2019 General Election: Sequim School District board of directors, position 3

2019 General Election: Sequim School District board of directors, position 3

Candidates speak on district improvement, bullying

Sequim School District Board of Directors Position 3

Note: This is a non-partisan position

Duties: Approve a general operating budget ($41.5 million for 2018-19 school year) for operations at Helen Haller and Greywolf elementary schools, Sequim Middle School, Sequim High School, Olympic Peninsula Academy and Sequim Options School.

Term: Four years.

Compensation: Board members are eligible for $50 per day for board meetings not to exceed $4,800 per year.

Meeting: 6 p.m. first, third Mondays of month at Sequim School District administration, 503 N Sequim Ave

Election Boundaries: West to Mount Angeles, north to Agnew, south to Diamond Point in Clallam County; Gardiner, Port Discovery in Jefferson County.

Voters: 25,600 in Clallam County, 355 in Jefferson County.

Number of board members: Five.

The only one of three contested races for Sequim School District’s board of directors, incumbent board director Jim Stoffer, 59, looks to keep his Position 3 (the district’s east end) and is challenged by Beth Smithson, 38.

“I believe today as I have always believed,” Stoffer said, “Sequim schools are a treasure and a beacon in many ways of how good our schools can be. We’ve been challenged by funding, by disagreements both small and large, and we are at the nexus of our future.”

Smithson said that work by interim superintendent Rob Clark is vital to the future of the district.

“(Clark) is building the leadership team back up and making good decisions to move the district forward,” Smithson said. “We need integrity throughout or board and leadership to gain the trust of the community to successfully pass a bond. Superintendent Clark has said that he’s interested to stay longer than his one-year contract to see this work through. I support that and look forward to working with the other board members to get a bond passed.”

Stoffer has indicated in recent board meetings that he would be open to Clark staying on past his current one-year contract, and has spoken several times of the importance of passing a bond issue for the district.

“We are very fortunate to have an Interim Superintendent as Dr. Rob Clark who can collaborate with us as we navigate this process,” Stoffer said.

“My priority is to ensure we find ways through the changes to function as a board, as a school district team, and as a community with respect for all views and approaches as we face the challenges ahead.”

In terms of in-class performance, Smithson also pointed out that while recently released Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction analysis of the district’s performance shows improvement from recent years, there’s still room to grow.

“There is continued room for improvement with our assessment test scores,” Smithson said, “so I’m interested to hear what our teachers need to help our students be even more successful.”

Stoffer indicated that the board and district administration needs to work together as a unit to find ways to make needed improvements in the classroom.

“My approach has, and always will remain: let’s work as a collaborative team to manage change as best we can and support our students, our staff and each other through that process,” he said.

Turning a kinder cheek

One of the public facing issues the district faced in the past year is bullying, an issue that’s been brought up repeatedly in public comments at board meetings.

Smithson, noting how much more attention it has gotten in general of late, said “Bullying is never okay. October was recently declared Bullying Prevention Month by the Governor, and local groups like the Boys & Girls Club are involved in bullying awareness activities too.

“The board has also approved new communication protocols that will prevent harassing statements made about district employees at board meetings. Criticism can still be made in writing to the board and superintendent, so I think that’s good.”

Stoffer took a similarly firm stance on the subject of bullying in the district at large.

“One thing I have always been clear about is where I stand on bullying: not here, not there, not anywhere in Sequim schools,” he said. “All students, and all staff, deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect each and every day. In any organization, whatever it may be; we need to be able to listen to and value opinions that differ from our own.

“How we treat others with differing viewpoints is of vital importance. As individuals, it is important to recognize our own bias; we need to evaluate them critically, and then challenge assumptions and traditions. I believe in listening, treating (everyone) with respect, and being strong in the face of adversity.”

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