It was big win for educators in Tuesday’s primary election, as school employees rose to the top in races for Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors.
A broad slate of school board candidates was cut in half Tuesday. Six of the 12 running to lead Clark County’s second largest school district, three of whom are educators, will move on to the general election.
The past year has been historic for Vancouver Public Schools, marked by a teachers strike, budget cuts and pressure from declining enrollment. Heightened interest in school board positions is the latest chapter in that history, with three contested primary elections in a district that rarely sees any at all.
Position No. 1
Incumbent Dale Rice had a comfortable lead in his race, capturing 37.79 percent of the 15,767 votes cast. Newcomer Kyle Sproul, meanwhile, took second place with 32.52 percent of the vote.
Sproul, a business professional with a background in marketing, said the results suggest voters in the school district are ready for change.
“I offer the perspective of a current parent. I’m in the schools. I understand what’s currently going on,” she said.
Rice, an investment adviser, could not be reached on Tuesday night. He’s been on the school board for 29 years, and has touted his business acumen as he’s pursued yet another term.
Caressa Milgrove, a mother and local political advocate, took 20.98 percent of the vote, and Thomas Higdon, a Republican precinct committee officer, fell to the bottom of the pack with 8.71 percent.
Position No. 4
Lisa Messer and Kathy Decker, both teachers, were neck and neck leading their race. Messer, a Heritage High School science teacher, received 29.12 percent of the 15,764 votes cast, while Decker, an early childhood educator, received 28.26 percent of the vote.
Robert Stewart, a financial adviser for Columbia Credit Union, was in a close third with 26.41 percent of the vote. Lindsey Luis, a recent Fort Vancouver High School graduate, took 16.21 percent of the vote.
Neither Decker nor Messer were surprised to see two teachers leading the pack.
“It’s time to listen to our educators,” Messer said.
Decker recently quit her job as a kindergarten teacher at Peter S. Ogden Elementary School in order to run for school board. She said she hopes voters will continue to recognize what her experience can bring to the district.
“Voters are tired of not being listened to, and they want to see the programs that we’re putting in place at the school district that have some basis in educational sense and research,” she said.
Position No. 5
Tracie Barrows, a school psychologist in Evergreen Public Schools, led with a comfortable margin on Tuesday: 44.69 percent of the 15,685 votes cast. Chris Lewis, a certified public accountant, was in second with 26.29 percent of the votes.
Jennifer Hawks-Conright and Scott Dalesandro trailed with 15.4 percent and 13.63 percent, respectively.
Barrows has said she’ll draw on her experience working with children, particularly those from low-income families or those with mental health issues.
“I think the community is really speaking and letting it be known that they value educators and they value people that understand education in making decisions for our schools,” she said.
Lewis couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, but has said his experience as an accountant will help as the district steers difficult budget decisions in the coming years.