This is a time of transition and growth for Vancouver Public Schools, a situation that calls for a steady hand on the district’s board of directors. Because of that, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Mark Stoker to remain on the board as representative for Position 2.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters within the Vancouver school district will examine the issues and the candidates before casting an informed vote.
Those issues will be crucial in the coming years. This year’s Legislature approved vast changes to how public schools will be funded throughout Washington, with hopes of meeting the state Supreme Court’s mandate in a ruling known as the McCleary decision. More money will be provided to districts from the state, and that could lead to changes in local school levies.
While that action will impact all public districts in Washington, Vancouver Public Schools also will be implementing a $458 million school bond approved by voters in February. The bond will pay for most of the cost to replace eight schools, modernize four schools and Kiggins Bowl sports stadium, improve 24 campuses, and build three new schools to accommodate a growing district.
With those vast changes, Stoker’s 10 years of experience on the school board mark him as the clearly superior candidate in his race against Anthony Licerio. During his time on the board, Stoker has helped usher the district through the Great Recession, through a period of growth, and through advancements in high-tech learning.
Vancouver schools have demonstrated solid performance over the past decade, even as the demographics of the district have changed. Stoker told the editorial board: “We believe every single student in our system has the right to a world-class education, and we do all we can to remove or reduce barriers so that students can come to school ready to learn. We will continue to raise our graduation rate and close our achievement gaps.”
Licerio, a newcomer to politics, also focuses upon the need to close achievement gaps and notes the difficulties presented by increasing poverty throughout the district. “These students are at risk of losing valuable resources that provide them with a quality of life they deserve. We can do better,” he said during an interview.
Licerio is an earnest candidate who was motivated to run out of concern for underprivileged and minority students, but he also is lacking the in-depth knowledge that Stoker brings to the position. Asked what the budget is for Vancouver Public Schools, Licerio said, “No clue.”
For the record, the district has a budget of about $330 million and instructs about 24,000 students. For the past 11 years, it has received a clean audit from the Washington State Auditor’s Office. Vancouver Public Schools also has opened a series of Family-Community Resource Centers to help connect families with social services; has seen on-time graduation rates climb from 64 to 80 percent; and has been at the forefront of innovative teaching techniques.
Stoker has been part of that growth and has helped shepherd the district through a period of change. With additional changes coming in the near future, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Mark Stoker for Position 2 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools.