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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.

In Our View: Barrows, Lewis for Vancouver schools Position 5

The Columbian
Published: July 17, 2019, 6:03am

In the race for Vancouver school board, Position 5, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Tracie Barrows and Chris Lewis as the strongest candidates to advance to the general election.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian suggests that voters study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. In the case of Vancouver Public Schools, those issues include a budget shortfall and lingering resentment following contentious contract negotiations with teachers last summer. Those negotiations resulted in large raises for teachers following a short strike.

“I don’t think it’s too much or too little — checks and balances,” Barrows said of the pay increases. “I don’t want there to be long-lasting tension. Move past this ‘us vs. them.’ ” She also said, “I think the district went into negotiations unprepared.”

Deconstructing those negotiations will be an essential function for the new board. With two members not seeking re-election — including in Position 5 — and with a third incumbent on the ballot, the five-member board will have a new look following the November general election. Barrows’ demeanor and experience mark her as a worthy candidate to help Vancouver schools move toward the future.

Barrows works as a school psychologist in Evergreen Public Schools and notes that “students have comprehensive needs.” She properly praises the district’s Family-Community Resource Centers and notes the manner in which those centers assist students and families. She says the community needs to have more conversations about race and equity in schools in an effort to close opportunity gaps for minority students, and she stresses the need for the board to be “accessible to the community.”

Lewis, a certified public accountant, has served as a board member on the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools and effectively articulates the importance of vocational education as well as college-preparatory programs. He understands the need for a district that serves students from varying economic and social backgrounds and who have varying abilities. “Opportunity is where we break the poverty cycle,” he told the editorial board.

Of course, articulating a vision and implementing one can be two different things. But Barrows and Lewis both demonstrate the traits necessary to bring that vision to fruition.

This is not a criticism of Scott Dalesandro and Jennifer Hawks-Conright, who also are on the ballot and also are worthy candidates.

Hawks-Conright has a strong history of work with various community organizations, and she has had four children in Vancouver Public Schools, including two in special education. She focuses on the need for improved equity and inclusion throughout the district.

Dalesandro focuses on the need for transparency in the budgeting process and says, “the books they keep are very vague. Too often I see purchases just rubber-stamped. I think they need to ask questions.” He also says schools should focus more on teaching English: “We need to have a commonality.”

While any of the four candidates would make worthy board members, Barrows and Lewis appear to have a broader grasp of the district’s mission and a better understanding of the role the school board can play in implementing that mission.

The Columbian recommends Tracie Barrows and Chris Lewis for Position 5 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools.