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K-8 transition heats up EV school race

The race for school board in the East Valley School District has been heating up this month.

After an overhaul of the organizational system – the district has been transitioning to a K-8 system – two incumbents have challengers. A third seat is open to newcomers after incumbent Roger Trainor withdrew from the race.

Here’s a look at the candidates for District 4:

Kerri Lunstroth

Age: 54.

Occupation: Drs. Psomas, Bourekis & Warnica “Tradition of Excellence” team member.

Children in the district: Daughter Rachel attends East Valley High School.

Public office experience: East Valley School Board, eight years; OSPI’s Facilities Technical Advisory Committee; Spokane Regional Health District’s Health and Safety School Advisory Committee; Washington State School Directors Association’s Innovative Schools Task Force; American Association of School Administrators’ Urban and Rural Healthy Schools Coalition; National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network and served on the Interscholastic Activities Committee of Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Q: Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A: I want to make a difference for our kids. School is much different than it was when we grew up and we need to adjust accordingly and not accept the status quo. Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace it is virtually impossible to keep up with it. Our students need a safe learning environment that promotes creativity, inspires innovation and develops critical thinking skills so they’ll be better prepared for life after high school.

Q: What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A: East Valley has stepped out of their comfort zone to better serve our students. Unfortunately, there appears to be significant miscommunication about the K-8, and I believe this is an opportunity to share why East Valley transitioned to the K-8 model.

In early 2010, we invited community and all parents to meet and discuss the state of our district and address how we can accomplish our mission of inspiring all students to achieve academic excellence and to become responsible citizens. While most of our kids were successful, too many of our students were falling through the cracks. This was unacceptable. We wanted input, so community-based committees were formed and after several months of meetings and research, the committees presented their conclusions to the board. The elementary committee recommended transitioning to a PreK-8 model.

After months of arduous board work sessions discussing the PreK-8 model, ideas started flowing about how we could take the best from both worlds of elementary and middle schools and combine them. The concept of an enrichment center was formed to complement the PreK-8. Once everyone appeared to be in agreement, more discussions occurred regarding facilities needs. East Valley had failed several bonds. Should we still proceed with the PreK-8? We determined, while it would be easier to implement the change if a bond was passed, the conversion would still be a viable, although challenging option, without a bond.

Our decision to transition to this model was based on the moral imperative to adapt to better serve our students and look at learning differently than we have in the past. The status-quo would not take our students to the next level. We have great staff; the system just needed rebooting. Studies show that unless significant change is made – and there has been a lot of system tweaking over the years – it is human nature for people to revert back to old habits.

The emotional and difficult transition has taken three years and, as anticipated, there have been challenges with creative solutions. Putting that aside, I’m excited about the progress we have already made. Many of our schools are creating a new identity based on their student and community needs, while still encompassing the district’s mission. We are seeing reduced discipline issues, increased learning and new learning opportunities at our enrichment center. There is a new energy as you walk down the halls. I encourage you to visit our schools and see for yourself.

Q: Do you have specific plans for the district?

A: As a board member, I will strive to improve communication and work collaboratively with our East Valley community, parents, staff and students. Our kids are the best, and they deserve the best opportunities that we can possibly give them.

Fred Helms

Age: 73.

Occupation: Retired from Kaiser Aluminum-Mead as an environmental lab technician.

Public office experience: None.

Q: Why do you want to be on the East Valley school board?

A: I know they are currently and have been wasting the taxpayers’ money, making bad decisions, and I want to help change this. I think a quarter of a million dollars for pods is not for better education or safety of the children. I want to make sure that the school children are getting what they need to succeed, and that the teacher have what they need to properly teach within the budget. I want to help establish better communication with the parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Q: What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A: Total confusion to the children, to the teachers, and to the taxpayers and the parents. Not enough thought/planning was done prior to the transition. People who complained were not heard or acknowledged.

Q: Do you have specific plans for the district?

A: I think they should have grade school K-6, junior high 7-8, and high school 9-12. If we do not have enough kids for junior high, combine the ninth-graders with the seventh and eighth. It is ridiculous to bus children from one school to another for classes; all should be in the same building for them with lockers available for storing books in between classes. I want to get the trust back into the school board by communicating with the people in the district, and then listen to what the taxpayers want, quit wasting money unnecessarily and be accountable for the money spent, and that is not being done now.

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