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Thursday, February 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

School board veterans face challengers

As an 18-year veteran of the Coeur d’Alene school board, Vern Newby can rattle off a long list of what he’s accomplished in the school district. And while Newby’s opponent in Tuesday’s school board race has never served on the school board, Brad St. John has his own list of changes he’s made during his many years as an activist and involved parent.

St. John has scrutinized the district’s financial reports, finding errors that were corrected. He’s complained to the state about the district counting recess and time children spent walking to class as instructional time, resulting in legislation in 2000 that prohibits districts from doing so. He’s been critical of the district for falling behind the state’s textbook adoption cycle and has involved state entities in trying to address his concerns.

“The district and school board opposed me in all of this,” St. John said. “That was unfortunate and frustrating.”

Newby, a longtime Avista Utilities employee, said he’s been part of important discussions in the district, such as the need to bolster academics from the mid-1990s and the need to upgrade buildings and build new schools.

“We’ve come a long ways; we have a long ways to go,” Newby said. “With those in mind, I’d like to see the next round of changes through.”

He points to issues such as enrollment growth in the northern schools as one of the many he wants to continue addressing.

Newby is a past president of the Idaho School Boards Association and stays involved in state issues. He’s active in the education support group Supporters of Public Education and Kids, and he’ll travel to Boise next week with Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy teacher Nancy Larsen to discuss a state program aimed at training future teachers.

St. John said he’s concerned about the growing supplemental levy and what could happen if the amount continues to increase – and voters then reject it. The district needs money for things like reducing class sizes, he said, but school officials shouldn’t continue relying on the same methods of funding. The district needs to get serious about securing more grants by hiring grant writers and providing incentives for teachers who land outside money for free, St. John said. He’d also like to see more seats added to the school board, including one for a representative from the local teachers union.

“I think some of the things you want to do at the district level have to be done at the state level,” he said. “I think I’ve proven in my history that I can make those changes at the state level.”

The two are vying for the Zone 2 seat, which includes the area north of Dalton Avenue and east of Highway 95.

In Zone 3, incumbent Christie Wood, a sergeant with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, is opposed by Hayden resident Stan Hess.

Wood cites her experience as a top reason she should be re-elected. She was appointed to the board in 1999 and re-elected in 2000 and 2003. School safety is her priority, having served as a school resource officer at Lake City High School in the late 1990s. She oversees the school resource officer program as part of her Police Department duties.

Hess ran unsuccessfully for the North Idaho College board of trustees last year and is considered a white supremacist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Hess called those groups “white-bashers” and said they do nothing to help European Americans, which he said is his life cause.

“The school system is more concerned about teaching the wrongs of European Americans rather than our pluses,” he said.

If elected, Hess wants to mandate that all students take a gym class each semester and that a family heritage class be offered for all students.

He also wants to establish more dual-credit classes with North Idaho College and see the district do more to encourage students to take on professional-technical jobs after high school. He said his experience as a school bus driver in California gave him a look at how school districts operate. He worked as a substitute bus driver in Coeur d’Alene but hasn’t subbed since May 2006, according to the district.

A former leader of ex-Ku Klux Klansman David Duke’s European American Unity and Rights Organization, Hess still has the support of Duke, who said in an e-mail to the newspaper that Hess is a “straight shooter.”

“I have know(n) Stan Hess quite well for a number of years and have always been impressed with his ability and his hard work,” the e-mail reads.

Wood’s pleased with how the school district runs and wants to continue working with the board to improve student achievement and the opportunities available to students.

“I just really enjoy being part of a solution to some of the challenges we have,” she said.

Also a member of the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, Wood said serving on two boards doesn’t drain her energy. She said her history with the school board and involvement in state education issues makes her the best candidate.

“I really feel like I have a good grasp on all the issues at hand,” she said. “I’m able to work well with the team to try to resolve the issues.”

Zone 3 includes the area north of the Spokane River and west of Highway 95 to Atlas Road.

Three other school districts in North Idaho – Lake Pend Oreille, Plummer-Worley and Mullan – have school board races this year. Incumbents in the Avery, Kellogg, Kootenai, Lakeland, Post Falls, St. Maries, Wallace, West Bonner and Boundary school districts were automatically re-elected after running unopposed. In Plummer-Worley, incumbent Mike Morris, board vice chairman, is being challenged by Tami Gauthier. In the Mullan district, Wayne “Bud” Koski faces write-in candidate Jerry Ploharz. Incumbent Douglas Jutila is not seeking re-election.

In the Lake Pend Oreille School District, incumbent Mindy Cameron, board vice chairman, is opposed by Kendon Perry, vice president of Sandpoint Little League and a father of two Sagle Elementary School students.

Along with Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, two other districts have supplemental levies up for a vote Tuesday. The Kootenai School District in Harrison has a two-year supplemental levy that would give the district $227,500 each year and fund school maintenance and operation needs. It’s the second time the levy will be voted on this year; voters rejected it in March. The St. Maries School District has a supplemental levy that would give the district $767,000 each year for two years.

For more information, call your local school district.

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