We support the proposal by the Chehalis School Board asking voters in the school district to widen the pool for qualified board members to serve.
Today, the Chehalis School District is divided into five sub-districts, meaning one board member must reside in each of the five sub districts. What difference does that make? The current system restricts who can serve on the school board.
COVID-19 and school openings reminded us that school board decisions can be very important for children and an entire community. The Chehalis board voted last fall to allow students back in classrooms and, through this February, Chehalis was the largest school district in Western Washington allowing in-classroom learning by students. It matters who serves on a school board.
This year the bad consequence of the current board qualification system impacted the district when one elected board member bought a new house and moved into a different sub-district. Under today’s system, two qualified, elected, sitting board members cannot sit on the board together after one moved into the sub-district of the other. The taxpayers and the students lose when the current system disqualifies capable board members.
If two or more of the best qualified people live in the same neighborhood, today, only one can serve on the school board. The proposal before voters this November will allow a wider pool of qualified people to run and serve as long as they live within the school district boundary.
The school board resolution passed this month puts before Chehalis district voters this November an opportunity to improve the current system. Voters can choose to adopt a system that allows two of the five board positions to be “at large” meaning that those two board members can reside anywhere in the district.
It would be nice to make all five positions at large, but state law only allows a maximum of two — and two is better than none. Plus, if local voters say “yes” by making two at large positions, it grows the size of the sub districts allowing more people to be eligible to serve in one of the three sub districts.
Maybe in Seattle where different parts of the city are so different it would make sense to require that each board member come from a specific part of the city, but that does not make sense for Chehalis.
We agree with the Chehalis board member who said about the current system: “It would be as if you had a business and you were required, in each block of Chehalis, to hire one person. Well, maybe the two best people live on the same block.”
This November Chehalis district voters will have a better option and we encourage them to consider supporting the resolution adopted by the school board.