Without strong management and a coherent vision, these could be precarious times for Evergreen Public Schools. Like all districts throughout Washington, the largest district in Clark County will be dealing with changes to school funding that were approved last week by the Legislature. Evergreen also is facing a changing of the guard, with John Steach taking over as superintendent for John Deeder, who is retiring.
Despite those changes, The Columbian’s Editorial Board has faith that the District 5 seat on the school board will remain in good hands following this year’s election. We recommend that Ginny Gronwoldt and Park Llafet advance out of the Aug. 1 primary election to face off in the November general election for a chance to replace Michael Parsons, who is retiring.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters throughout the Evergreen district, which covers east Vancouver, will examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. In examining those candidates, voters will find several who have been deeply involved in Evergreen schools prior to running for a spot on the five-member board, which oversees an annual budget of about $330 million while providing for roughly 25,000 students.
Gronwoldt has spent the past two years as president of the Evergreen School District Foundation, which works to provide financial support where needed throughout the district. She has served on the parent-teacher association and with Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, along with numerous volunteer organizations. She is raising three young children who attend Evergreen schools.
Llafet also has experience with parent organizations and the Evergreen foundation, as well as other community involvement. He has had two children: one who has graduated and another who is in high school in the Evergreen district.
Gronwoldt and Llafet both are well-qualified, and they notably agree that the teachers’ union engaged in unwarranted tactics during contract negotiations last year. Gronwoldt characterized the actions as “scare tactics, bullying, not very professional.”
While Llafet agreed with that assessment, there are differences between the candidates. Llafet believes that school vouchers and charter schools — promoted by some as providing choices for parents and fostering competition — deserve consideration. “We cannot be afraid to look at alternative choices,” he told the Editorial Board. Gronwoldt, on the other hand, expresses concern over the voucher system advocated by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos because DeVos has declined to address allegations that it would allow private schools to reject students in a discriminatory fashion.
Gronwoldt and Llafet stand out in a four-person race that includes Janelle Tuominen and James (Jimmy Tee) Taylor. Tuominen has served with parent organizations and the district’s foundation and has some strong credentials. She is particularly knowledgeable about how the district can serve special-needs students, but does not articulate a vision for the district as effectively as Gronwoldt or Llafet.
Taylor declined to meet with the Editorial Board and appears to have little experience with education issues.
Ginny Gronwoldt and Park Llafet have a superior grasp of the issues facing Evergreen Public Schools and the possible solutions to those issues. The Columbian suggests that they are the best candidates for advancing to the general election.