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VANCOUVER School District NO. 37 School Director, Position NO. 4

4-year term. No salary, but 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 – a focus on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – prudent financial planning and oversight, as well as diligent and innovative policy-making; Accountability – specific goals and a process for evaluating, reporting and making recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – championing 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 its 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 board sets policies and approves all spending via the budget. It also sets salaries for school district employees.

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  • Candidate picture

    Kathy Decker
    (NP)

  • Candidate picture

    Lisa Messer
    (NP)

Biographical Information

What unique qualities about yourself, your experiences, and your education separate you from the other seekers of this office?

What, in your opinion, are the three most pressing issues facing your school district at this time?

How would you address the one at the top of your list?

How would you balance educational opportunities between schools?

How would you assure the safety of all students in your schools?

What are the issues that need to be addressed to provide racial equality in the schools?

How should technical training be offered in the secondary schools?

How can the schools provide adequate education for homeless, immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking children at all levels?

Address same as above
Phone (360) 576-7985
Email kathydecker4ourschools@gmail.com
Town where you live Vancouver, WA
Experience (300 characters max) Professional Experience: Kindergarten teacher, Vancouver, WA Preschool teacher, Family of Christ, Vancouver, WA Kindergarten and Multi-age classroom teacher, Corvallis, Or 1st and 3rd grade teacher, Fairfax County, VA English conversation teacher, Kyoto, Japan
I bring a wealth of experiences and passions to this office. I am a proud parent of three children who have all grown up in the Vancouver School District, making me intimately familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of our school district. I am also coming to this race with 17 years of teaching experience, working with students from age 2 to age 11. I’ve worked in three different states, and had experience in both affluent and high-needs schools and communities. I just wrapped up a year teaching kindergarten at one of the Vancouver School District’s most needy schools, and many things about that experience and my two decades in the Vancouver community have driven me to run for school board. Additionally, I am fascinated by the breadth and depth of educational research available to us today. I immerse myself in brain research and ACES studies. We have so many tools available to us to make decisions regarding the education of our children.
While VPS has much to be proud of we are struggling with: 1. Achievement/Opportunity gaps among our lower income and ELL communities; 2. Providing developmentally appropriate learning experiences supported by research; 3. Trust. The community, teachers, parents, and students feel unheard and locked out from board decisions.

As a board member, I would work to address the achievement/opportunity gaps by: 1. Using data and community input to determine the direct causes of these gaps in our schools, ie, access to resources, language barriers, emotional stressors, etc.; 2. Involve the teachers, parents, students and community members in developing solutions specific to their needs; 3. Expand upon current district programs, such as AVID and Family-Community Resource Centers, to work with the community and outside organizations towards implementing the developed solutions; 4) Give teachers and schools the flexibility to create dynamic learning environments tailored to their students' needs.
I would balance educational opportunities between schools by first allowing teachers and parents to determine the needs and visions for their schools. Using this input, the district then gives the school communities the resources and flexibility to implement the changes and programs that best fit their students.
Safety in our schools involves multiple dynamics. There is physical safety from outside threats. Our district has done much to provide this safety for our students and staff. Our buildings have been/are being redesigned to ensure only those people who have been cleared have access. There is online safety. VPS works diligently to block content inappropriate for our children. They have also created a curriculum designed to teach our students about online safety issues such as protecting privacy and assessing the truth of content. There is safety from emotional and physical harm while in school. In this area, VPS has much to do. We need expanded mental health resources for our students in unstable situations. We need to fully staff our current PBIS program so that we can implement this program in the manner the designers intended. We need to develop concrete plans for protecting students from students whose behaviors become violent and distruptive.
Many studies have been done on providing racial equality in schools. This is a complex issue made more difficult by the distinct geographic-demographic divide that has developed in Vancouver.

The issues that we need to address include: 1) Parent empowerment; 2) Transportation issues, particularly in regards to access to programs of choice; 3) The flexibility of the curriculum to address school-specific needs; 4) Use of research-proven programs; and, 5) Increasing the recruitment of staff that reflects diverse backgrounds.
I am an advocate for increased technical training in our schools. To open our secondary schools to technical training we must first consider block scheduling. This form of scheduling is done across the country because it offers students the opportunity to explore a wider selection of classes. Our current scheduling model limits students' exploration and forces many to make a choice of an academic path versus a technical path.

Each school should decide, through open discussions among its community members and review of research-based programs, what technical skills are to be offered in their building. Then, there must be collaboration with the tradespeople in the area to assure the accuracy of the classroom program, provide out of classroom experience and establish a school to career path.
In Vancouver we have a nationally recognized program: Family-Community Resource Center. The goal of this program is to help provide for the non-academic needs of our students and their families. This program receives its funding largely through partnerships with organizations in Vancouver, such as The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. Because of this program families find housing, medical assistance, counseling, and much more. Unfortunately, many in our community are unaware of FCRC and all it can do for our neediest, including our neediest. We need to do a more thorough job of communicating with the public about this resource. We also need to look at ways to expand and support this program. By coordinating FCRC efforts and resources with other organizations in our area we can provide for the needs of many without having to reinvent the wheel.
Phone (360) 852-2933
Email lisa.for.vancouver@gmail.com
Town where you live VANCOUVER
Experience (300 characters max) 14 years as a classroom teacher; high school science, physics and engineering.
I am the mother of two young students in the district, my son and daughter will be going into 3rd and 2nd grades at P. S. Odgen Elementary. Through them I have seen the great work being done by teachers and educators in our neighborhood schools. My family has experienced first hand the amazing work that is being done by educators in our classrooms and neighborhood schools. Additionally I am a classroom teacher myself and have taught high school physics and engineering for 14 years. The perspective from my own classroom has shown me that Vancouver Public Schools has areas of improvement. I have also seen how decisions made at an upper administrative level have profound effects on our classrooms. There are systemic problems within the district that need to be addressed and my perspective as a parent and educator are ideal for finding solutions to these problems.
The most pressing issue for Vancouver Public Schools is realigning the board policies and budget to match our community’s values. Because of changes to the state funding model the district will have to make tough choices going forward and my experience as a parent and expertise as an educator are the perspective we need to make those choices. Second to that issue, but related, is the need to have open and honest communication between the district and our community; to develop a deep understanding of our students and families and the community needs for our schools. Our last issue is honoring and respecting all of our educators. The teachers in Vancouver Public Schools are well educated professionals and experts in their field. Why are we hiring outside consultants when we have experts here with us? When teachers tell us that a curriculum isn’t working we need to listen to them and use their expertise to address the problem.
In order for Vancouver Public Schools to realign the priorities and budget to match the needs of our community there needs to be more honest two way communication between the community and the district. For the board to make large decisions about issues like cuts to services or increasing property taxes without community input is irresponsible. I would like to see the board use town hall style meetings or listening sessions to hear from the community, gather input about what our needs are and make plans for our future. VPS also needs to listen to the educators at our schools about the needs of our students, about what is working and what is not.
While VPS has award winning specialty programs these services are available to only a small number of students. Often the populations in these programs don’t match the student population of the district as a whole. One way to change this is to have our educators encourage and foster students from under served populations to apply to these programs. For the vast majority of our students in our neighborhood schools we need to make sure that they have equitable access to high quality curriculum, educators and resources even when this may mean differentiating resources across the district. The Family-Community Resource Centers are an example of this, not all schools in the district need to have access to the same type of FCRC. Curriculum and assessments should not have one size fits all solution. There should be multiple curriculum resources available to teachers that allows them to address the talents and needs of their students.
Safety in our schools needs to be all encompassing and address not only physical safety of students and staff but also the social and emotional needs of our students. Our newest schools have a single entry with camera features to increase the security of our schools while still being welcoming to our community. For the social and emotional needs of our students counselors need to be available in a timely manner. That means staffing needs to be maintained at our current rate. Counselors are often the first to identify abuse outside of school and are the first line of defense for helping. Additionally our educators need to be safe, when a student is physically lashing out there needs to be properly trained staff that can help the student to calm down in a one-on-one environment. This can allow for the other students and educators in a class to continue learning while addressing the needs and safety of everyone.
Other districts in our state and region have formed racial equity teams to address these issues. These teams include all types of employees and educators and are formed to identify issues and develop solutions that are measurable and timely. I would like to see the board work with our educators to make a racial equity team and follow the lead of other districts. Additionally VPS needs to recruit educators that are as racially and linguistically diverse as our student population and community. This could mean attending job fairs out of the area or even out of state and working with colleges and universities to attract new educators. Using teaching websites to advertise our district could be a lower cost way to recruit teachers to the district.
Technical training needs to be available to all students at the secondary level and be influenced by local employers, industries and unions. This could look like welding and manufacturing classes or business and marketing classes depending on the interest of our students and community. The state offers additional funding to develop and maintain technical training programs, this makes it easier for VPS to look into our communities needs and develop programs to prepare our students for our workforce. While Cascadia Tech Academy has great programs they are able to work with a limited number of students, all of our secondary students need to have access to technical training to learn skills that will help them find and keep jobs after high school.
The one size fits all approach to curriculum and assessment that the district has now is not the answer to this problem. We need to be offering resources and training to our educators so they can respond to the needs of our students. We need to provide materials and assessments that reflect the diversity of our students and help our students develop an understanding and appreciation of our differences and uniqueness. We need to bring in more educators that reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of our district to work with our students and community. The development and implementation of racial equity teams within the district could be used to identify areas of improvement and solutions to these problems within the district. Additionally working with our community through the FCRCs to get support to our families is essential to meeting the needs of our students so they can learn.