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School board candidates discuss their platforms

"Kathy Chalfant is a shoe-in for Position 4 of the Oak Harbor School District Board of Directors. Unexpectedly, she is running unopposed.Chalfant and Edward Miles filed as candidates before the 4:30 p.m. deadline on July 27 to compete for the seat held by Susan Waller. However, Miles said Tuesday that he has decided not to run. This leaves Chalfant unopposed for the seat, as it is now too late for additional candidates to file, or for a candidate vying for the Position 5 opening to switch to run for another position. Waller, for personal reasons, decided not to run for re-election. Gary Wallin is the incumbent candidate for Position 5. A primary will be required in the race for Wallin's seat, since more than two candidates are running. Wallin, John Bartlett and Terry Lacey have filed to run for the position.Elected school board officials are volunteers.Kathy ChalfantChalfant is perhaps best known throughout Oak Harbor as one of the founding members of the group Citizens for Better Schools. The group led the charge last winter to gain voter approval of three school levies for extending educational opportunities, the implementation of a National School Lunch Program in Oak Harbor schools, and a new sports facility for the high school. Citizens for Better Schools was instrumental in public education about what the levies included, and it persuaded the community to get out and vote, which resulted in the passage of two of the levies in a March 13 special election. The stadium levy failed to pass with the required supermajority.Chalfant and her partner, Lynn Goebel, each filled a role in the campaign. Chalfant credited Goebel for her community outreach and public relations work, and Goebel praised Chalfant for her organizational and planning ability.Chalfant, who has always been an active participant in the school system through volunteer work, also points to the experience she gained through Citizens for Better Schools as preparation for her to serve on the school board. She and her husband Duncan have two children that have gone through Oak Harbor schools. Many people asked her to run, she said, based on her performance during the levy campaign.I won't have as much of a learning curve, Chalfant said, adding that she is familiar with the responsibilities of school board members and the inner workings of the school district.One contribution Chalfant wants to make as a school board member is helping to implement a five-year plan that would involve parents and community members. The plan would focus on specific goals.I'd really like to see a strong strategic plan for the district, Chalfant said. Having a plan cuts down on crisis management, she said.If we don't know where we're going, then we're dealing with the crisis for that week, Chalfant said.Chalfant said she will also keep a positive attitude while facing challenges to the school district, such as budget shortfalls.I would really like to think that there is enough positive with the negative, Chalfant said, explaining that while there may be funding cuts in some areas there may be the addition of funding from another source to help make up the difference.While her work on the successful levy campaign involved asking Oak Harbor taxpayers for more money, Chalfant said she would encourage a conservative approach to spending.I'm not for taxes. I am for sound spending, Chalfant said.Her desire to become a member of the school board is driven by one main goal.The education of children, Chalfant said.Chalfant has a bachelor's degree in forestry from the University of California at Berkeley. She and her husband own K & D Enterprises, under which Kathy operates a lawn and garden maintenance business and Duncan is a general contractor.Terry LaceyLacey has been a resident of Oak Harbor full-time since 1993, upon his retirement from the Navy at the rank of chief. He is employed as the maintenance manager for Island Property Management.His career in the Navy as a yeoman spanned 20 years, and during that time he was stationed on and off at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. This led to his desire to settle here after retirement, he said.His Navy career helped to provide experience that would prove valuable as a member of the Oak Harbor School District board, he said.I think it's given me leadership (experience), Lacey said Thursday.The father of two boys that attend Oak Harbor High School, Lacey said he has taken an active interest in the community, particularly through his volunteer work with youths. He has volunteered with public school programs, coached sports, and participated in Boy Scouts. He has served on the Whidbey Playhouse board, is a past secretary of the Little League, and is first vice president of the Oak Harbor Lions Club, which he said provides service to the community. His campaign for the school board seat is based on three main ideas, Lacey said.First, he would work to develop greater communication between parents and teachers, as well as between the school board and community.Communication is key, Lacey said. He would work to make sure parents understand what the kids are being taught, he said. He also wants to increase the dialogue between the school board and the community when the board must make decisions that affect the entire community.Secondly, he wants to be on the school board so that he can examine how the district's money is being budgeted, he said. He questioned the district's use of funding, citing that he found last year that his son's class didn't have enough textbooks to go around, but the district had the money to pay for building renovations, for instance.Thirdly, Lacey would want to examine the district's curriculum.It needs to be looked at as to what is being taught right now, Lacey said. He doesn't think that there are enough academic requirements at the high school level, he said.Lacey said he will busy himself over the next few weeks by researching how the school district is put together, and preparing himself to serve as a board member.John BartlettBartlett has been a resident of Oak Harbor since 1994. Originally from Spokane, he relocated here from San Diego, Calif., where he owned a construction company for 22 years. He continues to run a small business in Oak Harbor, an adult family home for seniors.Bartlett said he wants to become a school board member so that he can examine the district's spending habits.I'm just watching what they're doing here ... (I would) bring some more accountability to spending, he said. His years of business experience have prepared him to participate in the budgeting process.I ran a company ... I know how to look at all options, he said.Although he has concerns about school district spending and the budget, he said he will not criticize the school board's past performance.I want to find out the reasons behind the decisions before I make a stand on it, he said.For instance, Bartlett questions the proposals he has seen for a new high school sports facility. On the surface, the project seems excessive.They're asking for gold when silver would be fine, he said.But again, he is not going to judge without having all the facts.Maybe there's a real good reason for that, Bartlett said.It is this desire to find the answers to such questions that has led him to join the race for the board's Position 5 seat. Bartlett said he would use the opportunity to serve on the board to learn about why certain budgetary decisions have been made in the past, and then use his business experience to make sound choices for the future.As a parent, he said he feels the same as other parents. He wants to see the district provide a good quality education for Oak Harbor students.Don't scrimp ... but also I am a taxpayer, he said. There's got to be a balance there, between spending and conserving.Bartlett is the father of a fifth-grade boy who attends Crescent Harbor Elementary School. His son has been enrolled in Oak Harbor School District since he began kindergarten.I like the school district, Bartlett said. They seem to be doing their jobs well. Bartlett delivered a succinct message to Oak Harbor residents: You'll have an ear on the school board. And I'll give people answers.Gary WallinWallin is the incumbent candidate for Position 5. He is seeking election to keep the seat he has held since the board appointed him in January 2001.Wallin began the application, screening and interview process in October 2000. He was one of three candidates who went through the process.I love working on it, Wallin said of the school board. He said it fits in with his longtime volunteerism to the Oak Harbor School District.Wallin and his wife, Martha, have two grown children who attended Oak Harbor schools from kindergarten through high school graduation. Wallin volunteered in his children's schools from the beginning, he said.Wallin is aware of the public concern about the school district budget and spending practices. He invites all community members to the public school board meetings to learn more about the process. His work on the school board, if elected, will be to continue to make responsible choices, he said.I want to ensure (to) the public that we are good stewards of their money ... they entrust us with their money ... We do our very best to provide our kids with good opportunities, Wallin said on Friday. Our record with the state has shown that.Wallin referred to the state auditor's yearly audits of every district in Washington. Oak Harbor School District gets high marks, he said. The purpose of the state audit is to make sure that the school districts are using state funding in the manner for which it was intended.The school district goes through every single hoop directed by the state, Wallin said. Yet, he is aware of the accusations against school spending made by some members of the community, he said. He explained the challenges the school district and the school board faces.The money the school district can direct is very small, Wallin said. Most of the funding received is nondiscretionary, he said, which means it must be spent in the manner prescribed by the source of the funding.We can't use building money for staffing, Wallin said to demonstrate the point.Wallin said his understanding of the school district, gained from being a parent, a volunteer and a community member since he was in the fourth grade, has prepared him to continue in his current role.Said Wallin: I'm not just looking at it as a citizen, but as an (individual with) inside knowledge of the workings of the school district.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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