Our choices for Tacoma, Puyallup, Bethel schools

The News TribuneOctober 8, 2013 

Voters in the three largest Pierce County school districts will select board members Nov. 5, who will help lead schools through tough budget decisions and the introduction of the rigorous new Common Core standards.

 • Would that every election offered the kind of choice Tacomans are getting in their school board race this year.

The contest pits 24-year incumbent Debbie Winskill against Dexter Gordon, a University of Puget Sound professor who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2011.

Gordon would bring exceptional intellectual firepower to the position as well as deep expertise in the greatest single problem facing the Tacoma School District: the achievement gap.

Middle-class students succeed in school at a much higher rate than their low-income peers, a disparity that also translates into a gap between whites and Asian-Americans, on one side, and blacks and Latinos — especially boys — on the other.

Whoever is elected, the board must keep this problem on the front burner.

We endorsed Gordon in 2011 and might have gladly done so again this year — if only he weren’t running against one of the strongest leaders the district has had in recent decades. Winskill is sensible, strong-minded, student-focused and an advocate of accountable schools. She’s been there a while, but hasn’t lost her passion for education. We think she deserves a fifth term.

 • Two Puyallup School District positions will be on the ballot. In Position 1, incumbent Pat Donovan seeks a second full term, and voters should give it to him.

Donovan, a deputy fire chief with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, has deep ties to the community. He’s a Rogers High School graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University and has served Puyallup schools at the ground level as a volunteer, earning two Golden Acorn awards.

He’s much more knowledgeable about Puyallup schools than his opponent, Noreen Wolfe, who has had little interaction with the district.

In Position 4, we were impressed by all three women who ran in the August primary but especially with Karen Edwards, a former Army officer and now a grant coordinator for UW Medicine. She is smart and engaging — qualities that will be needed to persuade district voters to support a badly needed capital bond issue.

Her opponent, Kathy Yang, is a viable alternative. Like Edwards, she has volunteered in her children’s schools and is a well-spoken advocate for setting high educational expectations. Although either woman would be an asset on the school board, we give a slight edge to Edwards.

 • In South Pierce County’s sprawling Bethel School District, only the open District 4 seat is being contested. The race features one of the most impressive candidates we met this campaign season, attorney Amy Pivetta Hoffman of Frederickson.

Hoffman, who serves on three of the school district’s select committees, is vice chair of the Frederickson Land Use Advisory Commission and past president of the Frederickson Clover Creek Community Council.

She would bring energy, a sharp mind and — contrary to some past Bethel candidates — no personal agenda to the board. She’s a much better choice for voters than her opponent, Democratic precinct committee officer Rick E. Payne of Graham.

To read earlier endorsement editorials, go online to www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.

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