The future makeup of the Coupeville School Board will change significantly in the election with four newcomers vying for two open seats.
Nancy Conard is a former mayor of Coupeville and served for 20 years. She graduated from Coupeville High School and her granddaughter currently attends the school. She is running against Paul Rempa for an open seat. Conard said she was happy with how the school district handled the pandemic thus far, and when she heard there was an opening, she decided it was a good opportunity to step in.
Rempa did not respond to an interview request by press time but said in the Island County voter’s pamphlet that he operates a small carpentry contracting business. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Like Conard, Ward Sparacio also felt like he wanted to give back, plus he likes how Superintendent Steve King has led the school district. He works in sales and marketing in the healthcare industry.
Sparacio is facing Morgan White for an open seat. White graduated from Coupeville and has children in the school district. She has volunteered with local youth for 15 years and is an avid classroom volunteer; she said she felt like being on the board would be a natural extension of her work. Sparacio did not graduate from Coupeville but grew up nearby in the South End, and now he has children who attend Coupeville schools.
Conard, Sparacio and White agreed that the mask mandate was something the local school board did not have much power over.
“I wish they didn’t have it, but I don’t think it makes any sense to be a cowboy and risk losing funding,” Sparacio said.
The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has suggested that school districts may lose funding if they choose to violate the governor’s mask mandate. Conard and White said they both felt like an in-person school experience was too important for children to jeopardize by trying to remove the mask mandate.
The candidates differed in their thoughts about critical race theory education, which has been a national conversation and frequent topic in the letters to the editor. Sparacio was clear that he did not want a critical race theory curriculum in schools.
“I don’t think the vast majority of people know what it means. It’s driven by politics,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to bring critical race theory to Coupeville if it’s done the same way it is (taught) in Oregon.”
Conard also said she did not think people knew what critical race theory was and that it had become inflammatory. She is in favor of the curriculum that teaches students about the history of racism in the United States.
White said that equity work is important and wants the school board to continue to invest in its equity policy. Part of equity work is related to racism, she explained, but it also encompasses people with disabilities, those who are homeless or have low incomes, or students who are learning how to speak English.
In regards to a local controversy, the three each said that the school board’s investigation into King’s alleged misconduct was a lesson in the importance of transparency. Earlier this year, the school board hired an attorney to investigate King’s alleged bias and misogyny, as well as employees’ fears of retaliation that were first brought to light by Sherry Phay. He was exonerated in the investigation, and the school board publicly criticized Phay in a statement about it.
Sparacio said he thought the situation was mishandled.
“It should never have been initiated the way it was,” he said, adding that he did not know all the information.
Conard said that although it was a “sticky issue” because it was a personnel matter, there should have been more transparency from the board about the decision-making process.
White argued that infighting among board members was detrimental to students.
“I think that goes back to some of the changes (I’d like to make) which is transparency and making sure our conversations are open,” White said. “There was a lot of frustration within the board and it’s really important that we can have healthy conflict and that we can model behavior that we want for our students.”