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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: Keep Decker on Vancouver school board

The Columbian
Published: October 20, 2023, 6:03am

Since first being elected to the school board in 2019, Kathy Decker has helped shepherd Vancouver Public Schools through trying times. The Columbian Editorial Board recommends her reelection to Position 4 on the board.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to provide information and foster discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters will examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed vote.

In Decker, voters will find a board member who has spent decades as a teacher and has a firm grasp on the realities of modern education. She recognizes the shortcomings of the district and works to rectify them while retaining a clear vision for the future.

“I agree, our test scores have been terrible,” she said during an interview with the editorial board. Rather than make excuses or blame the COVID pandemic or change the subject, she then detailed how the school board is working to improve the outcome for students.

Most important, Decker explains how the district is moving away from “publisher-directed curriculum” in favor of “research-driven curriculum.” Rather than allowing those who write textbooks to decide what children in Vancouver are learning, the district has implemented new curriculum for social studies and reading. Additional projects are in the works to ensure that schools effectively serve students.

“If you’ve listened to our workshop sessions or study sessions, you’ll know that we ask a lot of questions,” she said.

It is notable that Vancouver schools enjoyed a smooth start to the school year this fall while other local districts saw delays because of labor strife.

“The issue is whether the teachers and the school district trust each,” she said. “Is there trust? Is there respect? Is there a shared goal?”

Part of that has been improved transparency from the school board in recent years. Board meetings are now recorded and made available for the public, and Decker says the district has “increased family voice, community voice, parent voice.”

Decker is being challenged by Nick Wells, who highlights his role as an outsider.

“I am not somebody who comes in with decades of experience inside the classroom,” he told the editorial board. “I am an outsider, asking the questions that parents might want to know.”

Regarding the current five-person school board, he said: “They’ve voted unanimously on nearly every issue. My major concern is a lack of dialogue among the members.”

Decker counters by saying that robust debate takes place in work sessions before final votes on issues. But Wells’ concern is valid. Diverse thoughts and backgrounds are essential for a well-functioning body that can consider all sides of an issue; two members of the board have experience as teachers and another is a school psychologist. (For the record: They work in other districts; employees are not allowed to run for a district’s board).

Wells said: “I found we have good members on the board, people who care, but they all have the same view.”

The editorial board is confident that Wells would be a thoughtful school board member. But his arguments do not quite prove that change is needed in Vancouver schools, where the district has made demonstrable progress while managing the difficulties brought about by the pandemic.

Because of that, The Columbian recommends Kathy Decker for reelection to the board of Vancouver Public Schools, Position 4.