With the elections just about a month away, one parent in the East Valley School District is organizing debates for school board candidates.
“My goal is to make all of the candidates available to all the stakeholders in the community,” said Mindy Stewart. The first of three was Tuesday at Starr Road Baptist Church.
Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves before questions from the audience were drawn from a basket. Each had a minute to respond to the question, and if they chose, a 30-second rebuttal.
All of the candidates were present except Fred Helms. Stewart said he expects to be at the next two debates.
Moderator Todd Alexander, a youth pastor from Post Falls, asked the questions.
One question asked if the candidates support or oppose the K-8 plan. Incumbents Heidi Gillingham and Kerri Lunstroth supported it, Justin Voelker, Deanna Ervin and Mike Novakovich opposed it.
The two incumbents said there have been bumps in the road, but both believe they have done the best they can with the resources available to them.
Ervin and Voelker said they oppose the current implementation of the K-8 system and prefer the middle school model.
Novakovich said he felt the district pushed the plan through too quickly, without planning for lockers or enough room at the schools.
One question asked candidates what it would take for the district to pass a construction bond – something it hasn’t done since 1996.
Voelker said the plans should be to fix the buildings, rather than build a new performing arts center or put Astroturf on the football field.
Ervin said the district needs to better communicate what it’s asking taxpayers for when they seek a bond, rather than relying on children to bring the information home with them. There is also a large population in the district that doesn’t have children in the schools, but their property value is affected by the school district.
Gillingham said the community has said the poor economy has affected their votes and the district should do what they can with what they have. She said she believes they have been continuing to raise the graduation rates and communications, and prefers the next bond to come from the community, rather than the board.
Lunstroth said a bond must be community-driven if it is going to pass. She said the staff is doing a great job keeping aging buildings in good shape for students. She added the district recently asked the community to approve a levy in which they asked for the maximum allowed to maintain its budget and it passed.
Novakovich said the community didn’t want to approve a performing arts center or a field with Astroturf. If the district explains they need boilers and other essential fixes, the community will support that.
Other questions posed during the two-hour debate included what the top five objectives of each candidate are, what are the candidates’ ideas about the future of East Valley, why the board approved a nonvoted debt to purchase portables for the elementary schools, how each candidate plans to make a notable difference in the district and what is happening at the enrichment center.