School board candidates meet at public forum

Bill Burnett, Frank Pulu and David Sherman are squaring off for Vicki Harring's spot on the Oak Harbor School Board in the Aug. 21 primary.

All three participated in a candidates night sponsored by the Whidbey News-Times and the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.

During their brief session before about 100 onlookers at the Senior Center, each candidate was asked to comment about the challenges the school district is facing, their current involvement in the schools, what the school district does well and whether they supported the recent stadium and high school bond proposals.

Burnett said the number one issue facing the school district is academics, most notably, math and science. He pushed his idea to use levy dollars to fund vouchers that will allow low-income parents to hire professional tutors for their children.

"It doesn't take away from public education. It enhances it," said Burnett, who is a systems analyst for Delex Systems.

He dodged a question from News-Times Publisher Marcia Van Dyke about his support of school levies. He noted the ones he backed, but didn't mention the most recent ones he argued against. He opposed the stadium bond election and high school remodel bond election, both of which won voter approval.

Pulu, who owns and operates the patriotic-themed Frank's Place restaurant on Highway 20 in Oak Harbor, said that solving school district's challenges starts in the home and the school district should ascertain student needs before considering more tax proposals.

"We shouldn't start raising taxes until we figure out what students really need," Pulu said. He supported the stadium and high school bonds.

Sherman, a construction project manager with 20 years of experience, said school challenges can be resolved by working together.

"We have to get students to buy in with what's being taught," Sherman said. He also supported the stadium and high school bonds.

Pulu said he's involved with schools through paying his taxes. One way he supports athletic teams is by sometimes giving the athletes free meals when they win. He also has two children attending Oak Harbor schools.

Burnett also has a child in school in Oak Harbor. His involvement in school revolves around his son and school events. He has also written numerous critical letters to the editor to comment on various issues facing the school district.

Work and family affairs take up most of Sherman's time, but he did serve on the budget reconciliation committee that helps resolve a funding shortfall. He sends his young children to a private school for religious reasons.

As for things the school district is doing well, Burnett highlighted the district's online family access system, which allows an easy way to monitor their children's academic progress. Pulu agreed with Burnett and pointed out the impressive number of 2007 graduates moving onto military academies in the fall. Sherman said the students are enthused about learning and that staff has a genuine concern for the kids.

They will speak again during a candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters on Thursday, Aug. 2, 7 p.m., at the school district administrative offices, 350 S. Oak Harbor St.

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