PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles Business Association forum for the three candidates running for seats on the Port Angeles School Board drew just one participant, incumbent District 4 member and board vice president Sandy Long.
Kirsten Williams, who is running for the District 5 position being vacated by Jacob Wright, was unable to attend because of a family emergency. Stan Williams, who is running for the District 3 position being vacated by Katie Marks, did not attend.
The general election will be Nov. 7. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Oct. 18.
All three candidates for the five-member board are running unopposed.
Long has never had a challenger for her seat. She was appointed to the board in 2016 and ran unopposed in 2019.
“I was kind of hoping that someone would run against me, but it didn’t happen,” Long said. “People like to talk about education, but very few people want to run for school board, but I’m glad to do it.”
Originally from Shreveport, La., Long has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Alabama, a master’s in counseling from Louisiana Tech University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education from Louisiana State University. She has lived in Port Angeles for the past 21 years.
“This is my home, so I’m very interested in what goes on in our community,” Long said.
The three candidates invited to the meeting had been asked to speak to how the school district could develop a deeper pool of job-ready workers to help address the challenges local businesses have in finding employees.
Long said the district’s strong career and technical education program in the middle and high schools provided training in information technology, hospitality, construction, business and marketing and health sciences that provide students withe skills for the workplace.
“Usually I’m very critical of the Legislature, but I want to say that one of the things that they have done in the past four or five years is to fund CTE (Career and Technical Education) at a higher level,” Long said.
Those dedicated funds have enabled the district to invest in programs that often carry greater costs than academic courses.
“We have been able to develop a very engaging, to the students, and active CTE program in Port Angeles schools,” she said.
A CTE committee that includes local business people offers guidance on and suggestions for the CTE program.
“We get a lot of input from the community when we start planning for new programs and trying to improve the programs that we do have,” Long said.
The district is facing real and significant financial challenges, Long said, related to declining enrollment and the need to replace its aging school buildings.
Full-time enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year is 3,365. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website, enrollment was 3,688 in 2019-2020 and 3,846 in 2018-2019.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at email@example.com.