Candidates for the District 3 position on the Sequim School District Board of Directors, Beth Smithson and incumbent Jim Stoffer, speak during a League of Women Voters forum. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Candidates for the District 3 position on the Sequim School District Board of Directors, Beth Smithson and incumbent Jim Stoffer, speak during a League of Women Voters forum. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sequim School District candidates discuss lawsuit settlement, bullying, drug use

Stoffer, Smithson take stances at league forum

SEQUIM — Candidates for the District 3 position on the Sequim School District Board of Directors went head-to-head in a League of Women Voters forum Sunday.

Incumbent Jim Stoffer and challenger Beth Smithson both tackled issues in the Sequim School District, including the recent $850,000 settlement with a former athletic director, bullying and drug use.

The start of the 18-day voting period is Friday, Oct. 18. Ballots must be mailed by Tuesday, Nov. 5, or dropped into a drop box by 8 p.m. that day.

When asked about the lawsuit and bullying, Smithson said the district needs to hire an experienced superintendent.

“In the past few years I don’t feel we had a very experienced superintendent,” Smithson said. “Great guy, but did not have the experience.”

She said the district needs to move on from the lawsuit by hiring an experienced superintendent.

Stoffer said that when it comes to bullying, board members need to “walk the walk.”

“I’ve got to tell you, I was subject to being bullied and harassed as a board member,” Stoffer said. “It took an emotional toll. I still work through that. But I will never stop advocating for our students, our teachers, and our school systems and our buildings.”

Stoffer said that when it comes to drug use in the high school and middle school, the district needs to continue following its policies and that parents need to be involved.

“It’s not just the board and teachers,” Stoffer said, calling on parents and students’ peers to also address drug use.

“Telling your fellow students that this is not right and providing tools that we can sit down and have a conversation with those students and parents.

“The board will follow the policy and hold teachers and staff accountable,” Stoffer said.

Smithson said there needs to be outreach to kids and suggested an after-school program.

She said that vaping “is a big deal” and that though she isn’t sure what a teacher can do, she said the district needs to address vaping in schools.

“I want to get in there and help solve these problems,” she said.

She said it’s easy for kids to hide the devices.

“The problem comes with catching them in the act and what do we do with it,” Stoffer said. “How do we confiscate that? And what if it belongs to the parent?”

The candidates were also asked about how adults can be more involved with student events and field trips.

Stoffer referred to his work advocating at the state Legislature. He recently took students to Olympia to testify about the needs for schools, he said.

“Our legislators hear from us a lot, but they like to hear from the students,” Stoffer said. “I’ve been a strong advocate of getting our students involved.”

Smithson said money is an issue when it comes to field trips.

“I know a lot of that is out of pocket for some teachers,” she said, suggesting more money be allocated for field trips. “Teachers want to do stuff with their children. They want to go out, have fun, and they could include parents.”

In addition to voters in Sequim and nearby communities, there are 342 Jefferson County voters who live in the Sequim School District, in Gardiner and Discovery Bay.

The League of Women Voters is hosting another candidates forum at 6 p.m. today in the Port Angeles City Council Chambers, 321 E. Fifth St. Candidates for positions 5, 6 and 7 on the Port Angeles City Council will participate in the forum and voters will hear about city of Port Angeles Proposition 1 concerning an affordable housing sales tax.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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