One of two contested Evergreen Public Schools races this election cycle pits an incumbent board member against a classroom teacher, a match-up highlighting the key issues in this year’s school board campaigns.
Incumbent Rob Perkins, a software developer, and challenger Bethany Rivard, a Fort Vancouver High School teacher, are facing off for the District No. 2 seat on the Evergreen school board. Evergreen is Clark County’s largest school district with more than 25,000 students and 36 schools.
The two met with The Columbian Editorial Board Wednesday to present their cases. Both had praise for how the district is operating, but Rivard believes having a teacher on the board would allow the district to better reach its staff, students and other groups in the district “who need more engagement.”
“I’m running to add the voice of an educator,” she said. “I have the experience with board policy, experience being in Olympia and lobbying for things I think need to happen.”
Perkins, meanwhile, said he was committed to building relationships with teachers and other members of the community to build schools where all students feel safe and supported.
“Since my appointment we’ve always been focused on trying to set the schools up to mitigate the problems and frictions that come with being in minority, being in poverty, having … neurodivergence,” he said.
The past year has brought significant upheaval for all Clark County school districts, Evergreen Public Schools included. Teachers in most districts went on days-long strikes last summer, and districts have since tackled budget cuts and, for some, declining enrollment.
Evergreen Public Schools adopted a general fund budget of approximately $385 million last month, which reflected cuts to address an $11 million budget deficit. Both Perkins and Rivard praised the school district for its handling of its budget cuts, which included the elimination of 32 central office positions and reductions on instructional technology.
“We wanted to keep it so a student wouldn’t necessarily notice there were cuts, and I think that was accomplished,” Perkins said.
Still, Rivard said she believed the school district could have done more to prioritize classroom services during last year’s budget cycle, scaling back on classroom technology and central administrative costs sooner to ease this year’s cuts.
“We can’t have everything we had before, but what’s most important to the community? Direct services to children,” she said.
Voters in Evergreen Public Schools will vote in two contested school board seats: District No. 2 and District No. 4. Rachael Rogers, a Clark County senior deputy prosecutor, was appointed to the position in March, and is running to keep her seat. Divya Jain, a project manager at the Bonneville Power Administration, is running against her. Longtime incumbent Victoria Bradford is also running to keep her District No. 3 seat, but is uncontested.