Chimacum school board candidates debate role

Opponents agree on importance of community partnerships

Posted 10/16/19

The Chimacum School District candidates’ forum Oct. 14 managed to fit in the six total candidates vying for the Position 2, 3 and 4 seats, starting with Mike Aman and Mickey Nagy facing off over the open Position 2 seat on the board.

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Chimacum school board candidates debate role

Opponents agree on importance of community partnerships

Posted

The Chimacum School District candidates’ forum Oct. 14 managed to fit in the six total candidates vying for the Position 2, 3 and 4 seats, starting with Mike Aman and Mickey Nagy facing off over the open Position 2 seat on the board.

Both Aman and Nagy introduced themselves as Chimacum High School alumni with children who have also attended Chimacum schools, but while Aman sees the primary obstacle facing the district as persuading parents to “choose Chimacum,” Nagy expressed more concern with what he saw as the school board deferring to the superintendent.

Aman praised the existing school district as “a pretty good crew,” even as he acknowledged that they could stand to “tighten up” their efforts to ensure they’re working on “the same team,” rather than having “a few go in different directions,” Nagy asserted that the district is not capitalizing sufficiently upon its surrounding resources, whether by making use of the fish hatchery on its property, visiting nearby farms rather than focusing on an on-campus garden, or partnering with area businesses to offer internships and focus more on the trades for those students who aren’t on a college track.

When asked to list their top priorities, Nagy listed the development of performance criteria, shoring up the budget by allowing some students to pursue independent studies, so that more time can be devoted to struggling students, and fostering a greater sense of community, in part by calling for more constructive criticism.

Aman again led with improving the image of the school district, by exhorting school staff and families to “share the good stories” about Chimacum, and even encouraged parents to be a positive example to their children, before identifying student absenteeism as a problem for the district that needs to be addressed.

When one parent who was also a Chimacum alumna asked how the candidates would persuade her to stick with Chimacum, Aman pointed out that Chimacum had succeeded in educating her, and to trust that the district was on a “positive path” for her children who are still attending schools here, whereas Nagy said, “It’s not my job to convince you to stay,” but he does see it as his job to help Chimacum deliver an education “that’s second to none,” even if it means partnering with other districts and educational institutions.

Nagy was receptive to an audience member’s suggestion that Port Townsend and Chimacum combine their resources, and even floated the idea of one district focusing on trade education while the other focuses on liberal arts, but he ultimately agreed with Aman that such a move is unlikely in the near future, even though both men cited their backgrounds of having attended Port Townsend and Chimacum schools.

And while Aman believes that the superintendent has not been “running the show,” contrary to claims that the board has taken a backseat to the superintendent, Nagy believes the board has “needlessly tasked the superintendent with duties that more properly fall under the board’s purview, because “he’s got enough to do already.”

Position 3 is also an open seat, with another Chimacum High School alumnus and parent of Chimacum students, Steve Martin, going up against “lifelong educator” Kristina Mayer.

When asked if Chimacum could merge with other school districts “by degrees of collaboration,” Mayer asserted that it’s the Chimacum School District’s duty to provide the best educational opportunities possible, which might mean partnering with other districts or with businesses, but even when likening all these organizations to “a string of pearls,” she also considers it essential for Chimacum to “figure out what makes our pearl shimmer, in terms of unique traits.”

“Kristina and I are of like minds on this,” Martin said, pointing out that Port Townsend and Chimacum already partner in areas such as their pre-high school football program, even as he cited his own coaching experience to assert that Port Townsend and Chimacum children have two distinct community identities.

Martin welcomes extended discussions by the school board, so long as they’re held in full view of the public, and pledged to act as a conduit for the public’s input, while Mayer believes the board should exercise more clear and direct leadership, “rather than turning to the superintendent for the next move,” and should also take action based on the input the district has already solicited.

Mayer and Martin agreed on the importance of being accessible to the public, with Mayer calling for board members to utilize “all avenues” of reaching out, as well as to “meet people where they are” while Martin promised to arrive early to school board meetings, to mingle with attendees.

When asked their top priorities, Martin suggested hiring a public relations consultant to help the district improve its image, while also doing research to determine why participation in youth sports seems to be down, and “repairing the relationship” between the school board, the superintendent and the unions.

Mayer’s priorities also include getting people to “choose Chimacum” by highlighting the positives that the district has to offer, but first, he insisted the district must abandon the attitude that, “It’s just Chimacum.” She would also like to see the district capitalize upon the talent in its surrounding community, and to increase student participation in both athletic and academic extracurriculars.

On the matter of policy, Mayer sees it as the framework for the board’s decisions, and she lamented the existing board’s “lack of process” and absence of metrics for its objectives, while Martin expressed an interest in hearing whether any policies might have either enhanced or inhibited student learning.

In the Position 4 race, 40-year Chimacum educator Michael Raymond is the incumbent, having been appointed to the post in January, while Chimacum parent, school volunteer and small business owner Tami Robocker is his challenger.

Robocker called for the board to take more action, the district to increase its academic achievement, the community to be actively engaged, and teachers and staff to be supported, while Raymond believes increased student achievement relies upon research-based methods, using data to determine whether their programs have been effective.

Raymond also called for the board to assign calendar dates as deadlines for accomplishing each of its goals, even as he insisted that the input of taxpayers and stakeholders is necessary, because the board members “are representing you folks, and we can’t do this by ourselves.”

Robocker sees the need for a clear vision and roadmap from the board, and outlined her priorities of accountability, fostering a positive culture, and again, taking action.

When asked whether board members should visit classrooms, Robocker didn’t want teachers to feel “micromanaged,” but also suggested that each board member could be assigned a school building, to keep track of its progress.

Raymond reported he’s visited every Chimacum school building since January, but also said, “It’s not my job to ask intrusive questions,” even as he seeks to serve as “the eyes of the community.”

When one attendee pointed out that Chimacum is the only 1-A school without a rubberized track, Raymond agreed that such athletic expenses should be prioritized within the budget, when possible, to keep Chimacum’s student athletes competitive with other districts, while Robocker proposed further collaborations of athletic teams and resources between Chimacum and other districts, as they’ve already done with their tennis and swim teams.

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