Three-way race shaping up for school board

Four of five Snoqualmie Valley School District board positions are up for election this fall, with two contested races.

Three candidates — Geoffrey Doy, Scott Hodgins and Paul Houlridge — are running for position No. 1, which is being vacated by Rudy Edwards after 20 years. Craig Husa, who was appointed to the board in February, is running against Kevin Bardsley for position No. 3. That position has not had a representative serve a full term since Dave Reed resigned in October 2004.

Two board members — Marci Busby for position No. 4 and Dan Popp for position No. 5 — are running unopposed.

Whatever the outcome, the board will have only two members with more than one year of experience.

Nevertheless, the new board will face many challenges. The district’s budget problems are expected to continue for at least another year. The board will likely still be faced with what many see as inadequate state funding. The board will have to find a solution to the district’s increasing student population, and will also have to tackle what has become a growing criticism among Valley parents — a lack of effective communication with the community.

The board’s longest-serving member, Rudy Edwards, will not be around to help with these issues. Edward’s exit after 20 years, leaves position No. 1 wide open for the three candidates on the ballot for the August 18 primary election.

While the candidates agree on many issues, they are focused on very different things. Doy has made getting more state money a top priority in his campaign. Building new facilities to accommodate the district’s projected increase in enrollment is the priority for Hodgins, who has a background in school construction. Houlridge wants the district to re-focus on the basics of education, which, he says, it has strayed from.

The candidates agree that the district must carefully manage its money during the economic recession, but they differ on particulars. Doy is emphasizing Olympia’s role in the budget crisis. Hodgins wants the district to be better prepared next time the economy stalls. Houlridge says teacher cuts should be kept to an absolute minimum, even if it means cutting programs the district and board opted to keep in the current budget reduction.

The school board and district have been criticized by community members for poor communication in recent years. Two candidates have picked up the issue.

Hodgins said the board needs to “provide leadership.”

“They didn’t really lay out an effective communication plan” during recent bond measures, he said.

Houlridge is calling for increased accountability for the board and more open debate at its meetings.

“Where’s the debate? This is a public entity, and in all the meetings I’ve been to, there never seems to be any debate. They listen and they vote,” he said. “Our school district needs more leadership.”

The lack of discussion is hampering the board’s effectiveness, he said.

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