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Our choices for Tacoma Public Schools: Gordon, Vialle

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
October 21, 2011 3:07 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Tacoma voters this year enjoy an embarrassment of riches in their school board candidates.

Three of the best candidates we’ve ever seen have stepped forward to help govern Tacoma Public Schools, one of the most complex and challenging school districts in the country. And the fourth candidate is no slouch.

Tacoma’s schools need the best oversight possible. They struggle with poverty, an unacceptable dropout rate and a frustratingly persistent achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent classmates. This gap often breaks along racial lines, between white and Asian students on one hand and black and Hispanic students on the other.

The school board plays a crucial role in addressing these problems.

Running for Position 3 are the stellar Dexter Gordon and Scott Heinze.
Heinze has a remarkable breadth of experience. He’s been an aide to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a police officer, a homeland security adviser to state leaders, among other positions. He’s exceptionally bright and is currently working toward a doctorate at Gonzaga University.

Gordon, a distinguished professor at the University of Puget Sound, also has formidable credentials. In particular, he has immense expertise on the achievement gap and has led major forums designed to identify solutions.
Either Gordon or Heinze would be great assets for the school board and the entire district. We tip toward Gordon, but it’s a very tough choice.

The race for Position 5 is an easier call.

Kim Washington – like Gordon, a candidate with a doctorate – has been a college administrator and teacher. She hasn’t mounted a vigorous campaign and in any event is outmatched by her opponent, Karen Vialle.

Vialle’s résumé is startlingly deep. She has served on the Tacoma City Council and was the city’s mayor for four years. She has been executive director of Centro Latino. Her earlier career includes a stint as an assistant professor and extensive budget and administrative experience in state government.

She’s been heavily involved in Tacoma Public Schools. She was active in the PTA at Geiger Elementary and Foss High School; she’s also a member of the mayor’s education task force. On top of that, she has taught for the last seven years at Sheridan Elementary and Lister Elementary, high-poverty schools.
Strong personalities often come with liabilities.

The flipside of Vialle’s relentless drive is a tendency toward impatience and abrasiveness with people she doesn’t agree with.

Still, her career has prepared her superbly for the Tacoma School Board, where she would be death on complacency in the school system. She and Gordon get our enthusiastic endorsement.

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