School Board candidates spar at Rotary forum

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Lynne Lynch/Columbia Basin Herald Rotarian Pete Erickson asks a question of school board candidates during a Thursday Rotary meeting. Rotarians Delone Krueger and Kent Jones are also pictured.

MOSES LAKE — Two candidates for the Moses Lake School Board talked about how to best advance career and technical education in the district, disagreed about the future of the district and even about number of students at Moses Lake High School during a candidate forum on Wednesday.

Incumbent board president Kevin Donovan and challenger Elliott Goodrich spoke Wednesday at the Pillar Rock Grill to the Rotary Club of Moses Lake, which sponsored the forum.

“When I ran in 2009, I didn’t have an agenda. I ran because I wanted to serve the children of our community,” said Donovan, who is finishing his second term on the school board. “Because I believe we should put every effort into our future, into the kids of Moses Lake.”

Donovan said he sees the greatest challenges facing the school distract as overcrowding, the current uncertainty over state funding for public schools, and the teacher shortage, which Donovan said the district managed to stay a step ahead of thanks to aggressive recruiting.

“We’re winning,” he said. “Moses Lake is recognized as one of the best areas to teach.”

Goodrich, however, said he has an agenda, that there are a number of things in the school district that need to be changed and improved.

“We need better outcomes for our students,” Goodrich said, noting that only around three out of every four freshmen on average graduate from high school.

The Moses Lake schools also don’t do as well as they can preparing students who aren’t interested in going to college for work, especially in skilled trades.

“We can get more out of CB Tech. We can produce a better product,” Goodrich said.

“I don’t know how many of you would be satisfied at your business if you only had a 74 percent completion rate for your projects or your products,” he added. “That’s not good enough for me, and I think we can do better.”

“In fact, we need to demand that we do better,” Goodrich added.

Donovan said he would continue to advocate with district administrators for alternate paths for kids to satisfy graduate requirements and acquire the skills that make them readily employable.

Goodrich said last February’s $135 million school construction bond — which is currently being held up in court following a challenge to the election certification — is a “boondoggle that will harm our community in so many ways.”

“That second high school will not be full until 2055,” he said. “That’s almost 40 years now. It will need to be remodeled before it’s used.”

Capacity for additional students could be added to deal with overcrowding, Goodrich said, for $20-$40 million rather than $135 million.

Goodrich also addressed concerns that school district employees improperly contacted voters whose ballot signatures were either missing or did not match as “ethically questionable” and that administrators still represent the district whether they are at work or not.

“I feel they have been dishonest with the community,” he said.

Donovan, however, reminded the Rotarians that in three separate bond elections, a majority of school district residents supported building a new high school, and that last February’s bond did, in fact, pass, and the election was certified by the county auditor.

“The school district is not a part of the lawsuit,” he said.

The district is going ahead with site selection and design preparations for a new high school and a new elementary school, but as long as the bonds aren’t sold, nothing can be built. And as long as the election is caught up in court, the bonds can’t be sold.

“Every single day there is a delay, it costs us additional funds,” Donovan said. “If the suit is still pending in May 2018, we won’t be breaking ground.”

Goodrich said that even if the Washington State Court of Appeals rules soon, whoever loses could appeal to the State Supreme Court, dragging the fate of the bond election “out for years.”

“They’re wasting our money right now,” he said.

A better answer would be a settlement that would allow the plaintiffs to drop the suit — a settlement that would give everyone some of what they wanted and left everyone “a little angry.”

“That’s a successful compromise,” he said.

The election for the Moses Lake School District is set for Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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