Friday, December 3, 2021
Dec. 3, 2021

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Four vie for Camas school board

Candidates react to COVID mandates, diversity and equity

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CAMAS — There are four people vying for two Camas School Board seats on Nov. 2. Incumbent Corey McEnry faces magazine owner Ernie Geigenmiller, the owner of Lacamas Magazine, while incumbent Erika Cox faces Jeremiah Stephen, a Vancouver insurance agent.

Position 1

Incumbent Corey McEnry

Corey McEnry said he is devoted to improving and strengthening the education system. A Camas native and parent who has been a music teacher in Hockinson since 2008 and has served on the Camas school board since 2018, McEnry said he believes his experience matters.

“As a National Board-certified high school teacher of over 13 years here in Clark County, I have used my experiences in the classroom to guide my decisions as a board member,” McEnry said. “These experiences give me a unique perspective on the board. … Every decision I have made as a board member has been weighed and examined through the eyes of a teacher wanting what is best for kids.”

In response to protests against the district’s 3-year-old equity, diversity and inclusion policy, McEnry said he will continue to pursue “a goal of equity in which the factors that predict any student’s success or opportunity are no longer correlated with any group identity, such as race, socioeconomic status, ability, and gender.”

Challenger Ernie Geigenmiller

Ernie Geigenmiller, a longtime presence at school board meetings, owns Lacamas Magazine and has covered the board as a reporter. He said he sees “major frustration” from parents and others who attend board meetings.

“I’ve heard from parents over the years about how much they feel left out of the process, especially when it comes to middle and high school. I think a majority feel that (Camas School District) administration doesn’t hear them, and that includes the school board,” Geigenmiller told The Post-Record this week.

Geigenmiller said he would focus on what he believes to be the school board’s most important responsibilities: maintaining government standards, managing the superintendent and the district’s budgeting and financing roles.

Geigenmiller said he believes the school board is “following mandates set by the state and (are) in a very difficult position.” Geigenmiller said he would “work with other school boards and reach out to Olympia legislators to do their jobs and not allow the executive branch to dominate COVID-19 policy.”

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Geigenmiller has four sons. Geigenmiller was a Little League and soccer coach for more than 12 years.

Position 2

Incumbent Erika Cox

Erika Cox has served on the board for three years. An Oregon native and parent of three, she said she is committed to the idea that strengthening our public education will, in the end, benefit the entire community.

Cox previously served on parent-teacher association boards at Prune Hill Elementary, Dorothy Fox Elementary and Skyridge Middle schools; as a member of the Citizens Advisory Council to the school board; and as president of the Camas Educational Foundation. Cox also served for several years on the city of Camas’ Salary Commission.

Cox said she was caught off guard by protests against COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the district’s equity, diversity and inclusion policy, equating it to “critical race theory” without fully explaining the theory or how it applies — or does not apply — to K-12 school students.

“Critical race theory is a law school level curriculum created in the mid-1970s for adults in law school who are studying the theory of systemic racism,” Cox said. “In the Camas, critical race theory is not a curriculum being taught in our (K-12) schools.”

If reelected, Cox would also work to make sure the school district can remain fiscally sound while planning for the future and trying to retain the district’s most experienced teachers.

Challenger Jeremiah Stephen

Stephen, a parent of two who opened an insurance agency in Vancouver in 2018 after moving from Alaska, said running for the Camas School Board was his way of being a part of the solution.

As a small business employer for over 25 years, Stephen said, he knows and understands the value of a customer, and believes that he would value all stakeholders’ perspectives.

Stephen said he would focus on “ensuring our parents and students are heard and giving them a voice in our school district to continue guiding our district as a community; “teaching and challenging our kids to learn the basics of education that will allow them to excel in their next adventure in their life so they are prepared to be contributing members of their communities;” and “ensuring our teachers are supported to be able to teach our kids … basics necessary to excel at the next level.”

Asked to talk about how he thinks the district has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen said: “I believe in the freedom of medical choices for each and every individual.”

Regarding the idea of critical race theory, Stephen said he “looks forward to hearing examples of where these racial discrimination issues exist in (the Camas School District) so we can resolve them swiftly, so our students can feel safe at school.”

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