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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Candidates for Evergreen school board differ on pandemic response

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 7, 2021, 5:14pm

Voters in Clark County’s largest district will cast ballots for either a long-tenured incumbent or a pair of political newcomers in one school board race this primary election.

Raelynne Altree, a 34-year-old with four children who describes herself as a “home educator,” is running to unseat two-time incumbent Julie Bocanegra, 49, for Position 1 on Evergreen Public Schools board.

The Columbian sent questionnaires to all school board candidates. The other challenger for Position 1 is Mike Appel, who did not respond to The Columbian’s inquiry.

The top two candidates from the August primary continue to November’s general election. In Position 5, incumbent Ginny Gronwoldt faces opponent Amanda Breck. Both candidates advance to November’s general election.

Bocanegra, a branch manager at Columbia Credit Union, is the second-longest tenured director on the Evergreen School Board. She was appointed in 2012, and first elected in 2013.

Altree is a newcomer to politics. She said her first priorities as a board director would be to reopen schools full time, uphold the constitution and vote against curriculum that doesn’t serve Evergreen students and the community. That includes critical race theory and sexual health education, Altree said.

“I would address everything in a way that upholds the constitution,” she said. “I would listen to what the public wants and move forward in a way that represents the community.”

When asked about her views on the school board’s performance and response to COVID-19 developments in schools, Altree said she rates it a zero.

“The choices our elective officials have made goes against the people’s constitutional rights and parental rights,” Altree said. “The response has affected our children in a way that is irreversible when it comes to mental health.”

Bocanegra’s top priorities include overseeing the ongoing bond project, equity work, building pathways for students to be college or career ready, and a pandemic recovery plan that includes students returning to class full time.

“I know that some students may be behind from the past 15 months of remote learning,” she said “and will need extra support.”

When asked about her views on the school board’s performance and response to COVID-19 developments in schools, Bocanegra praised its excellence, including the organization of student meal pickups and delivery, creation of Camp Evergreen for first responders last summer, a one-on-one technology initiative used in remote instruction, and in-person support for struggling students.

Bocanegra acknowledged that while students may have lost a lot during the pandemic, there are gains, too, she said.

“We may not know how much resilience they have gained for years to come, but the creativity and looking for alternative solutions will serve them well in the future,” Bocanegra said.