Voters have clear choices in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school board trustee elections. Several candidates have made a point of making their views known.
But in many North Idaho school districts, lack of interest has left many seats unopposed.
Post Falls has seen a spirited campaign on the part of Don Morgan, a vocal critic of the school district, who advocates school choice and a traditional emphasis in academics.
Morgan has positioned himself as a conservative alternative to the status quo.
He is challenging board chairman Kevin Schneidmiller, who has served Zone 2 on the board for four years.
While Morgan has criticized the need for supplemental levies, Schneidmiller has continued to champion district attempts to increase school funding.
“I want to continue to make improvements to the educational system,” Schneidmiller said. “The way we go about it is the biggest difference.”
Schneidmiller says that Morgan’s plan to create three different elementary schools is unnecessary. Morgan wants one an “academy” style school, one that features the latest in educational technology and research, and one that is unchanged from existing schools.
The best course in governing the school district, Schneidmiller says, is to hire good administrators and avoid micro-management.
Mirroring their race is one in Post Falls Zone 5. It’s between boardappointed incumbent Ed Adamchak and Vietnam veteran Robert Hunt.
Hunt, who unsuccessfully ran for North Idaho College trustee last fall, has a strong disciplinary bent to his views of education. For instance, he advocates closing the high school campus and encircling it with a security fence.
Hunt supports Morgan’s elementary school-choice plan, and agrees with Morgan that the school year should be lengthened.
Adamchak says Hunt has unrealistic solutions to school district problems that may or may not exist.
“He’s been coming out and shooting from the hip,” Adamchak said. As a parent of elementary-aged children and a board trustee, Adamchak says he has been dealing with the school district’s “real” problems, such as inadequate buildings.
In Coeur d’Alene, incumbent Eli Ross has campaigned hard. He wants to head off the return of former Zone 3 trustee and chairman Tim Olson.
Olson stepped down after being challenged by Ross and two other candidates three years ago. Olson cited the demands of his job as the reason for leaving.
Since then, Olson has changed jobs, and Ross has assumed an outspoken role on the school board. He has pushed for an emphasis in phonics, consistent and firm discipline, and has unsuccessfully lobbied for a Junior ROTC program.
In the future, Ross would like to streamline decision-making, (“We’re imprisoned by the committee system,” he says) and find ways to cut costs.
Olson has no specific agenda, but says he is running because of his devotion to volunteerism.
Zone 2 incumbent and former board chairman Vern Newby has two challengers, Larry Rook and Pamela Fink. Both are newcomers to school board politics.
Rook was prompted to run by rumors that the next bond levy attempt would not address the unfinished renovation project at Coeur d’Alene High School. The district has not yet made a decision about the next bond levy.
Before building a new middle school, the district needs to finish the high school and build a new multi-purpose room at Dalton Gardens Elementary, Rook says.
Fink works with troubled teenagers in the county Juvenile Diversion program. She says that gives her insight to the problems that young people face.
Newby cites his experience on the board as reason to stick with him.
Here are the other contested races in North Idaho:
In Kellogg, incumbent Susan Costa is being challenged by Ray Faraca, a retired teacher.
In St. Maries, Michael Stone and Tami Holdahl are running for the seat being vacated by Mark Reynolds.
The Plummer/Worley School District has two contested races. In Zone 6, Rick Foster is challenging incumbent Walter Floch. In Zone 2, Linda Chilson is challenging incumbent Al Walters.
The election in all districts is Tuesday. Local school district offices can provide polling times and locations.