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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: Reelect Bocanegra to Evergreen school board

The Columbian
Published: October 6, 2021, 6:03am

From 2015 to 2020, graduation rates in Evergreen Public Schools showed marked improvement. That — along with other demonstrable improvements in the education provided for a diverse student body — serves as one reason Julie Bocanegra should be reelected to Position 1 on the district’s board.

Bocanegra has served on the board for nine years, and she provides steadfast, forward-thinking leadership. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that Bocanegra be elected by voters to continue guiding Clark County’s largest school district.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the issues and the candidates before making an informed choice.

School boards throughout the country have become a point of contention in the past year, with public anger over COVID mandates or diversity training often infusing board meetings. That anger must give way to reasoned discussion, lest it distract from the education of our children.

Bocanegra’s experience, thoughtful approach and understanding of the pressures faced by students, teachers, parents and administrators help ensure strong leadership throughout Evergreen schools. The district’s on-time graduation rate hit 94 percent for the Class of 2020, a jump from 83.7 percent five years prior. And several measures have helped the schools endure the pandemic.

A district program implemented in recent years to provide computer tablets for students proved prescient in enhancing remote learning. “We have systems in place where we can do things,” Bocanegra told the Editorial Board. “I don’t think remote will ever replace being in the same room, but now we have more options and better ways to deliver.”

In addition, Evergreen was quick to institute meal delivery for needy students when schools were closed, and it worked quickly to get 25,000 students remotely connected to classes. “Evergreen was a leader, not only in Clark County but throughout the state,” she said.

That, of course, is not the work of one person. But it reflects strong guidance in the district during trying times.

Now, as schools work to regain some sense of normalcy, questions about diversity and inclusion are moving to the forefront. Bocanegra stressed that critical race theory is not being taught in Evergreen schools — nor are there plans to do so. But efforts to provide students with a broad range of perspectives will pay dividends. “It’s an initiative that has been super important to this board,” she said. “I think kids are going to be able to talk better than some adults are able to talk to each other.”

Bocanegra’s challenger, Mike Appel, has not been responsive to requests from The Columbian. That makes us question how engaged he will be with residents who have questions about Evergreen schools.

In the Voters’ Pamphlet, Appel writes: “The basics must be taught, rather than the many alternative teachings that are currently being pushed by some.” It would be beneficial if he were open to questions about his thinking.

Meanwhile, Bocanegra understands that Evergreen schools are imperfect. A report this year from a state organization found “a lack of trust and a divide among staff” in the district office. The school board still approved a raise for Superintendent Mike Merlino to $305,884 for this school year.

Yet, while issues exist, Bocanegra is the best candidate to deal with them. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that she be reelected to Position 1 on the school board.