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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Editorials

In Our View: Messer, Decker for Vancouver schools Pos. 4

The Columbian
Published: July 16, 2019, 6:03am

The campaign for Vancouver school board, Position 4, features four strong candidates who have clear visions for the future of the district. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Lisa Messer and Kathy Decker as the best choices to advance to the general election.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian urges voters to examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

The race for Position 4 on the five-member board of directors presents a unique situation. Incumbent Michelle Giovannozzi is not seeking re-election. Following the May filing period for candidates, Giovannozzi announced that she is leaving the position earlier than expected.

That means the remaining board members are tasked with choosing a replacement, which could place one of the candidates in the advantageous position of incumbent entering the general election. As The Columbian has written editorially, the board should appoint a caretaker to the position for a few months before a new elected official is able to take office, rather than choosing one of the current candidates.

Voters will find that Messer is an articulate candidate who has a clear grasp of the issues facing the district. She is a teacher in Evergreen Public Schools and has children in the Vancouver district, and she demonstrates a strong understanding of district budgets and the needs of teachers as well as students and administrators.

Regarding contentious contract negotiations that led to a teachers’ strike last year in Vancouver, Messer told the editorial board that administrators should have been more proactive: “The district saw this change was coming and they didn’t prioritize.”

Decker also has experience as a teacher and would be a strong advocate for educators and for transparency on the board. “My concern with the budget issue is how was it handled?” she said. “We did not provide an arena for those who wanted to speak. We are not reaching out to our community to get feedback.”

While the editorial board recommends Messer and Decker, all four of the candidates are qualified to advance from the top-two primary to the general election.

Lindsey Luis is particularly intriguing. She graduated this year from Fort Vancouver High School, is planning to attend Washington State University Vancouver, and would bring a youthful perspective to the board. Having recently attended Vancouver schools, Luis has a sharp understanding of the needs of students and teachers and how the board’s decisions impact education at the ground level.

Even if Luis is not elected to the school board, we encourage her to remain active in the community. She is a smart, articulate candidate who should be a leader for many years to come. In the Voters’ Pamphlet, she writes: “I know the challenges our students face, especially those from diverse backgrounds, because I contended with them too.”

Robert Stewart, a financial adviser for Columbia Credit Union, also is a solid candidate. In an interview with the editorial board, he tended to speak too much in general terms rather than specifics, but that is a minor criticism. He also would be a worthy addition to the board.

In other words, we believe voters cannot go wrong. The general election is destined to have two worthy candidates and should result is a robust exchange of ideas. That being said, we recommend Lisa Messer and Kathy Decker as the strongest candidates for Position 4 on the Vancouver school board.