Of the several differences between the two candidates for the East Valley School Board, district 4, the most apparent is age.
Incumbent school board member Fred Helms is 77 years old, but his challenger, Emily Provencio, is 18 years old.
Provencio attended East Valley schools for 13 years, graduating from East Valley High School last spring. She decided to run because the school board is disconnected with the needs of students, she said.
“I felt there needed to be a more diverse board in terms of age and background,” Provencio said.
Despite being the youngest school board candidate, Provencio has a burgeoning resume. At 17, she was elected vice chairwoman of the 4th Legislative District Democratic Party. She is also president of the Young Democrats of Eastern Washington University.
Helms has served on the school board for the past four years. He first ran because he thought leadership under previous superintendents was inadequate, he said.
“I knew we needed change, and someone had to run,” Helms said. “But we’ve done a lot since I’ve been on the board, and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Helms has been supportive of local levies, including a levy passed in 2015 to replace the district’s aging buses.
“I do support levies as long as they’re reasonable and go towards supporting our kids in the district,” he said.
Provencio said she most likely would have supported the board’s decision to ask for a levy in 2015, but hopes the school district won’t need new levies as a result of improved state funding.
“I don’t think anyone likes adding levies on people,” she said.
If elected, Provencio wants to work on creating smaller class sizes in the district.
“One of the things I hear when I talk to teachers is that class sizes are too big,” Provencio said. “We need to be lowering class sizes.”
Both candidates support various forms of alternative education and want to see more resources put in place to support them. As a high school student, Provencio participated in the Running Start program, something she would like to see more students take advantage of.
“We need to make Running Start and Advanced Placement classes more available to students and make sure that they’re all aware of these opportunities,” she said.
Helms would like to gauge student interest for trade schooling or a career and technical education program, something he believes is lacking in the current education. He also voted in June against district’s initiative to provide every high school student with a laptop. Students should be spending more time to learn how to build and repair things, something laptops will not do for you, he said.
“I’m what you call old-school,” Helms said.
But the laptop program was approved by the board and computers were given to students just after Labor Day.
Provencio said she’s watched the success of the laptop program because her brother is currently a sophomore at East Valley.
“It’s been really beneficial for students and faculty,” she said. “I’m really supportive of the initiative now and would like to see it continue.”
Provencio hopes to connect with students because of her age and make an immediate impact on strengthening relations with students in the district, she said.
“I think the age difference is an advantage for me because I’m more connected to students as a recent graduate,” she said. “My biggest qualification is having been a student here.”
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