Funding a concern for all Vancouver School Board candidates

Challengers say credibility with teachers an issue

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Nothing personal.

That’s the sentiment of two challengers who say it’s just time for fresh perspective on the Vancouver school board.

The two races feature incumbents with long histories in Vancouver Public Schools.

Dale Rice, a board member since 1991, is challenged by Bob Travis for the District 1 spot.

Edri Geiger, who had a long career in education before joining the board six years ago, is facing Tom Kemp in District 4.

In listing their top three issues, all the candidates mentioned school funding and finances.

But the challengers shared one issue that wasn’t on the incumbents’ lists. Travis and Kemp both say the district’s leadership must work to restore its credibility with teachers and staff after some drawn-out labor issues.

And in meetings with The Columbian’s editorial board, both challengers also took issue with the overall compensation for Superintendent Steve Webb.

Incumbent Mari Greves is unopposed in Position 5.

The board oversees a school district with 22,558 students, 3,200 full- and part-time employees, and an annual budget of more than $210 million.

The position includes compensation of $50 a day per meeting or board-approved event, up to $4,800 a year; some board members don’t claim compensation.

District 1 position

Rice said he never expected to be on the board this long. But after dealing with state and federal bureaucracies for so long while trying to help Vancouver schools move forward, “I own this thing now,” Rice said.

“The system needs to be evolved,” Rice said, adding that it is no easy chore to remodel an educational system that has been in place for 150 years.

Travis said he was motivated to run because Rice “may have fallen into a rut.

“I have no issues with the job Dale has done,” Travis said. “I’ve been on the volunteer side for 20 years in PTAs and PTSAs. In Portland, I was on the public schools citizens’ budget review committee. I decided the time was right for someone with a fresh perspective.”

Whoever gets the position will have to deal with funding problems that will only get worse.

One approach, Rice said, is for the district to get compensated for all the work it does.

“We have $11 (million) or $12 million in unfunded mandates. It gets tiresome,” Rice said. “Not that we shouldn’t do it, but we need to be funded accordingly.”

In working with the Legislature, Rice said, the district “must continue to explain that we are struggling here.”

In a candidate questionnaire, Travis struck a similar stance. His top issue was working with the Legislature to increase funding for education, based on the fact that its paramount constitutional duty is to adequately fund basic education.

Travis also had the issue of leadership credibility on his list. His third issue was changing the culture of the board so it looks first at administrative costs and nonclassroom programs when budgets are cut, Travis said.

Rice said his top issue is student achievement. He spoke of changing the system to individualize education for each student, personalizing learning and preparing students more effectively to succeed. Rice’s second issue concerns innovative practices, as schools are being required each year to do more with less. His third issue is financial planning and oversight.

He didn’t seek endorsements.

Travis was originally endorsed by the Vancouver Education Association, but the teachers union and its affiliated professional associations dropped their endorsements. Travis had posted a link in his social-networking site that led to a gallery of images that showed scantily clad young women and people mimicking sexual situations. Travis later called the link “a stupid idea.”

The Southwest Washington Central Labor Council continues to endorse Travis, although he is not listed among the endorsed candidates on its website. Travis has been invited to speak at the council’s Oct. 27 meeting to discuss his candidacy.

District 4 position

Kemp calls this bid for public office a milestone.

“This is the first time I’ve ever sought a job,” Kemp said. “I’ve always been recruited for jobs.”

Geiger, who had a long and varied career in education, said she’s campaigning to keep her position because of what motivated her six years ago. That includes working for all children, particularly those in poverty — about half the district’s students; to help the district become more fiscally responsible; and to sharpen the focus on science and math education.

As a Vancouver teacher, Geiger was one of the first 175 educators in the U.S. to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Kemp said he is challenging Geiger because of his business background. The owner of Peninsula Glass said, “We’ve been in business for 12 years, and we will have our best year in 2011. There are ways to get things done, even in this environment.”

Earlier in his career, Kemp said, he managed a paper mill in Alabama that had 2,400 employees and an annual budget of $375 million — bigger than the Vancouver school district’s.

Kemp also cited experience as an educator, teaching engineering classes at Clark College and serving as an adjunct professor in business classes at Washington State University Vancouver.

In The Columbian’s candidate questionnaire, Geiger led with two classroom issues. First was increasing student achievement and graduation rates, by using data and the annual district scorecard to enhance learning for every student. Next, she cited continuing to provide a personalized, well-rounded quality education for every child. Her third issue was efficient use of limited resources.

In his Q&A, Kemp said district finances was his No. 1 issue. He said his business experience would be invaluable in facing budget problems without impacting kids in the classroom.

Next, Kemp listed leadership and credibility, describing the administration’s approach to its employees as “us vs. them.” His third issue was quality of education.

VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD

DISTRICT 1

Dale Rice.

• Age: 62.

• Occupation: Owner and principal of Dale Q. Rice Investment Management Ltd.

• Political and community involvement: Vancouver school board member since 1991, after serving on several district committees; was a Little League baseball coach, Rotarian.

• Endorsements: None.

• Money raised: None.

• Campaign website:None.

Bob Travis.

• Age: 55.

• Occupation: Home equity loan specialist.

• Political and community involvement: Former member of Portland Public Schools citizens budget review committee and Oregon citizens review board for children in foster care; member and president of several PTA/PTSA organizations; parent volunteer at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics; political activist since 1972.

• Endorsement:Southwest Washington Central Labor Council.

• Money raised:$1,500.

• Campaign website:http://electbobtravis.org.

DISTRICT 4

Edri Geiger.

• Age: 68.

• Occupation: Taught in the Vancouver school district and at Portland State University; developed and managed multi-million-dollar teacher quality program for the Ford Family Foundation (based in Roseburg, Ore.).

• Political and community involvement: Vancouver school board member since 2005; Washington School Board Directors legislative committee, urban-suburban task force and federal relations network; founding board member for Arthur D. Curtis Children’s Justice Center; Meals on Wheels volunteer; special projects volunteer for OHSU Parkinson’s Center of Excellence; Camp Fire leader and director; Young Audiences board member; homeowners association board.

• Endorsements:None.

• Money raised: None.

• Email: edrigeiger@gmail.com.

Tom Kemp.

• Age: 61.

• Occupation: Owner of Peninsula Glass.

• Political and community involvement: Coached youth sports; active in homeowners association.

• Endorsements:Vancouver Education Association, Washington Education Association, Building Industry Association of Clark County.

• Money raised: Less than $2,000

• Campaign website: http://www.kempforkids.com.