By SVERRE BAKKE
Position No. 3 incumbent Dan Rawding faces a challenge from first-time candidate Kris Kreps in the only contested race for a seat on the White Salmon Valley board of education.
Also on the Nov. 8 general election ballot is Kristie L. Hurn of Underwood, a one-term incumbent who is running unopposed for re-election to Position No. 5.
Rawding, a Husum resident, was appointed to Position No. 3 on the school board last spring to serve out an unexpired four-year term. The seat opened up last February when longtime school director Eric Shrum resigned after taking a job outside the school district.
Kreps, a Gilmer Valley resident, along with Rawding, was one of three candidates the school board interviewed for the vacancy.
The winner of next month's election will take the oath of office and begin serving a full four-year term after the result has been certified by county auditors.
During his nearly seven months in the position, Rawding, 45, said he has been exposed to how the school district operates, as well as to the opportunities and challenges that it faces.
"In that brief time, I've learned how well the school district is run and what excellent staff we have, from the classifieds to the certifieds all the way up to the administration," said Rawding, a fish biologist for the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.
He's also been impressed by the caliber of the district's students, notably those who have made presentations to the board at its monthly meetings.
"Unless you go to the school board meetings," he noted, "you can't appreciate what we have here."
The most immediate challenge in front of the school district, Rawding said, is establishing the framework that will make it possible for all Columbia High School students to meet the state's new graduation requirements, which take effect in 2008.
Those standards call for members of the class of 2008 (and classes that follow) to craft a "high school and beyond" plan, fulfill their credit requirements, complete a senior culminating project and pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (a reading, writing and math test, dubbed WASL, that measures what students know) before they will be granted a certificate of mastery, a document that replaces the traditional diploma.
"It's a big change from how we've always graduated kids," Rawding said. "We need to get the message out to parents of high school and middle school students that we're in a world of standardized testing now, that it's not just about getting a specific GPA (grade-point average) any more."
The new graduation requirements, he added, likely will lead to a restructuring of how such core subjects as English, math and science are taught at CHS.
"We may have to institute a remedial program to give kids the extra help they need to make sure they can pass the WASL," Rawding said. "That's something we're going to have to take a look at in the next school year."
Speaking generally, Rawding said education is about providing students with necessary skills and opportunities to learn and explore.
"I have twins in the fourth grade and a son who's a junior in high school," Rawding said. "What I want for them and the other students of our district is a well-rounded education. That means core subjects, vocational opportunities and extracurricular activities."
But, Rawding said, he recognizes that public education is a business that requires the school district to pass a budget and live within its means.
"Part of being on the board is about setting priorities and making sure we're spending our money where we're going to get the biggest bang four our buck," he said.
If elected, Rawding said he will be an eager listener -- "I don't believe I have all the answers. I'm willing to discuss school district business with anyone" -- and work for "a district that meets the needs of the community and makes good choices with the limited resources we have."
Kreps, 43, has been attending school board meetings regularly to stay abreast of the issues the district is dealing with.
He said he wants to get involved because "I feel I have something to contribute" to the operation of the local school system at a time when enrollment and, as a result, state funding are declining.
"Hopefully, with my influence, we can get the best education possible for our kids for the dollar," the candidate said.
Kreps, a ranch manager, has two children attending school in the district. Both will be affected by the state's new graduation requirements that kick in in 2008.
One of those mandates will require candidates for graduation in 2008 -- and beyond -- to pass the WASL.
Kreps said the WASL requirement will have "a direct effect on how the school district underwrites its curriculum."
"In the next few years we're going to have to match the curriculum to what the kids need to know to pass the test," he noted.
That's a direction he said he has reservations about.
"I don't know if gearing up so kids can pass the test, is in my analysis, the best thing for kids," he said, "but that seems to be the way things are going."
Kreps said he's afraid that with the emphasis trending toward the teaching of core subjects -- language arts, science and math -- vocational education opportunities could be slighted.
"I believe that in today's society, every kid needs to have a high school diploma," he said. "But I also believe that getting an education isn't just about reading, writing, and math. Kids also need to get some vocational training, something they can fall back on."
Kreps suggested the district needs a balanced approach that gives equal treatment to college preparation courses and vocational programs.
"We've got a pretty good vocational program and it's improving every year," he noted, adding, "A lot of kids from here have benefitted from it and gone on to get additional training in a profession."
As a school director, Kreps said, he will work to make sure the district has the best programs, staff and facilities it can afford. To that end, he said "being in touch with the schools" will be a priority.
"It doesn't have to be something we vote on," Kreps noted. "The school board can help by talking with the management, keeping close tabs on what's going on in the schools, and raising the question once in a while."