PORT ANGELES — Nor’Wester Rotary Club on Friday heard from two of four candidates running for board of directors positions on the Port Angeles School District, the largest public school district on the North Olympic Peninsula with 3,479 students and a budget of $55,600,867.
Incumbent Sandy Long is running unopposed for a third four-year term for the Position 4 seat and write-in candidate Chris Noble is running against Stan Williams for Position 3.
This was the second school district candidate forum at which Stan Williams and Kirsten Williams, who is running unopposed for District 5, did not appear. (Stan Williams and Kirsten Williams are not related.)
Noon Rotary will conduct a Port Angeles School Board candidate forum at noon on Wednesday at Asian Buffet, 1940 E 1st St.
Friday’s event served as an introduction to Noble, who this week decided to run for a board seat. Because he is a write-in candidate, his name will not be on the ballot. Noble said that he had attended some school board meetings this year with the intention of running at some point in the future.
“When I got the voter’s guide and saw that all three vacant positions were unopposed, I thought that that didn’t seem right and voters ought to have some choice,” he said.
“So, I gave it some thought and decided to jump into the race at this late date, which is quite a uphill battle. But I’ve gotten tremendous support and I’m optimistic that as a write-in candidate, I can still win.”
Long is retired educator who has lived in Port Angeles for 21 years. Originally from Louisiana, she worked for 20 years in public schools and 20 years at Louisiana State University, University of Alabama and Louisiana Tech.
“It takes a lot of my time to be on the school board. I probably spend 20 percent of my week, maybe more. Some weeks it’s every day,” Long said. “I enjoy it. I really enjoy it.”
Noble said he grew up in Southern California and earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Washington and a doctorate at Cornell University. After a career in education and business, he and his wife, Marjory “Jory” Noble, moved to Port Angeles in 2018. He said that working as a substitute math teacher and volunteer tutor at Stevens Middle School and Port Angeles High School had given him valuable insights into the challenges that instructors faced after COVID-19.
Long said the board had a limited role in curriculum decisions, when asked about controversies that had dogged other districts. Its main responsibility was hiring the superintendent, being responsible for the budget, approving policy and — lastly — signing off on curriculum.
“Curriculum has never been an issue since I’ve been on the school board,” Long said. “When the state first designated a certain curriculum for us to choose from for sex education, there was a little pitter-patter out in the community.”
Noble said he agreed with the district’s policy on controversial issues and guest speakers.
“It’s clear and it emphasizes balance and really teaching students to think for themselves,” he said. “Controversial issues are going to come up and I support a policy that allows students to deal with controversial issues in school provided that they’re getting a balanced viewpoint.”
The district’s budget challenges and the need to replace its aging facilities have been a constant concern. When the capital levy to fund the expansion of Stevens Middle School is retired in 2025, the district plans to float a bond issue for replacing the high school and Franklin Elementary. The primary barrier to success, Long said, is that while levies can pass with a simple majority, bonds need 60 percent voter approval.
“All our schools except for Dry Creek need to be replaced,” Long said. “In small communities like ours it’s almost impossible to get a bond passed.”
Noble said that although he was not yet familiar with details of the district’s budget, his experience in managing financial risk, analyzing data and business strategy would be valuable assets.
“I come with a background of doing long-range financial forecasts as an actuary and I think that’s the strength that I bring to the position, being able to make sure that the school is planning properly to do what it needs to do with the resources that it has,” he said.
“My objective is really to do the best that we can do with the resources that we have, and I think having really strong school board will help facilitate them.”
Voting in the Nov. 7 general election is already underway; the Clallam County auditor’s office mailed ballots Tuesday.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@peninsuladailynews.com