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Opinion
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: Elect Chuck Keplar to Evergreen school board

The Columbian
Published: October 19, 2023, 6:03am

In making a case for why an incumbent should be replaced, a challenger must be well-informed and must articulate how they would do the job differently. Chuck Keplar has done that, and The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends him for Evergreen school district representative from District 2.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to provide information and foster discussion. We encourage voters to study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed vote in the Nov. 7 general election.

Keplar is a political newcomer who lists his professional experience as “classified substitute, pastor, at-home dad, small-business owner.” He effectively points out the shortcomings in the Evergreen district without focusing on specious culture wars that have hampered schools throughout the country.

Among other items, Keplar takes issue with how the school board has managed the district’s leadership in recent years. Evergreen has gone through a series of superintendents, making hefty severance payments on multiple occasions.

Editor's note: Chuck Keplar was present in The Columbian offices for the entire editorial board meeting but due to technology issues was not always visible in frame in this video. Video

“No. 1, I would create a process for hiring a superintendent,” Keplar said in an interview with the editorial board. It is a fair criticism, with the board having struggled to find an effective manager for the district of approximately 23,000 students.

Another critique, however, is not supported by information from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Keplar echoes a common complaint that suggests Evergreen is top-heavy in administrators; but in terms of certified administrators per student and cost per student, Evergreen’s numbers are nearly identical to Vancouver Public Schools.

Voters can weigh whether Evergreen has too many administrators. But most local residents should be able to agree that there are issues with district management. That was demonstrated in a teachers strike that delayed the start of this school year.

“I do think the board acted inappropriately, just in the information they put out,” Keplar said of the dispute with teachers. “It was about getting more support; it wasn’t just about money.”

Keplar demonstrates a good grasp of the need for classroom support, focusing on Evergreen’s shortage of paraeducators — a shortage echoed in other districts.

Keplar is challenging incumbent Rob Perkins, who has been an effective board member for nine years. Perkins’ work has been appreciated, but there are lingering issues in the Evergreen district that suggest change is necessary.

“The district has internal and external problems that I believe I have a good understanding about, that are all on a trajectory of better relationships with the community and better relationships internally,” he told the editorial board. “That work needs to continue, and since I was a draft author of the policies that are supposed to bring the district in that direction, it makes complete sense to me to continue doing that work.”

Perkins acknowledges a need for better communication within the district and with the public, and he acknowledges other shortcomings in leadership. Those defects are not solely his fault, but it can be argued that change is needed in the management of Evergreen Public Schools.

In that regard, Keplar effectively points to declining enrollment throughout the district and a desire to make public schools attractive: “It’s about kids and community and people choosing to go to Evergreen schools.”

With that in mind, The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Chuck Keplar for the Evergreen school board.

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