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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 Barrows to Vancouver school board

The Columbian
Published: October 17, 2023, 6:03am

Because Vancouver Public Schools are doing a lot of things right during a difficult time for education, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that Tracie Barrows be reelected to Position 5 on the district’s board of directors.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

In studying the race for Position 5, voters will find two strong candidates. Barrows has been an effective board member throughout her first term, and Larry Roe is a thoughtful, insightful challenger.

Barrows, who works as a school psychologist in Evergreen Public Schools, brings valuable insight to the Vancouver board. “I really advocate for the social, emotional, mental health needs of our students,” she told the editorial board. “A lot has happened in the past four years with COVID, and from working in the schools I definitely have seen an increase in students’ mental health needs, behavioral needs, emotional regulation.”

Barrows also has a good grasp of how those challenges relate to academic achievement. She notes that Vancouver schools have improved dual-language programs and have enhanced their offerings of magnet schools, career and technical education and “other experiences that will prepare them for life after graduation.”

There have been other accomplishments, as well. Notably, the district has avoided the threat of teacher strikes that have delayed the start of school years in other Clark County districts. It also has made a concerted effort to retain instructors at a time when many areas are suffering from a shortage of teachers.

“I don’t think it’s about luck,” Barrows said. “I believe it happens before you get to the bargaining table. How can you problem-solve beforehand?”

Regarding the spending of pandemic relief money, Barrows said the district has acted responsibly by spending the funds on items that do not require sustainable funding, such as personnel.

Roe questions whether the district’s funding has been responsible. “We’re taking our unassigned funds down to virtually nothing,” he told the editorial board.

He also would like to see more emphasis on the academic needs of high-achieving students, adding, “My concern is more around what do we do with the people in the 95th percentile or the 90th percentile? Can we provide support?”

In his campaign, Roe is emphasizing his ability to be a team player, and to recognize the expertise of others and learn from them. He also highlights what he says is an ability to ask probing questions. As he writes on his campaign website: “What short-term programs would help our students return to their pre-pandemic performance relative to grade-level standards?”

That, indeed, is a good question. And it is one that school boards and administrators and teachers throughout the country are asking in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Barrows, however, seems better suited to find the answers. She started her career as a paraeducator, has worked as a psychologist with students up to 12th grade, is in public schools on a daily basis, and has spent four years on the board of an effective school district.

The editorial board’s members hope that Roe remains engaged in public life, whether on the school board or in some other capacity. But we recommend Tracie Barrows for reelection to Position 5 on the board of Vancouver Public Schools.