Crowded schools issue for Ridgefield candidates

Incumbent, newcomer run for District No. 4 seat

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

Published:

 

Becky Greenwald

Age: 42

Occupation: chief financial officer, Creekside Mortgage

Offices held/leadership positions: Ridgefield school board, 2014-present

Damion E. Jiles, Sr.

Age: 41

Occupation: executive account manager

Offices held/leadership positions: none listed.

The Ridgefield School District is set to open a new grades 5-8 campus in time for the 2018-2019 school year, which will help alleviate overcrowding. But both candidates for the school board’s District No. 4 agree that won’t solve all the growing district’s capacity problems.

“This is a unique time in Ridgefield’s history as we are experiencing unprecedented growth,” Becky Greenwald, current board member who is seeking re-election, wrote in an email. “Proactively managing the growth is a top priority. I’m committed to ensuring that leveraging the growth to positively impact every student in the district by continuing to expand programs that provide more experiences and opportunities for each child to pursue their desired pathway.”

Greenwald cited the district’s launching of the design component for the new campus ahead of the bond election as a way the board remained proactive. As soon as residents of the district passed the $78 million bond in February 2016, the district got underway on the project. That enabled the district to “open up our new 5-8 schools complex next fall, a full year earlier than a more traditional process would allow,” she wrote.

Her competitor for the seat, Damion E. Jiles, Sr., wrote in an email that he thinks Superintendent Nathan McCann’s plan to address the growth of the district “is on point.”

“If the district continues to grow, there may be a need for another 5-8 school in the future,” he wrote.

Jiles sees another major issue in the district, which is a big reason he’s running.

“From talking with residents that have children in the district, it would appear that there is an issue with bullying and racism,” he wrote. “People have moved to Ridgefield specifically for the school district, only to take their kids out and home school them because of the bullying and racism that they have experienced.”

According to the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Ridgefield School District student body was 80 percent white in the 2016-2017 school year, slightly more diverse than the 83-85 percent white that was the case for most of the previous decade. Jiles wrote that the bullying policy needs to be more than just a statement on paper.

“The policy should address zero tolerance and outline the consequences,” he wrote. “Kids should be able to come to school and focus simply on learning and not have to be concerned with the negative actions of their peers.”

Both candidates have ideas for bringing in some new opportunities for students. Greenwald wrote that the board is actively working to bring a Center for Advanced Professional Studies to Ridgefield High School.

“This will provide real-life experiences where our juniors and seniors can work hand-in-hand with our business partners to address needs and solve challenges that our businesses are facing,” she wrote. “Ridgefield is a very special place and we are blessed with some tremendous resources. I believe in establishing bold goals and remaining sharply focused in the pursuit of those goals. Every child in Ridgefield deserves nothing less than our very best effort.”

Jiles wrote that he would like to see union-sponsored apprenticeships in the schools.

“Not all kids are college bound and they deserve options to assist in their post-graduate success,” he wrote. “A union-sponsored apprenticeship can run parallel to a program like (Running) Start. A student can attend training with the unions and gain the needed hours to acquire a journeyman’s status upon graduation. Labor unions provide living wage jobs and fight hard to ensure that their members and workers are treated fairly and earn a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”