School hopefuls debate standards

Sequim school board candidates Jon Kirshbaum and incumbent Virginia O'Neil debated student assessments, vocational education and communication with the community during an Oct. 8 forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Kirshbaum said he was an administrator in a "large, large, large" school district - Chicago - so he has the skills to serve on the school board.

O'Neil said she is an advocate for children; she doesn't have the answers but does have the drive to find them.

Kirshbaum said he will push for "fair and realistic student assessments."

Setting standards too high hurts even the good students because many of them hate to fail, he said.

O'Neil said she supports both the college-bound students and those pursuing a vocational skill or trade.

The nation needs doctors and lawyers but they also need farmers and mechanics, she said.

Kirshbaum said they must focus on maintaining and sustaining resources because the state is in bad financial shape.

Schools also need a dialogue with the community at large, he said.

She agrees they must stay in touch with the community but also is not sure they will be able to sustain the same programs with the current levy, O'Neil said.

State funding was cut by $1.2 million and Initiative 728 funding will pay for 12 fewer teachers; those cuts don't show up this year because they were replaced with federal stimulus funding, she said.

Kirshbaum said the district needs full disclosure to the public regarding uses for the levy and a backup plan if it fails.

O'Neil said students need 22 credits to graduate but having a 16-year-old reading Dickens to be a welder is "stupid." As a skills center person she thinks that student could be successful.

She would introduce foreign languages in the elementary schools and do more language instruction at the junior high school level, O'Neil said.

Kirshbaum said when he was in Chicago, they used magnet schools and trade instruction to decrease dropout rates.

He's been an administrator and project leader so he can provide guidance and monitoring of individuals, he said.

Reach Brian Gawley at

Schools seek

input on levy

The Sequim school district hosts a levy workshop and community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, in the Sequim High School Library, 601 N. Sequim Ave.

The meeting is to discuss opinions and priorities for school district programs, operations and facilities.

District officials welcome citizen attendance at the event.

"We're pleased to offer an opportunity to hear from our community as we continue to plan for our children's future," Sequim schools superintendent Bill Bentley said.

The Sequim school board also invites citizens to take an online community survey to help them prioritize and make decisions concerning the needs of students in our community. The online survey takes about five minutes to complete and all survey responses are confidential, school officials say.

To respond to the survey, go online to www. and click on the "Community Survey" link.

This school year, Sequim school district is proposing a levy to replace the current four-year levy that expires Dec. 31, 2010.

For more information, call the school district office at 582-3260.

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