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Dec. 10, 2019

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In Our View: Perkins for Evergreen school board Position 2

The Columbian
Published: October 2, 2019, 6:03am

Position 2 on the Evergreen Public Schools board is certain to be in good hands following the November election. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for incumbent Rob Perkins in a race against impressive challenger Bethany Rivard.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and the issues that come with overseeing a school district, before casting an informed ballot.

To be honest, voters cannot go wrong in this contest. Both candidates are well-informed and engaging, demonstrating the kind of vision and the listening skills that make for an effective school board member.

Perkins, a software developer, was appointed to the board in 2014 and then won election in 2015. During an interview with the editorial board, he was thoughtful and engaged, demonstrating the ability to see and explain the nuances of the issues facing schools.

In the Voters’ Pamphlet, Perkins writes: “I have listened broadly to everyone with an interest in good outcomes for kids. Personal success after graduation requires inspiring them to contribute to the common good, teaching necessary skills for the workplace or college, and motivating them to pursue their interests as good citizens and lifelong learners.”

The success of Evergreen Public Schools is evident in voters’ willingness to pass a $695 million construction bond measure in 2018. But the district also has dealt with contentious contract negotiations last year that led to a teachers strike, and with the ousting and replacement of the superintendent this year. “A year later, there’s still work to do repairing relationships,” Perkins said of the teachers strike.

This year, Evergreen schools made cuts in the wake of an $11 million budget deficit. Both Perkins and Rivard generally praised the process that went into determining the cuts, and Perkins said, “We wanted to keep it so a student wouldn’t necessarily notice there were cuts, and I think that was accomplished.” He added, “At the end of the day, the board is going to opt for the benefit of the students.”

Rivard, a teacher at Fort Vancouver High School in Vancouver Public Schools, is stressing her experience in education as a qualification for the board. She is Washington’s 2019 Excellence in Teaching honoree from the National Education Association and is a member of the Washington Teacher Advisory Council.

“I’m running to add the voice of an educator,” she told the editorial board. “I have the experience with board policy, experience being in Olympia and lobbying for things I think need to happen.” In a statement for the Voters’ Pamphlet, Rivard writes: “I understand how school board policy impacts students in the classroom. As a parent, I want the best learning opportunities for my children, and for all students in our community.”

Rivard’s work as a teacher likely will influence many voters in this race. Some will agree that the voice of a working educator would be a welcome addition to the board; others will believe that being a teacher presents a conflict of interest for a board member who must approve classroom funding and teacher contracts.

Both arguments have merit. In the end, however, the editorial board does not see a reason to replace a thoughtful and effective school board member. The Columbian recommends Rob Perkins for Position 2 on the board of Evergreen Public Schools, but we are confident that Bethany Rivard also could be an effective board member.

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