Mar 12, 2008

Olympia School Board applicant forum recap

Twenty people showed up to ask fifteen questions of three applicants for the District 2 seat. On average, how many times did the words "difficult," "listening," "students," "sustainable," and "experience" appear in each answer? Show your work.

Okay, pencils down.

All in all, an interesting two hours (blogged in more detail here) as Theresa Tsou, Paul Parker, and John Keeffe fielded questions from the audience, mediated by Peter Rex, the District's communication director.

One common theme: the importance of bringing all stakeholders to the table when making some pretty tough decisions about the current budget crisis, which was described as "difficult," "not easy," and "painful" throughout the evening. The more I think about it, the more I am impressed that these three have come forward.

Tsou again focused on the diversity she could bring to the Board, and emphasized narrowing the achievement gap for disadvantaged students, a subject that caused her to become a little emotional at several points.

Parker took the most charged approach to a question about the Board's division, questioning its premise that the schism is based on issues rather than on process. He mentioned his experience working with different partisan groups, reaching across the aisle to reach compromise or consensus.

Keeffe emphasized his previous experience, and mentioned time and again just how difficult the upcoming budget battle would be. He said he would listen to all points of view, and make the decision he thought best for the students. In his words, "Consensus is wonderful, but decisions are also important."

The audience was mostly quiet throughout, with only a brief moment of applause from a corner of the room when Keeffe mentioned the importance of civility in the Board's interactions.

If Russ Lehman is able to return to health within the coming weeks, the Board may be able to choose Nafziger's replacement by its preferred deadline of March 19. If no decision is made by April 13, the decision goes upstairs to ESD 113, which sent one of its Board members to watch the proceedings tonight.

As I see it, the Board has the advantage of three strong remaining choices. The upside is that they can't make a truly wrong decision. The downside is that the decision will be just that much harder to make.

I'll post an analysis of The Olympian's writeup as soon as it appears. Old media takes time.

No comments: