Funding big issue in Hockinson school race

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer



Both candidates for Position No. 1 on the Hockinson School District board see the district facing a big challenge as it faces uncertainty surrounding the McCleary decision.

“There is not a lot I can do personally to deal with this, but I will advocate for patience,” Steve Nylund, chairman of the school board who is seeking re-election, wrote in an email “Community trust is critical for a school district, so it is important that we be cautious until things settle down and we have a clearer picture.”

Kirk Jensen, the other candidate for the seat, wrote that district officials need to be upfront with parents about how the state’s accountability system is changing due to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a successor to No Child Left Behind.

“(The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) has stated that there will be less reliance on high-stakes state assessments as a measurement for schools,” Jensen wrote. “At the same time, districts will still be held accountable for student growth, graduation rates and school quality indicators. This will require metrics for the district, and reviews of progress towards those metrics. Where progress is not sufficient, the district needs to revise its plan to make improvements.”

There has been talk in the district this year about funding a new, main athletic field at Hockinson High School. Residents in the district voted down a capital project levy in February to fund replacing the field with synthetic turf, with 59.4 percent of the vote going against the measure.

Both candidates want to see the district keep trying to replace the athletic field.

“I’d like to see options, including funding options, for the field that would include both artificial turf and improved natural turf,” Nylund wrote, adding that the board hasn’t discussed the issue too recently.

Both also felt the timing of the vote could’ve played a part in its failure.

“With the lack of a large business base, the district relies heavily on funding from property taxes,” Jensen wrote. “The levy request for the new synthetic turf field came right after voters approved monies to improve facilities at the high school and to build a new middle school. If you look at the comments provided as part of the post-levy survey, it is clear that at least a sample of voters had levy/bond fatigue.”

The two candidates also shared some ideas on how to help students transition from school to their next phase of life, whether that be more school or work.

Nylund wrote that he remembered hearing someone say that in the state, “we built a multi-lane highway from high schools to universities, and let all the other roads fall into disrepair.” He added that he’s an advocate for expanded science, technology, engineering and math and career and technical education programs.

“Hockinson High School also has an entrepreneurship class, which, as a small business owner, I really appreciate,” he wrote.

“If I had a magic wand, I’d integrate the entrepreneurship class with (science, technology, engineering and math), (career and technical education) and other classes,” he added. “Students would solicit real projects from the community and beyond, and design, build and do presentations on these projects. The sales would fund the program.”

Jensen wrote that since college is not the best path for every student, the district needs to fund and promote a variety of programs to help students find what suits them best.

He also wrote about the importance of technology in the constantly changing classroom.

“In recent years, the concept of a ‘flipped’ classroom has gained more traction,” he wrote. “This means that students would use the digital technology for the initial introduction to concepts by either reading related material or watching videos. Then, in the classroom, teachers can focus on helping students with comprehension via problem solving, class discussions and group activities. Working with students, teachers and parents, I think this type of learning environment could be successfully implemented in Hockinson.”

Position No. 5

There are two other candidates running for school board in Hockinson: Gordon Smith and Scott Swindell, who are running for Position No. 5. Swindell is seeking re-election after he was appointed to the board in May to take over for Katherine Davis, who resigned her position after moving out of the district. Smith and Swindell were the two highest vote-getters in the August primary.