished business.

“In 1994-95, when I first got involved with our district, the most pressing need was to improve our high school, programmatically and physically. That need still exists. My work will not be done until I see that through. Our kids deserve it,” he said. “I also want to complete the board work on the educational strategic plan and long-range capital facilities plan. I won’t be satisfied until I know our district is headed in the right direction.”

Hodgins said his prime objective as board president is to bring the school board together.

“To find common ground, and to move forward with our district’s educational goals and objectives in improving teaching and learning, and supporting our educators and administrators.”

Busby said she comes to the table with board experience and community context. She said the board needs to focus on allowing building plans to be more fluid.

“We are a growing district … How we use buildings and where they are needed will change,” she said. “We need more capacity, and we must leave ourselves room for the unexpected. We need to act now to meet the needs of the kids in the desks today.”

Busby said an elementary school on Snoqualmie Ridge is the district’s most immediate need.

“With voluntary all-day kindergarten around the corner, kindergarten space in our elementaries will need to almost double by 2016,” she said.

She said she hopes that any bond brought to the voters does not in any way jeopardize getting the space needed for those new students.

The two challenger candidates are Steve Kangas and David Spring.

Kangas, 60, is a semi-retired, former entrepreneur from the computer industry. He said that background is precisely why he wants to run for the seat.

Kangas said that a better education is needed for young generations “more than at any point in our country’s history, in order to reverse the USA’s decline in preparing our students for competing with foreign countries, innovating and filling the jobs of today’s global economy.

“I personally experienced this as a senior hiring manager of high-tech companies, where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find Americans who possess competitive critical thinking, problem solving and creativity skills for the increasing percentage of jobs that require that. … And, I can testify that it is because our K-12 system and colleges are not producing the workers needed for those jobs, and better school systems elsewhere are delivering them.”

Kangas said, “SVSD has an abnormally high drop-out rate, especially among our group of similar neighboring districts…Class sizes have been growing over the past 10 years, the past five years in particular, despite the large body of sound study evidence that this negatively impacts academic outcomes for students.”

He said SVSD’s biggest problem is that it hasn’t developed a strategic plan and come up with a list of priorities.

“Since there is no priority list, directors and administrators shift what they wish to focus on from meeting to meeting, month to month, and few things wind up getting the resources needed to be accomplished satisfactorily,” Kangas said.

He said the first priority should be to get more great teachers and to provide them with professional development. Priority No. 2 would be integrating music and art with core subjects, and an interdisciplinary integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with nonSTEM subjects.

Priority three deals with student and teacher safety, he said, adding that “there is a harassment and bullying problem that is particularly problematic in our middle schools.”

Kangas also said, “A lower priority, but one very important, are capital bonds needed for school construction and renovation. Such bonds can be better positioned for voter passage, by first investing time into the development of a strategic business plan that also addresses the other aspects of district operation, including those priorities I’ve already mentioned.”

Spring, director of the College in the Clouds nonprofit organization, also said he has concerns about the high drop-out rate in the district.

He said he is also very unhappy with the board’s decision to close Snoqualmie Middle School in order for it to be used as a freshman campus.

“Despite the fact that our high school is more than 100 students below capacity, our current school board voted to close one of our three middle schools — overcrowding our two remaining middle schools, while leaving 20 empty classrooms at our high school. This will increase our dropout problem as ninth-graders will be deprived of important educational opportunities that are only available on the main high school campus.”

Spring said that, in short, “Our school district has a higher percent of administrators and a lower percent of teachers than any of the neighboring school districts. I am running to reopen Snoqualmie Middle School, hire more teachers and increase the graduation rate in our school district.”

The candidates will face off in an Aug. 6 primary, where the field will be whittled to two.

 

Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or editor@snovalleystar.com. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.

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