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Snoqualmie Valley school board hopefuls Craig Husa, Carolyn Simpson tout different approaches for change
Craig Husa and Carolyn Simpson have contrasting visions for change in local schools.
Both candidates for Snoqualmie Valley School District’s position 3 board seat answered questions at a Thursday, Sept. 15, Rotary Club candidate forum at the Ridge TPC.
Husa, the incumbent, stressed his collegiate, managerial approach, while Simpson took aim at weak points in local schools’ graduation and advancement rates and called for change at the top.
Low grad rates?
Simpson said statistics she found through the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation paint a troubling picture of the prospects of Valley students. Snoqualmie Valley schools have the worst drop-out rate on the Eastside, worst four-year graduation rate and a low rate of students who go on to college, she said.
“These are key indicators that we should be following to find out, are we doing our job as a community to educate young people?” Simpson said.
She said she’s never heard the dropout rate discussed at a school board meeting.
“Nor have I heard college acceptance rates or how many kids are going to college.” Simpson added that 50 percent of Mount Si graduates either never enroll in college, including community college, or drop out before they get a degree.
“I really want to change that, and we can do it with a change in philosophy and a change in curriculum,” she said.
“Our kids in the Snoqualmie Valley are not different from kids in the other Eastside schools,” she said. “They’re born with the same potential and we have to encourage that... We need to set these goals and reach for them.”
Many ways to help
Husa agreed that district should seek higher expectations, but said that dropout and college continuation issues are widespread for many schools, and that not all students are the same.
“You have to drill under the hood,” he said. He laid out a list of intervention efforts in Valley schools, from special education to programs for struggling learners.
“We’ve got Title I programs, Highly Capable, AP and Honors,” he said. “Each of those contribute to various ways of challenging and engaging our students.”
He talked about how changes at Two Rivers School—the transfer of Principal Tom Athanases to the district office to oversee intervention programs, and the hiring of Amy Montayne-Johnson, an energetic new principal—will help students with challenging situations find success.
“There are a lot of things we can do,” he said.
Asked to differentiate himself, Husa praised Simpson for her community work, but agreed that they have different styles.
“She comes to board meetings and has great ideas. We don’t always incorporate those ideas... One shouldn’t take offense to that. These are other decisions being made.”
Husa said he supports “student achievement and making the district as great as it can be. I have been involved with that, and would like to continue to be involved with that.”
Simpson said she shares some traits with Husa, but sees key differences. She stressed that change needs to come from the top.
“We need to change the way our school board operates,” Simpson said. “Our board should be the one setting the policy, developing a strategic plan, monitoring results with the administration. The format of the meetings should be focused on how well we are doing with respect to reaching our goals and holding everyone accountable.”
She also repeated her stance on higher education.
“We need to start talking to kids about college when they’re in middle school,” she said. “All of them should graduate with the tools in their tool box.. so that if they choose to, they are ready for college.”
• Last week’s forum was emceed by Valley Record Publisher William Shaw. Other Rotary candidate forums may follow this fall.