Evergreen school board candidates tout their experience

Bocanegra is incumbent in District 1 race, Miles a veteran public school teacher

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Two candidates for the District 1 seat on the Evergreen school board positioned themselves Thursday as a longtime teacher with intimate knowledge of classroom needs and a sitting school board member with broad knowledge of the district.

Incumbent Julie Bocanegra and Megan Miles, a music teacher at Hockinson Heights Elementary School, met with The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Thursday. A third candidate, Clark College student Dennis Jeppson, did not attend.

Miles, 38, has been a public school teacher for close to 12 years. She told the editorial board that her experience, as well as her time organizing school community events and her role as co-president of the Hockinson Education Association, gives her a needed perspective on the Evergreen Public Schools board.

“I do think there needs to be more voices from education going into these positions,” she said. ” I really feel it’s important to have a variety of perspectives.”

Bocanegra, 45, is running for her second full term on the school board after being appointed in 2012 and winning the 2013 election. She is also a board member of the Evergreen School District Foundation Board of Directors, and a school volunteer through several organizations.

“As someone who knows the community, I feel like I have a global approach and can kind of look at everything and understand the needs of the entire community,” Bocanegra said.

Negotiations

The opponents discussed last year’s heated labor negotiations between the district and the Evergreen Education Association, which represents teachers. After much acrimony, the sides agreed to a three-year contract with the help of a state mediator. The Washington Education Association, the state teachers union, weighed in during the negotiations and offered support to the local union throughout the process.

Bocanegra said she supports teachers and the unions that represent them, but said the process should have been more transparent.

“I think we were targeted as a district by the WEA to kind of stronghold and show there was some power over,” Bocanegra said.

Miles, who is endorsed by the Evergreen Education Association, said she was inspired to run after last year’s negotiations. Both sides could have been “more transparent” in the negotiation process and more willing to “play nice,” she said.

“I believe in working together, and when we’re fighting against each other, that doesn’t do anything for our schools,” she said.

Bocanegra noted that while the board “has always wanted to take care of teachers,” the district has 3,000 employees to consider, 1,800 of whom are teachers. While the school board wants to support its teaching staff, it needs to also consider the taxpayers footing the bill for education. Bocanegra said she was worried that a current teacher may have a conflict of interest with the union coming into the position.

“I love the profession … but there has to be a balance where you have to take care of all of your employees,” she said. “You have transportation to worry about, and you have to be fiscally responsible and answer to the taxpayers.”

Ballots will go out July 14. The primary election concludes Aug. 1, and the top two finishers will go on to the November general election.