Funding tops list of concerns for Washougal schools’ candidates

Both say geography may be disadvantage for district in future

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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When looking at the future of education, both candidates for Position No. 3 with the Washougal School District board are sure about one thing: Washougal is in a tricky spot geographically, and that could hurt future funding.

“With the new school funding legislation, as the state determines a new salary schedule, our district will be at a disadvantage due to the regionalization factor, which essentially determines teacher salaries based on median home values in a district’s region,” Jaron Barney, who is seeking re-election for his seat, wrote in an email. “For Washougal, the difficulty will be that our district shares borders with districts right next door with high median home prices, such as Camas, as well as districts much further away, to the north, with very low median home prices, thereby bringing down our own regionalization factor. The result is that we will be at a disadvantage when trying to recruit and retain new and experienced teachers.”

Donna Sinclair, the other candidate for Position No. 3, wrote in an email that “disparities in school funding do not meet the state’s duty to fully fund education” for students.

“Washougal’s funding is comparable to small rural communities, yet, it sits at the eastern edge of a metropolitan area of nearly half a million people,” she wrote. “Comparisons in cost of living between nearby Camas and Vancouver is rapidly equalizing. Washougal graduates compete for jobs and education in the Camas, Vancouver and Portland area and they deserve the same educational opportunities as their neighbors just a few miles down the road, as do all the children of Washington state.”

STEM programs

The candidates were also aligned on the possibility of bringing more career technical education and science, technology, engineering and math programs to Washougal.

Sinclair wrote that she would like to see more project-based learning programs. Washougal offers some project-based learning, and the Camas School District opened a project-based learning middle school in 2016 with plans on adding a high school in 2018. She would like to see “multi-disciplinary and project-based learning encouraged” throughout all levels of public schools.

“The practical and scientific/mechanical elements of (science, technology, engineering and math) and (career and technical education) must be balanced with the ability to think critically and understand the context in which we all live,” she wrote.

“Scientists and engineers, roofers and plumbers, writers and artists, do not live in a vacuum. We all function in a complex society that requires literacy, critical thinking skills and the ability to make valid distinctions about truth. That is why I believe we must take a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, with as much emphasis in reading, writing, and history as on science, math, and engineering.”

Barney wrote that a school district should ensure that all of its students are career and college ready, and Washougal offers robotics classes at the middle schools, has a 1:1 technology initiative and started a culinary arts program at Excelsior High School.

“I have had the opportunity to be a guest teacher at Camas’ (project-based learning) campus, now Odyssey Middle School, on a number of occasions,” he wrote.

“It is a great program that focuses on cooperative learning, self-directed learning and critical thinking and using project-based learning as the primary teaching model. I would be thrilled to bring a similar program to (Washougal).”