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Candidates for the Scappoose School Board respond to questions from the Columbia County Spotlight.

Five candidates filed by last week's deadline for three seats on the board of directors for the Scappoose School District, which are up in the May 18 election.

The Spotlight reached out to these five candidates with questions about their goals and their views on education in Scappoose. Their full responses follow below, edited only for grammar and style.

COURTESY PHOTO - Tanya FrancisWhat are your goals for the district and for students heading through 2021?

Tanya Francis, Zone 3: I would like to see as many of our students safely returned to school, and be the voice of the parents and students of the district.

Summer Stutsman-Hoag, Zone 3: This is my first time running for Scappoose school board. My priority is the children in our district. This past year has been difficult and our children have gone through things that most have never experienced in their childhood. Working in the pediatric ICU, I have seen firsthand the challenges that this last year has brought to children.

Our children need to get back to in-person school safely, and I hope that our district can do this based on the available data. The district will need to catch some kids up, push others to stay focused, and return some normalcy to all of their lives. To do this, we will need to not only focus on academics, but also focus on the mental and physical health of all our students.

COURTESY PHOTO - Summer Stutsman-HoagWe will also need to support our teachers as they continue to work through the challenges that this pandemic has brought. Some will be teaching students to read, some will find themselves reteaching students how to read and write, and others will be focusing on keeping our graduation rates one of the highest in the state of Oregon.

Timothy B. Williamson, Zone 4: My goals for the district and for the students going forward include full-access in-person learning. Students in class learning and growing with an educator they trust and know, who cares about their academic and personal health and well-being. Fully restored sports and extracurricular activities, our children thrive when they have the ability to socialize and grow together. Online learning, while it may be the answer for a few families, has become a massive burden on most families.

According to the CDC, parents whose children were learning in a remote or partly remote setting were more likely to report that their children spent diminished time outside, in physical activity, or interacting with friends. They were also more likely to say their children's mental or emotional health was worse.

Phil Lager, Zone 4: As I seek my next term on the Scappoose School Board, I reflect on feedback from the community and personal experience that our district needs to continue to work on timely and relevant communications to our families.

As the pandemic has changed our way of life both temporarily and in some aspects for the foreseeable future, I will continue to push to get our kids and staff back to normalcy within our building and kids back in seats.

We are down more than 400 students in enrollment, and I want to see a plan to get all or most of those kids back. That requires the district demonstrating to the families that have left, that we put out a superior product and have a compelling story as to why their students should be back in our schools.

Lastly, as a parent of five kids that are currently enrolled in our district, I want to see a focus on building and strengthening our STEAM and CTE programs. The majority of our students leave Scappoose after graduation and are not pursuing a four-year degree, and we are not doing enough to serve those students. As parents and leaders in our community, it is on our shoulders to keep every door open as long as possible to all opportunities for all of our students. One way we can do that is expose these students to as many career and life paths as possible; that is partially done through CTE opportunities, as well as STEAM programs.

Gwynn Klobes, Zone 5: I have always been passionate about education, and my hope is that every single student can find their own path to success through the Scappoose educational system. I am particularly passionate about making sure Scappoose students are prepared for their future whether it is trade school, college or a career. I know first-hand how to make that happen, as I work at the college level in assisting students define their strengths and prepare for a career in the real work. I will bring this experience to the Scappoose School Board.

What do you believe teachers have learned during these several months of distance learning?

Tanya Francis: Distance learning has certainly been a learning experience for our community, and the country in large. As a parent, I have seen the tremendous amount of work our teachers and principals have endured this last year, as well as their incredible ability to be flexible in an ever-changing time. I applaud their dedication during a very difficult time.

Summer Stutsman-Hoag: I believe teachers have all learned why they are in this profession. They are here for the kids, and they miss them. They have such a special job, and they make such an impact on our children. I hope that they know how much our children miss them.

Sure, they have also all learned a lot about technology and disinfecting spaces, but most importantly, our teachers have learned how to adapt quickly to changes. They have had to be creative to get kids to stay focused while teaching over the internet, and some have even gone out of their way to deliver schoolwork to students at home.

I have the utmost respect for the time and effort teachers have always given their jobs, but this year, they are doing it without the joy of being with their students and watching them learn and grow, which must be one of the most difficult things that they have ever done.

COURTESY PHOTO - Timothy B. WilliamsonTimothy B. Williamson: I believe educators have learned that through remote or partly remote learning, they do not have the needed face-to-face interactions with their students. Throughout the school year, an educator gets to know their student, academically and personally; they learn when a student is upset, depressed and excited.

Educators are trained to interpret and understand a student's social and behavioral cues; distance learning has made this very difficult for them and therefore limited the ability of educators to gauge the student's level of interaction and understanding.

Phil Lager: I would not want to speak on behalf of every teacher as I do not walk in their shoes. But it is my opinion that the vast majority of our teachers and other staff members have worked their tails off to deliver education in a new way that many have never done. It is my experience that most teachers would prefer to interact with their students in person and that they are more than eager to get back to that exact thing.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Phil LagerI also know that many teachers have children, so like many of us, those children are at home while they are working/teaching; they have learned or acquired an unprecedented level of patience, time management and flexibility. I could truly not imagine being a teacher at home with small children trying to organize their learning remotely while teaching 30+ students in their own classes.

Gwynn Klobes: I don't believe the learning is limited to teachers. Instead, I believe we all have learned as a society about the opportunities and challenges of learning on line.

I have heard many parents that appreciate teachers more now that they see what it takes each and every day to keep students on track. Teachers have had to learn to pivot to an entirely new methodology to keep students engaged with different types of distractions.

Moving forward, and considering the pandemic and how it has affected education, do you think the educational model will change, and in what ways?

Tanya Francis: I wholeheartedly believe that the educational model will change. During the pandemic, I think it is safe to say that it has become very clear that there are different models and approaches to education.

Having said that, we do need to keep in mind that socializing with peers is an integral part of a student's education, and while I do believe there is room for adjusting our current education model, I do not believe we should dismiss the importance of social interaction amongst students.

Summer Stutsman-Hoag: The pandemic has affected education and this generation of students, but it is important to look at the data from the past year and learn from it. Our schools have found an overwhelming link between students not attending live classes and poor grades. Many students have found it difficult to stay engaged and learn if they were not in a physical classroom. This, I believe, has created a wider gap between academic levels which will need to be addressed.

My hope is that our schools' physical environment can get back to "normal" for students. We can also look at student performance data from the past year and see what was successful and possibly adopt those ways of teaching. The pandemic greatly changed the way in which students use technology to learn. This was particularly true in Scappoose, as other districts may have used technology more routinely than our district had, which left our students and teachers with a large learning curve. As we move forward, we can use technology to our advantage to prepare our students for a successful future.

Timothy B. Williamson: I believe the educational model will forever be changed. Change can be wonderful and energizing to a school district or community, but distance learning is not the "way of the future." These months of remote learning has taught us the importance of the brick-and-mortar educational model. Families are realizing the importance of in person education for their children, the social development through interaction with friends and educators.

Distance learning has also hampered the ability of the community to be part of the educational process, such as sports, booster clubs, PTA, and fundraisers. A survey from the Association on Higher Education and Disability found that students with disabilities were more likely to experience difficulty with accessing the internet, technology training and support, course materials and assessments, as well as using learning management systems and communicating with instructors.

Phil Lager: The educational model is always changing; things like a global pandemic just force change faster. I have always chosen to support public education, as my wife and I have five kids in public school. I also believe my choice is not necessarily for others. I support others in choosing what's best for their kids. I have always supported charter schools as an option for parents and I know many who have had their students in and out of private schools, both faith-based and online charter. I support these parents as well.

For me, this pandemic has put pressure on public schools to up their game. This does not mean we don't have hardworking people in our buildings; it means to me that we can do things differently, remove barriers for better access to more opportunities, and strategically offer support to all of our staff, which can help free up time to do what they are trained to do, which is teach, develop and strengthen our ties to parents and seek parental involvement.

COURTESY PHOTO - Gwynn KlobesLastly I would say we need to focus on customer service. Our district has over 2,000 customers utilizing our service; we either choose to offer exemplary service at every turn, or our customers will take their business somewhere else. I do not want to lose one student.

Gwynn Klobes: Since I work in education, I know that things will change. Some students have done well online where others feel less engaged in the learning process. I really believe we have had many science experiments going on the past year what works best for our students.

Moving forward, I believe an open and honest conversation needs to occur about how we can assist in our student successes now in school and into their futures. I also believe we are all better off in society when all student's success is realized and every voice heard.

As a member of the Scappoose School Board, I will listen to the experience of the community, review pertinent data and use collaborate governance with stakeholders before making decisions that affect our students.

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