Port Angeles School Board candidates face Chamber of Commerce audience
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Questions covered the Common Core curriculum, unfunded mandates, the future of educational content and replacing four aging schools were addressed at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce noon meeting at the Red Lion Hotel.
Incumbent Sarah Methner, 43, school volunteer and parent, and Debby Fuson, 60, office manager and bookkeeper, are vying for Position 1 on the ballot now before voters in the all-mail election ending Nov. 5.
Mike McCarty, 73, retired sales-technical support consultant with AT&T Global Services Inc., is running for election to Position 2 against incumbent Cindy Kelly, who did not attend Monday’s forum.
Kelly, 56, manager for the Dry Creek Water Association was absent due to a family medical emergency, according to Brian Kuh, chamber president.
“We’re caught in a dilemma with unfunded mandates,” McCarty said.
While he agreed that requiring schools to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of emergency defibrillators is good, he said the state doesn’t fund the training and equipment needed to teach it.
“It’s unfair,” he said.
Fuson said the problem of unfunded mandates is at the state and federal levels and needs to be dealt at those levels.
“Elect new representatives to the state Legislature,” Fuson said.
There are three departments in Washington state government that oversee education and aren’t coordinating their efforts — a problem that is not being addressed by the Legislature, she said.
Methner, a member of the Washington State School Directors’ Association’s legislative committee, said she and other school board members from across the state make an effort to educate legislators on the problems that those unfunded mandates create for school districts operating on a tight budget.
“This is our No. 1 position,” she said.
Many of those legislators mean well, Methner said, but simply aren’t aware of the effects on the districts.
“A lot of them have no clue,” she said.
One of those mandates, Common Core, a curriculum soon to be required by the state and strongly encouraged by the federal government, was seen as a mixed bag by candidates.
Fuson noted that 45 of 50 states have adopted the curriculum, but only because the federal government has attached funding to its use.
“We’re lowering standards again. Teaching to the test,” she said.
Common Core has a positive side, Methner and McCarty said.
Methner cited the Common Core use of The Federalist Papers in English class, where students learn history and civics while studying writing, rather than leaving such subjects to a U.S. government class.
Another Common Core concept is presenting basic math to the youngest students as simple algebraic equations, so that when they get to algebra class later, it’s simple and familiar, she said.
McCarty added that it is a tool to help bring the U.S. back into educational competition with other world countries in a global economy.
“Common Core is a foundation,” he said.
How much students need to use technology in schools was a matter that divided the candidates.
Fuson said that her son, in sixth grade, was required to have a scientific calculator for math class.
An advanced calculator shouldn’t be introduced until after students have learned to do the calculations on their own, and she tried to prevent her son from using one in class, she said.
“I lost that fight,” she said, and noted that math was the only subject her youngest son failed to pass on his exams.
Methner disagreed that students’ introduction to technology should be delayed.
She asked the audience: “Have any of you tried to use a scientific calculator recently? It’s a skill to know how to use it.”
If students aren’t taught to use technology early and are comfortable with them before they are necessary for advanced math courses, it is more difficult for them to adjust, she said.
Students should have the essential, basic math skills they will need for life well before they reach the sixth grade, she added.
“It’s our floor, not our ceiling,’” she said.
McCarty said sometimes students simply don’t use those skills.
“We need a mock-up of a McDonald’s cash register, then pull the plug and make them finish the transaction,” he said.
Writing well also should be stressed, he said.
All three candidates agreed that four aging Port Angeles schools — Port Angeles High School, Stevens Middle School and Hamilton and Franklin Elementary schools — need to be replaced.
“We have four facilities that aren’t up to snuff. We need a bond,” McCarty said.
However, it also needs the best education inside, he said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 21. 2013 6:27PM