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Island Forum

"Do you support the idea of asking the voters for a property tax levy to help pay for their schools next year? If so, what programs would you like to see created or changed? If there is no levy, what is the outlook for the local schools?Pos. 1KATHLEEN JONESAs a tax accountant, I could hardly be expected to call a tax increase a good thing, however, we must examine our needs and plan accordingly. Our faculty and administration do an amazing job of teaching our students. Look at the increases in test scores on the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning, which is supposed to measure how much students have actually learned. We have extraordinary people doing a difficult job with below-average resources, and until recently in below-average facilities. The bond issues voters approved make it possible to provide needed repairs and remodeling. The high school will need major repairs, and a bond issue will be sought to pay for that. What we hear from parents is they want more for their children. The things they want are not luxuries. Teachers and parents want smaller class sizes. They also want opportunities for extra instruction for students who need remediation. This could be expansion of before- or after-school tutoring, or expanded summer school classes. This district has experienced a dramatic increase in children with autism. Most teachers don’t have the training to know how to deal and teach these children. Parents have presented a specialized plan of instruction requiring special training for teachers. Community members have asked for stronger gifted and advanced placement courses, foreign language instruction in elementary schools and a hot lunch program. The School Board recently approved a budget which allowed little discretionary allocations. Most costs are fixed by the state. Without a levy, most of the requests we hear cannot be funded. If we want to create the type of school system the community can be proud of there is a price to pay. We have to weigh that price against what taxpayers are willing to pay for.Kathy Jones is owner of Jones Accounting Associates and has been married to Cmdr. J.J. Jones USN (Ret.) for 26 years. She is mother of Brian and Meghan, both graduates of Oak Harbor High School. She is running unopposed. Pos. 2VICKI HARRINGI strongly support a property tax levy as well as exploring other sources of revenue, such as the Department of Defense Impact Aid funds which are at least two years in arrears. Classrooms are overcrowded; textbooks are in short supply and we need to support our dedicated teachers and attract future quality teachers. We need to send a message that is loud and clear that quality schools and staff are important to our community.I’d like to see resources provided for special needs students at both ends of the ability spectrum as well as those who have behavior or motivation challenges. We can’t allow any of our students to fail due to lack of resources or imagination.If a levy is not approved, then we will be limited to critically reviewing the budget and evaluating programs or expenses that must be cut. Tough choices are sometimes a fact of life. Preparation for more rigorous graduation requirements and the state mandated Certificate of Mastery will certainly help us decide which classes and programs are most important.Vicki Harring has a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Maryland. For 18 years, she volunteered in five different public, private, overseas and domestic school systems while raising two dauthers with her husband, Dr. Ronald Harring. She is running unopposed.Pos. 3JOHN DYERThe question of local support for our schools can only be answered by defining the vision our community has for the Oak Harbor School District. If the vision we have for our students includes the need for a local contribution, then I will support it. The Oak Harbor School District is leading the way in the state reform effort. We have put in place a comprehensive approach to curriculum design and delivery that is well ahead of other districts. Student performance shows we are on the right track. Our test scores are above the state average, and improving. We have achieved this while spending less, per student, than the state average, and with no local levy. As a community, we now need to define our vision for the future. The vision must ensure that every student will succeed. The information gained from parents in the “Ideal Schools” forums and from district teachers tells us where this vision should focus. We need to provide a full spectrum of remediation that will ensure every child succeeds. We need to provide enrichment to all students. We need to provide full support for our special education population. We need to fully engage the family in their role as educator. The school board has instructed the district to put forth, with help from parents and community, comprehensive plans in these areas, along with progress assessment tools. I want every student to succeed. I believe that is the goal we all have. Our only option is to work together to create this vision and provide the resources needed to reach it. I am committed to help in the creation of this vision, and committed to making it happen. Failure to do so will be a failure to reach the goals we have for our children.John Dyer, an Oak Harbor police officer, has lived in Oak Harbor for 22 years and put two daughters through the Oak Harbor School system. He has been a member of the school board for eight years, and has been active with youth in programs ranging from the police department’s D.A.R.E. drug resistance program to youth sports. He faces challenger Bill Burnett in the Nov. 2 election.Pos.3BILL BURNETTI do not support the idea of asking the voters for a property tax levy next year. There is no expectation that this school board will have a plan in place by Spring 2000 that prioritizes the use of existing resources and clearly lays out priorities and needs for additional taxpayer dollars. Without a plan for justification, any levy proposal should fail; so one should not be proposed by Spring 2000. Nothing should happen without a plan.The greatest risk to any program created by a levy is the risk of future levy failure. This is especially true in Oak Harbor, where our lower wage community makes reliance on levies a questionable approach. Financial safeguards and escape plans must be built into any plan supported by a levy. If not, we could quickly end up in Dyer (sic) financial straits.Special education is an area in which a levy may be justifiable and still have acceptable escape plans. Assuming deficiencies exist, adequate numbers of staff, trained in the appropriate disabilities, would improve special education and could have a positive impact on basic education.Without a levy, the short-term outlook for our schools is no noticeable fiscal impact upon the quality of basic education in Oak Harbor. We are, for example, making acceptable progress toward the mandatory Washington State Assessment of Student Learning exam goals. Also, unlike other school districts, we receive about $3 million annually in impact aid from the Department of Education. We have received these funds for decades and fully expect to continue to receive them. Our superintendent has said these funds may increase in the near future.While assumptions may be generated to theorize levy justification, this school board has not proven levy justification.William G. “Bill” Burnett is an instructional design analyst for Delex Systems, Inc. He holds a bachelor of science in physical science from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., a masters of science in secondary education and a post-masters professional diploma in computers in education from Dowling College on Long Island, N.Y. Burnett is also a part-time science instructor at Skagit Valley College and holds Washington state teaching certifications in mathematics, science, and instructional technology. He and his wife Debbie, have a 5-year-old son, Tyler. His Web site is at www.pioneernet.net/bill_burnett. He is challenging incumbent John Dyer in the Nov. 2 election.Pos. 4BRIEN LILLQUISTNo, and I don't mean that to sound like I do not want to do my part in supporting our schools.It's time that they, the School Board, learn to live within their means. With over half of our property taxes going to support our schools system, it’s time to hold those we elected accountable to spend the money wisely and not keep coming back to us the taxpayers with hat in hand begging for more.Brien Lillquist, a Navy retiree, lives in the Oak Harbor School District. Pos. 4SUE WALLERA community should have high expectations for its schools, teachers, and students and it needs to provide the resources to realize those expectations. No one likes the prospect of additional taxes, but in Washington State our schools are adequately funded only when the voters of each school district endorse special levies to additionally tax themselves. As an incentive to the district and its taxpayers, the state will contribute matching money to Oak Harbor only if we pass a maintenance and operations levy. These matching funds are from taxes we already pay — those “state school” taxes on our tax statements. Oak Harbor’s schools lose about $1.2 million a year because we lack an M&O levy.Without an M&O levy, Oak Harbor’s schools will continue to fall behind in the implementation of technology, will continue to lack textbooks and materials in the classroom, and will have a difficult time meeting the new state standards. And Oak Harbor will continue to see its tax dollars (matching funds) sent to other districts that do pass levies.It is my hope that the school board will soon develop a concise plan that will show voters exactly what they will be getting for their schools if they approve an M&O levy. I would expect a levy to include: comprehensive after-school and summer school classes to get every child to grade level or to work beyond their grade level; the addition of staff to lower class size; training for teachers in the use of new curricula and technology; funding for classroom materials and textbooks; and possibly flex scheduling to fully utilize our buildings and classrooms. Oak Harbor schools are at an exciting turning point. We are poised to ensure all our students are prepared to meet or exceed the state’s new assessment standards. Our teachers and students need the full support of the community to reach their goals.Sue Waller was appointed to the Oak Harbor School Board earlier this year. The Navy moved her family to Oak Harbor when she was a year old. She attended Oak Harbor schools, graduating in 1967. She received a B.A. from the University of Washington in 1971, then taught at Crescent Harbor Elementary School. She and her husband, Michael, have two children. She faces challenger Brien Lillquist in the Nov. 2 election."

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