Abbott, Worthington face off for Oak Harbor School Board position
By REBECCA OLSON
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
October 11, 2011 · Updated 1:42 PM
As Christine Abbott and John Worthington run for position 2 on the Oak Harbor School Board, they agree they will bring unique perspectives to the board as a parent and a teacher.
Abbott said that as a full-time mother and military spouse, she will bring new thoughts to the school board.
“I have a larger investment in making this a good district,” Abbott said. Her three children attend Oak Harbor schools in kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grade and she plans that they will all graduate from Oak Harbor High School.
Worthington is a retired Navy captain. He said his five years of experience teaching science at North Whidbey Middle School will help the school board realize the challenges teachers face.
“I have looked behind the curtain and been in the classroom and seen truly what teachers face in the classroom,” Worthington said.
Both candidates said the largest issue affecting schools is state and federal funding cuts.
Abbott attended school district budget workshops in Olympia and the local meetings and she said she understands various sides of the issues.
“Funding’s not ever going to be there so I think we need to find creative ways to adjust the agenda. Right now, I don’t think we’re in panic mode to start cutting,” Abbott said.
She said she plans to look at programs like athletics in new ways so they don’t risk elimination. Abbott said she would support a levy for textbooks and all-day every day kindergarten but she’s realistic about the failure rate of levies in Oak Harbor.
“We are between a rock and a hard spot. We truly are,” Worthington said about funding cuts. He said he sees no easy fix for it.
As a teacher, he worked to maintain quality education without adding costs. To improve standardized testing scores, Worthington and other teachers emphasized everyday that students should care about doing well on the tests. Those who scored well participated in a party, Worthington said.
When North Whidbey Middle School cut back on custodians to save money, Worthington and other teachers resorted to sweeping their own classrooms. He said he supports cutting in areas that don’t affect students’ success as much as losing teachers, which exacerbates growing class sizes.
Increasing class size wasn’t only difficult when Worthington taught; overcrowding made Worthington’s science classes dangerous as too many students crowded into labs equipped with glass beakers and burners.
Abbott is also concerned about rising class sizes. She would advocate for more groups and parents to get involved with the schools to provide extra, free help in the classroom.
Abbott can often be found volunteering in her children’s classrooms. Even a task as simple as letting children read to her is vital because it helps students learn to speak articulately and it provides students with someone who is there just to listen, Abbott said.
“I understand what goes on at the building level,” Abbot said.
She’s been on the Parent-Teacher Association for Hillcrest Elementary for two years and is the District Parent Advisory Committee representative.
If elected, Abbott’s weightiest goal is to advocate for free all-day every day kindergarten, which was recently reduced to every other day to cut transportation costs.
Kindergarten is the basis of education. The district can’t be competitive without a solid base, Abbott said.
However, at the school board meeting to discuss cutting kindergarten, only three parents spoke, whereas at the meeting to eliminate the swim team, more than 40 parents attended, Abbott said. If elected, one of Abbott’s goals is to get parents more involved with school board issues and meetings.
“Huge issues and decisions are being made without parents realizing,” Abbott said.
Worthington’s goal is to get parents more involved in their students’ education because that’s what he sees as the number one key to student success. It’s an area that doesn’t cost any money but is vital, he said.
One way he’d like to address this is to have parents of students in advanced classes write five things they do to make education important at home and then distribute that as a primer to other parents.
“Kids need to know education is important to their family. Education is the coin of our nation. It’s the key to breaking out of poverty,” Worthington said.
While teaching, Worthington realized how much of their own unpaid time teachers spend preparing for the school year during the summer. He supports teachers being paid for working 11 months out of the year instead of only for the school year.
Worthington said he’d be an “easy fit” on the school board because he has spent 40 years working collaboratively with people in the Navy, as the manager of an aerospace company and as a teacher. He has already formed relationships with current board members through the Navy and church. If elected, he plans to remain on the board for as long as he is needed to help make a difference for the schools, Worthington said.
Abbott said she’d fit in well with the board because she understands their goal of producing educated students that will continue on to college, the military or other career paths. Her goal as a board member would be to help open the paths for student success. She has attended many school board meetings and has relationships with many teachers. If elected, she plans to remain on the board long-term.
Ballots will be in the mail next week for the Nov. 8 general election.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Rebecca Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5052.