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Evergreen District 4 candidates focus on inclusion, community relations

Evergreen Public Schools voters are faced with a choice between a candidate whose main mission is to promote positive relationships between the district and the community, and another who said she would champion inclusion for the district’s diverse student body.

Incumbent Rachael Rogers, a Clark County senior deputy prosecutor, is challenged by Divya Jain, a business analyst. Both met with The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Tuesday to share their visions for the District 4 seat.

Rogers, who was appointed to the seat in February to replace Todd Yuzuriha, said her top priority is fostering relationships between the board and families who live and attend school in the district.

“I’m committed to responsible decision making and inclusive, collaborative decision making,” Rogers said. “I think it’s really important to have community input.”

Jain, meanwhile, focused on her experience as an Indian woman and the mother of students of color in the school district. She noted that her daughters faced teasing in school, and she said she believes she would bring a voice to underrepresented groups.

“I believe inclusivity in our schools will empower our students,” said Jain, who if elected would be the only person of color on the board. “I have met so many people who have shared their painful stories and are hopeful for change if I’m elected.”

Evergreen Public Schools is Clark County’s largest school district, with a $385 million general fund budget and about 26,000 students. About 44 percent identify as students of color, and 51 percent receive free- or reduced-price lunch, a barometer of poverty in a school district.

Jain is the mother of two girls who have graduated from the Evergreen school district. She recalled how her daughter once took Indian food for lunch, and a boy in her class turned to her and said, “Ew.” From there, Jain was inspired to champion the Passport Club at Illahee Elementary School, an optional enrichment program that allowed students to study countries around the world.

“Kids were becoming more culturally educated,” Jain said. “They were respectful and making better friends.”

Rogers is a mother of two young children in the school district. She said she was prompted to run after last year’s teacher strikes, which were exacerbated by what she described as a “breakdown in communication” and “a lack of transparency.”

“Nobody won in the teacher strike,” Rogers said.

Both praised the district for its series of public forums to discuss the district budget, which included about $11 million in cuts.

“It was really nice, and I want to continue doing that,” Jain said of the community meetings. “It brings transparency with our communities.”

Most of those cuts came from central administration. Rogers said she was pleased to see cuts stay out of the classroom.

“The budget gave us an opportunity to figure out where we could cut, and where we could be more effective and efficient with our tax dollars,” she said. “I agree with what our board decided.”

Voters in Evergreen Public Schools must also choose between incumbent Rob Perkins, a software developer, and Bethany Rivard, a teacher in neighboring Vancouver Public Schools. Victoria Bradford is also running to keep her seat, but is unopposed.

Election day is Nov. 5, and ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 18.


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