During a tumultuous time for Vancouver Public Schools, Wendy Smith has helped provide stability. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Smith for reelection to Position 3 on the school board.
As always, this is only a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
Any serious examination will reveal that Smith is the best candidate to help Vancouver schools move past the COVID-19 pandemic, provide a strong education for a diverse student body and effectively communicate with the public. “One thing I bring to the board, whatever value you place on it, is a little bit of continuity,” she said during a remote meeting with the Editorial Board.
Continuity, but not stagnation. Smith joined the school board after being elected in 2017, making her the senior member of the five-person board. The district has weathered multiple storms: Rapid turnover of the school board, the contentious departure of Superintendent Steve Webb this year and the hiring of his successor, and difficulties created by the pandemic.
Smith has provided thoughtful leadership, and leadership will be essential as the district assesses and adjusts for the impacts from a year of mostly remote teaching. “We’re still figuring out where that learning loss occurred,” she said. “These are gaps that are going to take years to fill in.”
Smith supports efforts toward diversity and inclusion, noting that two years ago the district was cited for inequitable discipline practices following a study by the state attorney general’s office. But she points out that critical race theory is not taught in Vancouver schools, nor would such instruction be appropriate.
“That’s a graduate-level course,” she said. “But we do need to teach our children true history, and the history of the United States. Part of that history is racism.”
That represents a broad and accurate view of the role of K-12 education. And it is welcome compared with the politically motivated opinions of her challenger, Jorge Bailey.
Bailey did not appear at the appointed time for a meeting with the Editorial Board, despite previously saying he would be available, and he has declined to respond to a candidate questionnaire from The Columbian. That leads to questions about how effectively he would engage with the public if elected, and it leaves us to assess his candidacy based upon his website, Facebook page and Voters’ Pamphlet statement.
On his campaign Facebook page, Bailey writes, “The NEA (National Education Association) is hell bent on teaching racism, sexism and many more brain-washing topics.” Such vitriol is not only inaccurate and exacerbates the divisiveness that has infected school board elections in Vancouver and beyond, but it has no place in developing a school board that effectively serves all students.
Smith, on the other hand, told the Editorial Board, “I think you need to recognize and reflect the values of the community.” For example, as a teacher in the Evergreen district and a parent of children in Vancouver schools, she supports mask mandates for students. She also notes that such mandates are handed down by the state government; Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID response has routinely been upheld by the courts.
Unlike her opponent, Smith takes an educated, reasoned approach to Vancouver schools that is based on facts. The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes Wendy Smith is the clear choice for Position 3 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools.