News

Public has chance to grill two candidates

White River board expected to name school chief this week

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

After grilling candidates in an open question-and-answer forum, community members told the White River School District board of directors they are looking for, among other things, a superintendent who is "approachable," "truly listens to our concerns" and is "best-suited to lead us through changes."

Approximately 40 community and staff members showed up Thursday night at the Glacier Middle School annex auditorium to meet the district's finalists - Tom Lockyer and Steve Webb - for the superintendent's opening. Current Superintendent Jay Hambly will retire in June.

Lockyer is currently superintendent of the Ocean Beach School District in Washington. Lockyer and his wife began their teaching careers in California. The couple also spent 11 years teaching on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany before moving to Montana, where they both moved into the administrative field. Lockyer has been with the Ocean Beach district, headquartered in Ilwaco and serving all of the Long Beach Peninsula and surrounding area, for the past few years.

He is familiar with the Plateau, he said, because he breeds and shows dogs and has attended many events at the King County Fairgrounds in Enumclaw.

Webb is deputy superintendent for secondary teaching and learning with the Lake Stevens School District. He told the group he attended the University of Puget Sound and Lewis and Clark College. He spent time teaching in the Sedro Woolley and Camas areas and was an administrator in Port Townsend and with the Peninsula School District before joining Lake Stevens. He, too, is familiar with the area, as his mother lives in Bonney Lake.

School Board President Jean Lacy said both are good candidates.

"I think it's going to be a very difficult decision," she told the group. "And with five people on the board I think there's going to be a lot of discussion."

School board members were scheduled to visit the Ocean Beach and Lake Stevens school districts Friday and Saturday and are expected to announce the superintendent choice Tuesday; that announcement was not expected in time to meet press deadlines.

"The process has been hard and it is going to continue to be hard," Lacy said.

The candidates were in town earlier in the week to meet with an interview group of community and staff members. Thursday evening's event was billed as "meet the community" night.

After a brief introduction, participants were divided in half and each got a turn to ask the candidates the tough questions. Topics included bond and levy campaigns, special education program, test scores and small schools to name a few.

Both candidates were recently part of successful bond passages in their districts.

Behind the Lockyer's leadership, Ocean Beach passed its first bond in 35 years. The bond will build schools to help reconfigure grades that were determined as a link to poor test scores.

When he arrived, he said the district's buildings were aligned in a K-3, 4-6 and 7-12 configuration, which had students entering into a new school and taking a high stakes test at the same time. The district also began bringing in literary and math specialists.

Lockyer said after two years scores are up.

"We've had gains. Are they enough? No," he said. To continue to improve, the district has changed its math curriculum and brought the students in as part of the decision-making process.

"We have done the things the community and board has challenged us to do to a point," he told the group. "I say that because we're never done."

Webb is in tune with a growing district. He said in the past 10 to 12 years, the Lake Stevens School District's student population has doubled.

In February, the district passed a $65 million levy with just under 73 percent voter support. He attributes the success to the work in the schools.

"That's the best PR," he said. "A community that feels they are getting its money worth in the classroom."

Webb also told the group he is driven by four values - integrity, joy, justice and family. He is also an advocate of personalizing secondary education.

After the Q and A, candidates were sent home and the board met with the community members to get their take.

Lacy said the decision will be hard and, of course, not everyone will think they made the right choice.

"Are we going to wonder should we have picked the other candidate? I'm sure there will be times we will," Lacy said, but asked the staff and community to embrace the selection. She said the board will continue to keep the district's children in mind while making its decision.

During the community forum, the board received high praise for its process and community members and staff applauded the board's persistence in sticking with the candidates who reflected the their concerns.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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