Longtime Vancouver Public Schools board member faces challenge in race

Lindberg calls for change in district after 25 years with incumbent Rice

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

The longest-serving member on the current Vancouver Public Schools board is facing a challenge from a newcomer who says it’s time for a change.

For 25 years, Dale Rice has served on the district’s school board. Despite the long tenure, he’s excited about the strides the district is making and is looking forward to future innovations.

“We’re coming up with new ideas all the time,” he said. “It takes a long time to change the bureaucracy. … You can’t force change; you have to inspire improved public education.”

Heather Lindberg, who has served as the president of the Vancouver Council PTA and volunteered at the school, believes more than two decades on the board is sufficient. The two are vying for the Vancouver school board Position 1.

“I believe in asking questions,” Lindberg said. “If we institute a policy or new procedure or new curriculum, all those things should be able to respond to criticism, and you should be able to ask questions. From my experience of watching the process, my opponent doesn’t value questions. … It seems like he feels it’s wrong to question.”

After attending board meetings, Lindberg believes the district is not as responsive or transparent as it could be and that meetings could be more accessible to the public.

In the past couple of years, the district has not been without its share of controversies; one included holding a public meeting at a private home with little effort in alerting the public.

This summer, the board had difficulty finalizing a budget, which led to weeks of contentious meetings that threatened to delay the start of the school year. The board finally passed a $271 million budget in August.

The board previously came under fire after approving $4,000 of the school’s budget for a personal shower to be placed in the office of Superintendent Steven Webb.

Rice points to the district’s success as to why he should be given voter go-ahead to serve another four-year term. The district has a high graduation rate, despite school poverty. Rice also pointed to the creation of iTech Preparatory, which focuses on project-based learning and focuses on science, technology, engineering and math programs.

“We’re creating programs, project-based learning that could change public education,” Rice said, adding it’s an example of “inspiring, not forcing change.”

Rice points to his background as both a banker and a financial adviser as being crucial as the district considers how to accommodate growth and the need for new classrooms.

“We’re on a roll in Vancouver,” Rice said. “We’re achieving at high levels. We have the best administration we’ve ever had. We have the best kids we’ve ever had. … We’re beating the state averages.”

And the district is doing it, he said, with a lot of students who qualify for free-and-reduced lunches.

“Poverty doesn’t make you stupid, but it’s hard to get smart,” Rice, 66, said. “You have more barriers to jump over and we’re doing it in Vancouver.”

Lindberg, 31, believes her time in actual classrooms would be an asset on the board.

“I don’t see schools just at their best, I see them on a daily basis,” she said. “I see how the decisions made at the district level impact the schools.”

The race for the Vancouver Public Schools board Position 5 seat is no longer contested. Nada Wheelock who was running against Rosemary Fryer, a long-time teacher based in Clark County, is no longer in the race.