The Chewelah School Board of Directors has two seats that are being contested in the 2017 election. Here is a rundown of each candidate who responded to The Independent’s email inquiry.
Director District No. 1
There are three candidates running for the No. 1 position on the Chewelah School Board which is currently held by John Eminger. Judy Bean, T.O Bakken and Bill Lacy are all running for the position.
Judy Bean is a former teacher, building principal, district administrator, university professor of teaching and learning and assessment along with being a trainer and consultant in the education field. Bean has a PhD in educational leadership which includes leadership, governance, policy, human resources and financial areas.
“I have worked and learned with the world’s and nation’s foremost leaders in assessment of student learning; learning and teaching strategies; auditing of curriculum design and delivery; program budgeting and levy development and have visited a number of schools in different states,” Bean said.
Bean said that student learning is always the top priority as that is the business of schools. She added that student and staff safety and infrastructure that meets learning needs of students and is affordable is always a concern for staff and the community as well.
“Effective two-way communication is important to ensuring all voices are heard and all people are pulling the wagon in the same direction in support of student learning,” Bean said.
Bean said she feels her wide experience in the education/training field is unusual for a school board candidate and that she is current with educational issues.
“I know how to listen, learn, and am committed to ‘do the work’ and take responsibility,” Bean said. “The reason I am a candidate is I understand how important good education is to individuals, a community, and a nation.”
T.O. Bakken’s background includes teaching K-12 and in community colleges in Washington while also serving on curriculum, budgeting and planning committees. She also continues to teach for Columbia Virtual Academy.
“I understand budgets, OSPI compliance, curriculum design, and the nuts and bolts that make schools work,” Bakken said. “But so much more significantly, I am a community member, a critical thinker, a fearless crusader for students and families, and a consensus builder that works to get everyone to ‘yes.’”
Bakken said she wants to focus on transparency and community as she works to be a voice for the values of our community and the best interests of our students.
“Chewelah is a small district with limited resources so providing the best education and opportunities for our students within that budget is our highest priority,” Bakken added.
She said she feels the school board needs to advocate for the unique needs of the small district and prepare students for the challenges of the world through relevant vocational training or intensive preparation for a college degree or technical program. The board should find additional resources to support these goals and continue to have their school succeed.
Teacher shortages is another issue facing many Washington schools, Bakken said, and it will become more difficult to find qualified candidates.
“Addressing that will be critical, as we work to attract and maintain the very best teaching staff,” she said.
Finding high quality leaders and employees of the district is also a great responsibility for the board.
“We need visionary leaders to help us to maintain high standards and best use the extraordinary human capital we already have here in Chewelah,” she said.
Bakken said that the school board needs to advocate and demand the best in education policy and practice while reflecting the values and priorities of the local community and remaining compliant with state and federal requirements.
“This vital task is best done by someone like me, a long-time community member, a listener, a learner, and a leader,” Bakken said. “I am a parent with children in our district, so I know the kids, the faculty. I know the families. I believe that working for continuous improvement of our schools is the best way to serve the people of Chewelah.”
Bill Lacy has a B.A. with pre-law from Central Washington University and he worked at an aerospace firm creating teams to train people for new computer systems.
“I understand what students need to be successful in our world,” Lacy said.
He said he felt important issues are that parents need to get involved, the district needs to keep kids in school and the schools need to teach subjects that parents can help with. The district also needs to help teachers do their job.
“I will bring new ideas to help the school and help the parents further their kids education,” Lacy said.
Director District No. 2
Clint Kirry is running unopposed.
Director District No. 3
There are two candidates running for this position as incumbent Lori Larsen was appointed in 2016 while Amelia Schwiebert is also running for the position.
Lori Larsen is a mother of five kids in the Chewelah School district ages 11-19 with the oldest graduating in 2016. Because of this, she has had experience with the district’s Homelink Program, Running Start and JJSHS.
“My husband and I have been deliberative about our children’s education their entire lives, and they have always been public school students,” Larsen said. “When my oldest son was entering kindergarten, I worked closely with the superintendent of a neighboring school district to offer a top-notch alternative learning experience program to families who wanted to actively implement the day-to-day learning plans for their students at home or online.”
Larsen feels that the parents’ role in educational decisions is an important one.
“In an education setting as a public school administrator, I have helped to set and implement vision and direction. I am deeply familiar with the legal and regulatory requirements placed on school districts by the legislature as well as the State Board of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I also understand the critical importance of strong local control and local governance.”
Larsen’s family has been in the community for the past 18 years and she worked as an administrator for nine years in the Valley School District. She also worked with 36 high school foreign exchange students which has given her insight into the strengths and challenges of the district. Larsen has a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is nearing the completion of her PhD in Public Policy and Administration.
Larsen feels decreasing enrollment, providing educational and extracurricular experiences to prepare students for the workplace and a declining facilities infastructure are important issues facing the district.
She feels the first will be solved by providing more economic opportunity in the community. Earlier this year, Larsen helped author a joint resolution between the Stevens County Democrats and Stevens County Republicans to support a bill in the state to bring a company back to the Alcoa Plant in Addy.
“If I am elected in November, I pledge to continue to work for the big picture of economic health in our area,” Larsen said.
With declining facilities, Larsen added that the school district has the responsibility of communicating with the public what it needs and help grassroots movements to engage local citizens.
“I promise to help that communication,” Larsen said. “I engaged with the most recent campaign to restore the Snyder Track and Field, because I saw that grassroots enthusiasm, and simply stated, our community needed a win. We need to continue ‘Building Chewelah’s Future,’ beyond the completion of the track.”
Larsen said she felt that her background and experience has prepared her to think critically about the immediate needs of the community and the big picture.
“I am serious about the health of my Chewelah Schools, but also representing the views and values of this community within the school district,” Larsen said.
Amelia Schwiebert started and managed a non-profit organization and was a residential mentor for New Mexico State University and said she has direct experience of today’s school system after graduating from college in 2015.
“I also navigated our educational system as a student with disabilities, which required closer examination of the workings of school districts even as a child simply seeking equal opportunities as my peers,” Schwiebert said.
Schwiebert said the priorities for Chewelah Schools should be to ensure safety, a quality education and an education for personal growth for all students.
“These priorities, when faced from the perspective of being a rural small town and statistically the poorest city in Washington, lead us to require extra attention to our budget, our programs promoting labor skills at a high school level, and our policies at every grade level to promote a safe and nurturing learning environment,” she said.
Schwiebert said she feels she has a fiery passion for helping others and wants to make a positive difference in Chewelah schools and the community.