This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
After the Nov. 8 election, the Puyallup School Board will have at least two newcomers. They’ll have to hit the ground running, because they’ll have a lot on their plate from Day 1.
The board faces challenges that include hiring a new superintendent and coping with even more budget cuts likely to come down from the state Legislature. It will also decide on grade realignment that would shift ninth-graders into the district’s high schools.
Fortunately, voters have some good candidates from which to choose.
• Position 2: One of the best candidates we spoke with this election cycle is Therese Ngo Pasquier, director of development with the Tacoma Philharmonic. She’d be an excellent addition to the school board.
Besides an impressive personal story – she fled from Vietnam with her family to this country at age10 speaking no English and graduated from high school as valedictorian – Pasquier has been active for years in the district and her community.
She has served on the Citizens Committee for Education, the Parent Involvement Task Force and the Secondary Grading Practices Committee and has twice been a PTA president. She’s served on the boards of Good Samaritan Hospital, the Emergency Food Network and St. Francis House.
Pasquier sees a pressing need to improve communication through social media and for district leadership to be more engaged and collaborative with the community. That could help prevent the kind of flare-up that occurred when former Rogers High School principal Scott Brittain was disciplined.
Her opponent, former pro football player Dane Looker, tried to withdraw from the primary race, but the deadline had passed. Although he did not actively campaign during the primary, he still came in second. In late August he said that he wouldn’t actively run for the seat so that he could focus on a 2012 bid for the state House of Representative.
Puyallup deserves a board member whose attention is squarely on the schools, not on running for higher office. Voters should elect Pasquier.
• Position 3: This race pits Eatonville Dispatch editor Pat Jenkins against attorney Klaus Snyder. Either would be acceptable, but we lean toward Jenkins because he seems to have a better understanding of a school board’s role: setting policy and providing oversight of the administration.
Snyder sees a more hands-on role for school board members to communicate directly with staff who may have disagreements with the superintendent. That’s not an appropriate position for school board members; it can seriously undercut the superintendent’s authority.
• Position 5: Chris Ihrig, a human resource consultant, was appointed to the seat two years ago and now is seeking his first full term. He should get it.
His opponent, homemaker Kathy Uphaus, was motivated to run mainly by the Brittain issue, which she believes was mishandled by the board. She would be fine if elected, but Ihrig takes a bigger-picture approach to the district’s issues. He is thoughtful, collaborative and knowledgeable about the challenges facing Puyallup schools. District voters should return him to the board.