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Eye On Olympia

The race for state schools chief…

From today’s paper:

SEATAC _ The opening-day convention crowd was a lively, thousand-strong mass of people. The ballroom swelled with cheers for door prizes, then faded to back-of-the-room chatting.

In front of this crowd, Richard Semler rose. With little introduction, he painted a stark picture from his boyhood: the day his mom told him that she and his dad were divorcing.

“That conversation destroyed my life at that age,” he said. “We were dirt poor.” At night, he said, the family would go to the grocery store and gawk at food they couldn’t afford.

The crowd fell dead silent as he continued.

“And the school? I hated school,” he said. “I hated studies. I hated my life…And if it were not for three teachers at Shadle Park High School at 13, 14, 15 years old, I would not be here today.”

Welcome to the race for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, an emotional five-way battle for what the candidates say is the most important thing of all: our children’s futures.

The race pits a controversial 12-year incumbent, Terry Bergeson, against Semler and a third strong candidate: former lawmaker and union leader Randy Dorn. The battleground issues: student testing, teacher accountability and school funding.

“This is about kids,” said Dorn, painting a picture of an educational system hamstrung by testing pressures, ineffective leadership and straining budgets.

Here’s a look at the three major candidates so far, as well as two longshot ones.

(Photo info: Rich Semler, right, speaks to the Washington State Parent-Teachers Association convention in Seatac May 2. At left is candidate Don Hansler; center is incumbent Terry Bergeson. Photo by Richard Roesler/The Spokesman-Review.)


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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