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Clark, Skamania Washougal School School Director, District No. 3

4-year term No Salary, some districts offer small per diem for evening meetings. School Board Members or “directors” – are the elected governing body of the school district, serving four-year terms. The school board’s governance responsibilities fall in four major areas: Vision – focuses the work on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – provides prudent financial planning and oversight; diligent and innovative policymaking; Accountability – sets specific goals and a process for evaluation, reporting and recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers. The School Board sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district Superintendent and certificated teaching staff and personnel. One of the critical duties is the adoption of the district's budget and proposal of any school levies to be placed on the ballot to the people. The commission sets policies and approves all spending via the budget. The council also sets salaries for district employees.
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  • Jaron S. Barney (NP)

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    Donna Sinclair (NP) History Professor

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Biographical Information

Of three major issues facing your district, which one is the most urgent?

What is your position on Charter Schools as a part of your public school system?

What is your position on testing of your students?

What is your opinion on "start times" for elementary and secondary school?

How can the on-time graduation rate be improved?

How should bullying be addressed?

What would be your plan to see that your school district students earn their civics credit required by the new state law?

What is your opinion of student suspension for classroom disruption?

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Phone (360) 771-9310
Email sinclairforschools@gmail.com
Town where you live Washougal
Experience (300 characters max) Donna Sinclair is a mother, a teacher, and a student advocate. She earned both an M.A. in History from Portland State University (PSU) and a Ph.D. in Urban Studies. She teaches History at WSUV and PSU, writes for the National Park Service, and is active in community work in Washougal.
Of the three major issues facing the Washougal School District, budgetary instability and issues related to state funding are the most significant. Other issues, such as class size are directly connected to the budget problems in Washougal. Under the new state funding model, Washougal's funding will be comparable to smaller rural districts, while nearby districts in Camas and Vancouver will see increased funding and teacher pay. Washougal teachers will be at the low end of state pay scale, while funding for other levels of service (transportation, special education, etc.) may be problematic. The outcome of the new state funding model for Washougal, with approximately 3,200 students, is unclear. This disparity is related to the geography of our district, which includes major portions of Skamania County to the north leading to a lower overall tax base. Yet, the community sits at the edge of an urban core of nearly half a million. Health insurance costs are also a problem for teachers.
I am opposed to charter schools as part of our public school system. I am a strong proponent of equal access to education. I believe that the private nature of charter schools, along with problems of access creates inequities in the school system. Some of the inequities may include transportation problems, access to school lunch programs, and/or lack of public accountability. I believe that magnet schools are a better solution to the idea of school choice than charters because they allow for innovation, but are publicly, rather than privately run and have all of the advantages of public education, i.e., the requirement for equal access. However, they may also segregate students due to transportation issues if there are not measures in place to create access. The idea of school choice and innovation is good. The reality is often unequal access and inequity. Public funding should not be applied to private organizations.
I believe that annual testing is necessary for assessment; however, I would like to see less emphasis placed on preparing for tests. Students should not be spending weeks in preparation, nor should little children worry about state tests. Rather, the tests should evaluate student achievement based on existing instruction. I’d like to see a system that rewards schools for innovation that results in student success rather than one that punishes schools for low scores.
I think that start times should be later for secondary school. Start times for elementary school are generally fine, but based on the biology of teens, it does not make sense to send them to school so early in the morning.
Washougal is currently seeking to increase the four year graduation rate (currently at 74%) through a pilot program called “Freshman Academy.” This program is part of the Excelsior High School program, which was previously an alternative school, but is now physically connected to the Washougal High School. Freshman Academy draws from the understanding that if students do well in 9th grade, they are more likely to graduate on time. Therefore, at risk students have been identified as part of the program, which includes innovative learning to engage students. Other ways to increase graduation rates are to identify the factors that contribute to late graduation by looking at data. This includes grades. More than one F in 9th grade means students are four times more likely not to graduate. Attendance is another indicator. Learning should be both fun and challenging, and teachers should work together as a community to identify at risk students.
Washougal has a prohibition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying policy, which includes training, prevention, and intervention for both verbal and physical acts. It draws in families, administration, and law enforcement and can include expulsion. There is a no tolerance policy for bullying. One thing I saw at Gause Elementary School that was very effective was a group therapy program focused on teaching friendship skills. It was very effective and resulted in children learning to talk with one another more civilly. I would like to see such programs extended to all children, so that anti-bullying efforts are as much about teaching children respect, kindness, and thoughtfulness for others as they are about restitution or punishment. School is the ideal place for children to learn to speak to one another respectfully, a skill that can be taught. I think it would be helpful to have more positive opportunities focused on learning those skills.
As a school board director and History professor, this issue is close to my heart. I would like to see civics, i.e., lessons about citizenship and government tied more clearly into Social Studies and ELA. Washougal’s new ELA curriculum has some of those components, with Social Studies overlap. OSPI provides an overview of “six proven practices” and resources for civics education, http://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/civiceducation.aspx: 1. Classroom Instruction, 2. Discussion of Current Events and Controversial Issues, 3. Service Learning, 4. Extracurricular Activities, 5. School Governance, 6. Simulations of Democratic Processes - I would begin by ensuring that teachers are aware of the law and available resources and facilitate a stronger incorporation of civics education into the general curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels, as well as high school.
I think that student suspension for classroom disruption is generally not very useful. It is far better to get at the root of a problem than to kick a child out of school, which not only inhibits the child’s learning, but may cause problems socially and at home. There are usually reasons children are disruptive, issues that range from ADHD (often with associated learning disorders) to bullying or ostracism to those associated with poverty and other problems at home. Counseling (individual and group) that teaches children to identify their feelings and express them appropriately, is more likely to help children and eliminate the problem than expulsion.

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