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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: Sproul for Vancouver school board Position 1

The Columbian
Published: October 9, 2019, 6:03am

Judging from results of the primary election in August, the race for Position 1 on the Vancouver school board is likely to be close in the November general election. And it should be — challenger Kyle Sproul and incumbent Dale Rice both are strong candidates and well-qualified to shepherd the district into the future.

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Sproul for the position. We believe she would bring a fresh and insightful perspective to the school board and that her credentials are particularly strong for a newcomer.

Sproul has three children in Vancouver Public Schools, demonstrates a good understanding of the issues and is an articulate advocate for addressing an achievement gap in the district. “If … you look at performance numbers north of 78th Street versus south of 78th Street, we are educating two different populations and we have two different sets of performance data,” she said during an interview with the editorial board.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters in the Vancouver school district will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. That will be particularly important in a race where Rice received 36 percent of the vote in a four-person primary, while Sproul received 33 percent.

In considering Rice, they will find a candidate who has served admirably on the school board for 29 years. An investment adviser, he said he is seeking re-election to help the district “continue to be fiscally relevant and appropriate to the needs of the people.” Rice highlights his financial background as the district pursues construction of new campuses and says, “I want to make sure we get the lowest rates to the taxpayers.”

During Rice’s time on the board, the district has expanded academic offerings, improved graduation rates and embarked on ambitious construction efforts following voter approval of a bond measure. But it also has seen contentious contract negotiations that led to a teacher strike last year, and it has faced a budget deficit of about $8 million for the current school year.

A recommendation for Sproul should not be viewed as a criticism of Rice. It should, however, be viewed as an acknowledgement that having a parent on the board will yield benefits and that Sproul has a sharp understanding of how the board can best serve students, teachers, administrators and the community.

Sproul has a background in management and marketing for both multinational corporations and small businesses, and she notes that the school district employs financial experts to help negotiate bond rates. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the role of a school director,” she said.

Instead, Sproul is focusing her campaign on what takes place in the classroom. “I was spurred into action by VPS’s shockingly low achievement scores on standardized tests and its substantial achievement gap among certain populations,” she writes on her website. “There is no excuse for VPS to perform so far below the State’s average.” Her campaign’s statement in the voters’ pamphlet reads, in part, “Kyle will challenge the VPS administration to raise the achievement bar and quality of education for all students.”

Most important, Sproul demonstrates the demeanor and the ability to make that a meaningful promise. Vancouver schools have made strong improvements in recent years, and Sproul is an excellent candidate to help the district continue its progress.

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Kyle Sproul for Position 1 on the Vancouver Public Schools board of directors.