Sequim School Board interviews candidates to fill vacancy; decision expected next month

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– The Sequim School Board expects to decide next month who will take over the vacant District 1 director seat after having interviewed three candidates this week.

The board interviewed the candidates Monday night.

Steven Humphrey, an artist and IT consultant; Jeff Killian, a retired telecommunications worker; and Heather Jeffers, administrator of Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation of Sequim, are vying for the seat vacated by the June 17 resignation of Sarah Bedinger.

Board President John Bridge said the four current directors expect to appoint Bedinger's replacement Aug. 4.

Bedinger resigned with more than a year remaining on her third term representing the school district's west side.

Whoever is appointed will serve until the term expires and the seat goes on the ballot in November 2015.

Meet the candidates

Humphrey has served as co-president of the parent-teacher organization at Olympic Peninsula Academy, is a member of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce and was appointed to the city's newly created Arts Advisory Committee earlier this month.

“I can think of no better way to serve my community than to roll up my sleeves and start working for the schools,” Humphrey said.

A self-described “willing worker,” Killian retired to Sequim from New Jersey after a career in the telecommunications industry, formerly volunteered as a reader at Greywolf Elementary School and has a grandchild enrolled at Helen Haller Elementary.

Killian said he would aim to improve the high school's graduation rate.

“I think the shortcoming is we don't graduate enough students,” he said.

Jeffers, who has a daughter in fourth grade at Greywolf Elementary, said her primary concern is addressing a lack of practical life skills in graduates of the Sequim school system.

“I see it all the time in my work,” she said. “It's very difficult to get skilled employees in the area.”

An employer of many Sequim students straight out of high school, Jeffers said many of those former students lack interview skills or workforce basics like showing up on time for work.

One of the chief topics addressed during Monday's interview sessions was the candidates' view of why the district's $154 million construction bond proposal was voted down by 56.5 percent of voters in April.

The school district asked for $154,325,000 worth of bonds to fund construction of a new elementary school, an extensive remodel and renovation of the high school and two existing elementary schools, and a new athletic complex.

Killian was one of the most outspoken critics of the bond proposal.

He pointed out that half the students enrolled in Sequim schools qualify for free or reduced lunches because their family income is near the federal poverty line.

'Drastic mistake'

“I think it was a drastic mistake to think that all of those families could have afforded what was proposed,” Killian said. “I don't think the board of directors thought it through.”

Humphrey, too, said the bond's scope was too large, saying it was perceived as a “basketball that needed to be swallowed whole.”

Jeffers suggested the board should have broken up the proposal and completed individual projects every year before going back to ask for voter approval of other projects.

“It was too much all at once,” she said.

All three candidates expressed support for alternative schooling options like charter schools and online courses.

They also agreed the School Board should engage residents in finding alternatives to do away with state- and federally funded programs that often come with expensive mandates.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 22. 2014 7:17PM
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