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News / Opinion / Editorials
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 Gronwoldt to Evergreen school board

The Columbian
Published: October 14, 2021, 6:03am

Because of her experience and the success of Evergreen Public Schools, Ginny Gronwoldt warrants reelection to Position 5 on the district’s school board. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Gronwoldt in the Nov. 2 election.

As always, this is simply a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian suggests that voters study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

In Gronwoldt, voters will find a candidate who has served on the board since 2017, has longtime experience in the county’s banking industry and has served on numerous boards and organizations that provide her with insight to the needs of our community. She is past president of the Evergreen School District Foundation, past chair of Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, and has worked with other school and community organizations.

In her statement for the Voters’ Pamphlet, Gronwoldt writes: “I have worked on numerous initiatives in the district but the ones I’m most proud of include expanding the equity work being done in the district, the replacement of outdated schools through the bond passage, our increasing graduation rates and the work being done to bring more student voices to the board and its decision-making processes.”

School board elections can be difficult; few metrics are available to measure the success of a board, and student outcomes are the result of numerous people. But it is worth noting that the on-time graduation rate for the Class of 2020 in Evergreen schools was 93.8 percent — a marked increase from the 83.5 percent rate five years prior. And in 2018, voters approved a $695 million bond for school construction over 20 years, reflecting the district’s importance to the people of east Vancouver.

There still are issues that must be addressed throughout the district. Superintendent John Steach resigned in 2019 and received a severance package worth more than $300,000; his successor, Mike Merlino, is serving as both superintendent and chief financial officer; and several students two years ago publicly raised concerns about bullying and a lack of attention to claims of sexual assault in Evergreen schools.

This spring, a review by the Washington Association of School Administrators described a lack of trust among staff in district offices and said it had a “chilling effect on climate and culture.”

Add that to difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the school board has its hands full. The question then becomes: Who is best suited to sit in Position 5 on the board?

Challenger Amanda Breck seems to offer little in the way of helping the district move into the future. Her website, Voters’ Pamphlet statement and answers to a questionnaire from SWWEducation.org offer few specifics. Notably, she writes, “Students wearing masks during school hours should be at the discretion of each individual family and not a requirement,” and “If a mandate requires kids to wear masks full time, I will work diligently on changing this to be the decision of each individual family.”

That, however, is beyond the purview of the school board. The mandate comes from the state government, and Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID restrictions have routinely been upheld by the courts. There are more important things for the school board to deal with rather than a fruitless fight against mask mandates.

Because of her broad focus on education, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Ginny Gronwoldt for Position 5 on the board of Evergreen Public Schools.