Four candidates run for two seats on Evergreen School board

Two new members will help shape school district in flux

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter



Fast Facts

Evergreen Public Schools

May 2017 enrollment: 26,178.

Classroom teachers, 2016-2017 school year: 1,532.

Four-year graduation rate, class of 2016: 83.5 percent.

General fund expenditures, 2017-2018: $343,991,172.

Sources: Evergreen Public Schools, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Evergreen Public Schools is in a period of transition, and voters next month will have their say in who helps lead that change.

Voters in the district, the state’s fifth largest, will make a decision in two school board races. The coming school board will consider sending a bond measure to voters and work with Superintendent John Steach, who took over this year for longtime leader John Deeder.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Julie Bocanegra is competing against Megan Miles for the seat. Bocanegra, a vice president branch manager for Columbia Credit Union, received 57.79 percent of the vote in the August primary, while Miles trailed her with 36.77 percent.

The candidates differ on what they believe is the most pressing matter for the school district. While Bocanegra said improving school facilities must be top priority for the district, Miles said the district needs to equip classrooms with the tools to support its diverse student body.

Both candidates support a potential bond measure.

Miles has been endorsed by local labor unions, including SEIU Local 49 and the Evergreen Education Association. Bocanegra, who was appointed to the school board in 2012 and elected in 2013, has been endorsed by her fellow school board members and H-RoC, a political action committee supporting women in elected positions.

In the District 5 race, the seat left by retired Michael Parsons, Ginny Gronwoldt is running against Park Llafet. Gronwoldt, the former president of the Evergreen School District Foundation, took first place in the August primary with 49.74 percent of the vote, while Llafet, a piano salesman, received 22.37 percent.

Gronwoldt has expressed concern U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ advocacy of school vouchers — which supporters say provide choices for families — saying they could pull dollars from public schools. Llafet, meanwhile, said school vouchers and charter schools should be considered, telling The Columbian Editorial Board, “We cannot be afraid to look at alternative choices.”

Gronwoldt’s been endorsed by SEIU Local 46 and retired Superintendent John Deeder, while Llafet was endorsed by the retiring Parsons.

The only candidate who has filed campaign contributions and expenditures with the Public Disclosure Commission is Gronwoldt, who has raised $913.86 and spent $492.86.