Evergreen school board hopefuls favor bond measure

District 5 candidates respond to questions from The Columbian's readers

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter



Jeppson Drops from District 1 Race

One of the three candidates for Evergreen Public Schools, District 1, announced late Thursday that he was dropping out of the race.

Dennis Jeppson, an 18-year-old Clark College student, posted on Facebook that he is withdrawing his candidacy. Jeppson was running against Megan Miles, a Hockinson Heights Elementary School teacher, and incumbent Julie Bocanegra. Jeppson endorsed Miles for the position, saying he agrees “with her on every key issue.”

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in this endeavor and hope that you can see my reasoning behind this decision,” Jeppson wrote.

The news came after the print deadline for Friday’s issue of The Columbian, which featured Jeppson’s candidacy. His name will still be on the Aug. 1 ballot, which has already been printed and distributed.

A retiring school board member leaves an open seat on the Evergreen Public Schools board, and four candidates want it.

Michael Parsons will not run to keep his District 5 seat on the Evergreen school board. Janelle Tuominen, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother, Park Llafet, a 50-year-old piano salesman, and Ginny Gronwoldt, a 38-year-old business lending officer, are running for the position. All are parents in the district who say they are running to make a difference for students.

A fourth candidate, James “Jimmy Tee” Taylor did not respond to Columbian requests.

The state’s fifth-largest district is in a period of transition, with a new superintendent, John Steach, taking over for John Deeder. The district is also poised to consider a bond measure to replace aging buildings, and is rolling out tablets and laptops to all students between third and 12th grades.

The Columbian submitted a questionnaire to all school board candidates that included questions posed by readers via Clark Asks, our new reader interaction software.

All three candidates who responded supported a bond measure, citing safety concerns and overcrowding in schools among the reason to update buildings.

Gronwoldt said portable classrooms, especially on elementary school campuses, can put students at risk.

“In my opinion, having elementary students housed in portables surrounding schools is a danger and potential hazard as they must walk from portables into the school building for restroom needs and other school uses,” she said. “The Evergreen district is growing rapidly, and we need additional facilities to house the increased number of students moving into the area.”

Llafet and Tuominen also noted Evergreen’s growth.

“Many of our schools are over capacity due to the influx of people into Clark County,” Llafet said.

Though the school board has not yet considered a bond measure, Mike Merlino, chief operating officer for the district, said the funding measure could go to voters sometime next year.

Readers also asked about whether the school boards should require new facilities to use renewable energy. All three candidates said they would pursue environmentally friendly construction.

“As for any new construction and remodeling that will be done on facilities within the Evergreen Public Schools, I would encourage any and all facilities to be built with renewable energy, when it is economically feasible, not only for the alternate energy benefits but also to encourage students to learn more about the environment and how they too can help,” said Gronwoldt.

Llafet said renewable energy “shows our students good stewardship of the planet.”

Ballots were sent to voters Friday. The election is Aug. 1. Candidates are elected at-large, and the top two vote getters will move on to the November primary.