Oak Harbor School District board candidates Fred Wilmot and Jessica Aws.

Oak Harbor School District board candidates Fred Wilmot and Jessica Aws.

School board candidates: Stay course, or change up curriculum?

Two candidates for Oak Harbor school board say the district has had notable successes, but one of them hopes to implement significant changes.

Retired Navy captain Fred Wilmot, 81, said he’d like to change the curriculum to focus more on reading, writing and math. He said there are too many subjects addressed in the classroom that he thinks should be taught at home — for example, issues involving sexuality. He said it’s not leaving enough time for the basics. Selection of textbooks is another focus for him, because he said some might have “an agenda.”

He thinks this is especially true for history books in how they portray the U.S.

“We’re winding up with a bunch of kids (who are) being indoctrinated rather than educated,” said Wilmot.

His opponent Jessica Aws was appointed to the position by the board two years ago. The 31-year-old librarian said the district should stay the course and continue to improve on efforts it has already made.

She’s focused on creating a long-term facilities plan that includes sustainable and efficient building designs. She lauded the district’s recent moves to increase the number of mental health counselors in the schools, implement trauma-informed practices and retrofit old buildings to be greener and more efficient.

Aws said that as a young woman, she’s in a similar demographic to many of the teachers in the district and could offer a valuable perspective. Aws is currently the only woman on the school board.

“Representation is important,” she said.

She said her experience working with young people and their families in her position as youth librarian at Oak Harbor Library grants her useful insight for the board. She said she hears many of the concerns as well as what parents think is being done well, noting the support of the arts and extracurricular activities as something that is often highlighted.

“We’re really creating an environment where every student can succeed,” she said.

Wilmot became a JROTC instructor and coach in 1990 and, during his 18 years teaching, he was struck by the low reading level of many high school students. Although he taught in Las Vegas and abroad, he said he has heard that the situation is similar in Oak Harbor.

Additionally, he is an advocate for more vocational training at the high school.

Both candidates said they would keep students and teachers as their first priority. They also both emphasized the importance of being responsible with the budget.

Although it’s a nonpartisan position, Wilmot said he’d take a conservative approach.

“I’m probably more frugal with what we do with the money,” he said, “and put it where it really makes a difference rather than fluffy things that may be nice for a minor faction.”

The candidates are slated to appear at a League of Women Voters forum at 6 p.m., Oct. 17 at the First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor.

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