A Cheney School Board member with 12 years in office said her experience brings important insight when dealing with tough issues facing schools.
But her opponent said the district needs new perspective and a new voice on the board.
In the August primary, incumbent Suzanne Dolle finished second to Zachary Zorrozua, a social and mental health professional.
As the pandemic continues Washington schools are under a mask mandate, Dolle firmly believes the masks are keeping students safe and that the law must be obeyed.
Previously, Zorrozua was frustrated about the district’s lack of communication but now is satisfied with the district’s efforts. Zorrozua is also happy to see sports return.
Zorrozua mentioned he would personally like for COVID-19 protocols to be made by the school instead of districtwide.
Dolle believes the district will need another high school. The district has been looking for land to accommodate the building.
Zorrozua is frustrated another high school hasn’t already been built, saying most schools already are at capacity and more houses are being built within the district only adding to the population problem. He said as more students are added to the limited space, teachers have a harder time keeping up and that some students end up “slipping through the cracks.” He expressed COVID concerns at the high school with so many students under one roof.
“That should’ve happened 10 years ago,” Zorrozua said.
The Cheney School District is vast, more than 370 square miles, and many bus drivers are needed to cover the entire district. But because of a driver shortage, multiple schools of the same grades start at varying times, not just the elementary, middle, and high school to get all students to school.
“We are offering incentives for the bus drivers and Cheney pays for training and getting them on board,” Dolle said. “We’re doing everything within our power to attract and keep some bus drivers.”
Zorrozua is disappointed in the lack of drivers, but he was impressed the school district “was willing to be honest with the fact that it is hurting for employees.”
Although Dolle said she believes the district did a great job teaching online last year, it is a priority to get the students fully back on task and meeting standards as well as meeting their social and emotional needs.
Zorrozua said he is disappointed in the number of vacant jobs in the district. He believes the increase of vacancies has been caused by previous employees becoming “sick and tired” of being treated poorly by students. He said there isn’t enough accountability starting with the superintendent on down.
“Principals have to hold their staff accountable, and the kids need to be held accountable for their behavior. They can’t be assaulting other kids, and they can’t be cussing out teachers and not having any consequences,” Zorrozua said.
Zorrozua is concerned about substance abuse, noting the use of vaping among students as a potential factor.
“Some of those kids that have substance use issues are potentially at a really high risk of overdose or just further complicating their addiction,” Zorrozua said.
“It’s also concerning as a community member because you know that doesn’t end with them. One day they’re going to have kids and when they come back to school they’re going to be using at school,” he said.
Dolle called the district “amazing.”
“I’ve been on the school board for over 12 years, and I’m very proud of the work that has happened while I’ve been on the school board,” Dolle said. “Cheney School District is a great place to have your kids and raise children, and our district has some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever seen. Some of the work that goes on people don’t realize how much effort, time, emotion and heart that our staff, teachers and students put into the work.”
Zorrozua said he’s ready to start to work for change.
“I really hope that all the people that voted for me in the primary fill out their ballot and send them in so I can start bringing these concerns to light,” Zorrozua said. “And I really hope that people recognize that whether you agree with me or not I am committed to being a representative and taking concerns that people have to the board and making sure that their voices are heard.”
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