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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 for Vancouver school board Position 5

The Columbian
Published: October 4, 2019, 6:03am

The candidates for Position 5 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools give voters two strong options. The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Tracie Barrows in a race against Chris Lewis.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion and provide information. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates’ credentials and the issues facing Vancouver Public Schools before casting an informed ballot.

In Barrows, voters will find a candidate who works as a school psychologist in the Evergreen district and who effectively articulates the duties of a school board member.

“The main task of a school board member is not necessarily to prepare a budget, it’s to identify the priorities of our students,” she said during an interview with the editorial board. “I think knowing what the comprehensive needs of our students are and knowing education and knowing how policies and procedures impact the classroom and impact teachers and the building is needed.”

Barrows also stresses a desire to support students’ social needs as well as academic needs. “I really feel that my expertise in that area can provide a valuable asset to the school board,” she said.

Whether that resonates with voters as they replace retiring board member Rosemary Fryer is largely a philosophical question. The role of schools has expanded over the years as teachers and administrators find themselves taking a more holistic approach to education and tending to needs beyond the traditional three Rs.

In the Voters’ Pamphlet, Barrows writes: “VPS has shown success with their Family Community Resource Centers, increased counselor support, and other initiatives for supportive schools. I want to continue to advance this mission by making sure that the comprehensive needs of our students are being met.”

Lewis, a certified public accountant, has experience as a board member of the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools and demonstrates a good understanding of the issues facing the district.

He emphasizes the need for programs that can meet the differing needs of students, including bolstered vocational training. He also mentions his support for project-based learning. In the Voters’ Pamphlet, Lewis writes: “VPS has a high degree of variability in socioeconomic status between individual schools. This can, and should, be utilized to provide outstanding opportunities for lower-income students in our district.”

In a meeting with the editorial board, Lewis stressed his expertise with budgeting and expressed concerns about the district’s decision to use $3.75 million in reserve funding to help cover an estimated $8 million deficit. “That was a good patchwork, but now we’re looking at the future,” he said.

Barrows, however, points out that the district has budget experts on staff and that the board’s job is not to write the budget but to provide guidance and, eventually, approval of the budget.

Barrows and Lewis both expressed dismay over how the district handled teacher strikes that led to significant raises last year, with Barrows saying, “I think the district went into the negotiations unprepared.” She adds that the district “does not have the highest teacher salaries. Vancouver Public Schools actually got a good deal.”

Either candidate would be a strong addition to the board. But because of her experience in education and her focus on the holistic needs of students, The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Tracie Barrows for Position 5 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools.