Vancouver district’s school board is again tops in state

Honor comes for a second year despite changing criteria

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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For the second year in a row, the Vancouver Public Schools board has been honored as Washington’s best.

Vancouver and Auburn were saluted as “2011 School Boards of the Year” Saturday at the annual Washington State School Directors’ Association’s annual conference.

As far as the Board of Directors is concerned, President Mark Stoker said, what’s being recognized is the great work going on every day by the district’s teachers, staff and administration.

Stoker serves on the board with Edri Geiger, Kathy Gillespie, Mari Greves and Dale Rice. The superintendent is Steven Webb.

“It’s rather unprecedented,” Stoker said. “From that standpoint, it was a pleasant surprise.

Vancouver and Auburn each received $500 from the Washington School Boards’ Educational Foundation.

In 2010, Vancouver was the solo honoree as Board of the Year. It was listed in 2009 as a “Board of Distinction” honoree.

Fourteen other boards received 2011 “Board of Distinction” honors; none was from Southwest Washington.

Evergreen’s school board also received “Board of Distinction” honors in 2010 and 2009.

In 2005, Battle Ground earned the large-district “School Board of the Year” award in a format that also tabbed small- and medium-district school boards.

Use of standards

Awards reflect effective use of the Washington School Board standards, designed to promote research-based practices that lead to high levels of student and district performance.

Criteria differ from year to year.

“They have different areas of emphasis in standards,” Stoker said. “Each year is a different focus, so you’re not reiterating the same things.”

In times of shrinking resources for schools, “It just means focus is more important,” Stoker said. “The theme has been doing more with less, which — unfortunately — will continue.”

Applicants are required to submit an essay, with evidence to demonstrate how they are putting the standards into practice. This year, applicants were asked to address the following benchmarks:

• Ensuring school board and district transparency through a process that is open and accountable.

• Leading the development, articulation and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by schools and community.

• Employing and supporting quality teachers, administrators and other staff and providing for their professional development.

• Evaluating the superintendent on clear and focused expectations.

• Ensuring the board is accountable and open to the public, including seeking divergent perspectives in its decision-making process.