4 running for school board seat
July 31, 2013
By Sherry Grindeland
The redistricting of the Snoqualmie Valley School District has pitted two incumbents and two longtime school volunteers and friends against one another. Marci Busby, G. Scott Hodgins, Stephen Kangas and David Spring, all of North Bend, are vying to for the Director No. 4 position on the school board.
The two candidates who receive the most votes in Aug. 6 primary will run against one another in the November general election. Busby and Hodgins currently serve on the board. Hodgins is the board president.
One of the most divisive issues for the district in recent years has been the creation of a freshman campus. This fall, ninth graders will attend the Mt. Si Freshman Campus, located in the former Snoqualmie Middle School. Grades 10 through 12 will be at Mt. Si High School in Snoqualmie.
Busby has served on the board for eight years. She has been involved in schools for 23 years, including volunteering in the classroom and district and participating in PTSAs. The biggest challenges facing the school district, she said, are planning the facilities. The board will have to plan for a school bond issue to raise money to remodel the high school and decide when to build a new elementary school. She believes only so much change can be initiated at once.
“Right now the school district is faced with establishing the freshman campus, transitioning to two middles schools, negotiating three union contracts, levies for maintenance, operations and technology and planning for a bond,” Busby said via email.
Busby believes the freshman campus will be an exciting new adventure for students and staff. Her priorities for the district are serving students well, supporting the professional educators and fixing capacity issues.
Hodgins, who has been on the board four years, said he wants to make sure teachers have the resources they need to teach and that includes providing adequate facilities.
“We need to improve our high school,” he said. “The school is overcrowded and built on a flood plain. A bond to build a new high school has failed three times so the next best thing we can do is modernize the school we have.”
He sees modernizing Mt. Si High School as the quickest and most efficient way to eliminate the freshman campus and re-establish Snoqualmie Middle School. Professionally, he is in construction and said it would take the same amount of time to either modernize the high school or build a replacement middle school.
“The best things about our district are our fabulous educators,” he said. “If you go into any one of our schools you’ll see high energy and a student-oriented culture.”
Stephen Kangas wants to bring one tool from the corporate world to the school district – a strategic plan.
“When you’re operating an organization the size of the district without a strategic plan, it is like an airline pilot flying without a compass and a map. You might not get where you want to go,” he said.
He believes almost every problem the district faces exists because of the lack of long term planning. That includes the continually growing class sizes teachers face each year.
Kangas would also prioritize student safety. He is concerned about harassment and bullying within the schools, particularly at the secondary level. He said he knows of parents who have pulled their students out of local schools to send them to other districts or to home school them.
“When kids are afraid to get on the bus and go to school, their mind isn’t on their school work,” he said. “The programs in place in elementary school to deal with bullying fade at the middle school level and disappear completely at high school. The only things we have there are student-led initiatives. We need staff to be leaders in these initiatives.”
There are many wonderful things about Snoqualmie School District, Kangas said, from fabulous teachers, to concerned and involved parents and the technology levy that enabled the district to put high speed networks and computers in the classrooms.
Spring opposes the freshman campus concept and predicts that over time it will be a disaster.
“It failed in Sno-homish, it failed in Issaquah, and it has failed nearly every time it was tried in districts throughout the United States,” Spring said. “The reason I am running is to reopen Snoqualmie Middle School as soon as possible.”
He said the community debate about developing a freshman campus and closing a middle school has been ongoing, and he believes the current school board members haven’t listened well to their constituents.
“A vote for the incumbents is a vote for the ninth grade campus,” he said. “We believe the school board is going in a bad direction and I want to create a better learning environment for students.”
He has high praise for the district teachers, commenting that they have done a phenomenal job of dealing with overcrowded classrooms. He noted that active parents who participate in the education community and PTA are school district assets.
Spring worries that the district’s history of failed bond issues bodes ill for trying to pass a bond to modernize the high school. The state, he said, needs to provide more money for the buildings the district needs. He is willing, he said, if elected to make a motion to bring suit against the state for lack of school construction funds.
“Our high school is on the verge of falling apart, it is in the middle of a flood plain and we need one and maybe two new elementary schools,” Spring said. “We need help from the state.”
All four candidates commented that no matter who wins, it will be a victory for the students.
“We’re all in it for the kids,” Spring said. “The parents (and voters) need to decide if we’re changing direction.
The Snoqualmie School District encompasses more than 400 square miles in North Bend, Snoqualmie, Fall City and unincorporated King County up to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass.
It serves more than 6,000 students at five elementary schools, two middle schools, a freshman campus, high school and alternative school.