When the state changed the funding model for public education, Central Valley School Board member Cindy McMullen likened it to a working family who just lost half a paycheck.
In Central Valley’s case, that meant a $12 million budget deficit that left McMullen and her colleagues to pick up the pieces.
And they did that job quite well, said McMullen, who is seeking a second consecutive four-year term in District 1 and her eighth overall at Central Valley.
“All in all, I believe that we used the best, most transparent process we could and remained focused on the most important outcome: maintaining excellent learning for every student,” McMullen said.
Her opponent, John Myers, is a longtime school administrator who believes the district would benefit from a fresh set of eyes. Myers also would like any future cuts to be focused on “tightening the budget from the top down instead of the bottom up.”
Both have decades of experience. A private attorney, McMullen served for 24 years on the Central Valley board before a four-year stint on the Washington State Board of Education.
Back on the CV board since 2015, McMullen said she wants to “put my experience, knowledge and commitment to work for our students, families and community as we face the challenges ahead.”
Most of those challenges are fiscal – a direct result of the so-called “McCleary fix.”
“I do not believe that there was anything that we could have done, short of convincing the Legislature of the unintended consequences of (McCleary), to avoid a deficit,” McMullen said.
McMullen also noted that Central Valley was able to hold teacher losses to about 60 while keeping class sizes stable.
Meanwhile, administrative staff was reduced and technology updates deferred.
However, McMullen sounded a warning about the future without more help from the Legislature.
“Even with these difficult decisions this year, we do not have the funding to sustain our current programs, let alone restore what has been lost.”
That leaves open the possibility of a supplemental levy, an option both candidates view with caution.
“We will need to know from our community what level of educational services is acceptable, which we will do through several avenues of outreach,” McMullen said. “And we will have to assess our community’s property taxes, to determine what ‘the market might bear.’ ”
Myers said that if a levy is proposed, “Voters should be afforded a line-item specific view of where levy monies would go.”
Should there be cuts, Myers said he would “look at the largest salaries first,” especially administrative positions, as long as the district was still in compliance with state standards.
Myers defended the salary increases given to teachers last year, saying that “I don’t think we can pay enough for good people who make a difference in people’s lives.”
Now retired, Myers was a principal or assistant principal in Lakeland schools in Rathdrum for 11 years. He spent six years as an assistant principal in Post Falls before administering an alternative program in East Valley from 2011-16.
Myers said serving on the board would be a “good opportunity to serve the community and be a help and support to some of our most important resources: young people and teachers.”
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