Challenger says time for a change
Bill Laughlin thinks the competencies will cost the school district more than they are worth.
Laughlin is running against incumbent George Echan for the Area 3 school board seat and the two differ strongly on the competencies, and just about every other issue.
“These are concerns I have heard from the teachers. I think kids who are at risk will very possibly pay a price. Without electives, kids who are not doing well may lose interest in school and drop out as opposed to sticking it out, where they would at least have gone through high school and gotten a diploma,” Laughlin said.
Instead of cutting back on the options for those students, Laughlin says the occupational education classes should be expanded, especially at Whittell High School.
After Douglas High School occupational education teacher James Archdekin lost his classes in auto body because of a communications snafu between WNCC and the school district, Laughlin said he looked into the status of occupational education at WHS and found that school hasn’t had a woodshop class for years.
“The other issue I discovered was the fact that nobody in the administration knew what kind of arrangement was set up with WNCC four years ago. Those who knew both have left the district. The agreement was the district would take up his salary starting this fall. I found that out with one call. It is just a symptom of the administration’s failure to communicate with the lower level,” Laughlin said.
He said his inability to communicate with the district, especially the board and Superintendent Pendery Clark, led Laughlin to seek a school board position.
“I’ve tried to get the board’s attention, and other people have told me they have, but (the school board members) just follow (Clark). I don’t think the present members of the board look at what’s going on critically,” Laughlin said. “The board is very dedicated. They are not there for ego-building and certainly not there for the money, but they take everything she tells them at face value. They need to ask, ‘Why?'”
Laughlin pledged to ask those questions and pursue questions until they were answered.
He said the meetings teachers have been having with the board members at individual schools is a step in the right direction, but school board members must visit schools on his or her own time, and without district personnel.
“District employees don’t feel free to talk about their feelings because they fear retribution. The administration does not take kindly to criticism,” he said. “The last several years, teachers have been shut out or denied input. If you have a problem with Pendery, you don’t get very far.”
Laughlin, 64, of Zephyr Cove, works in environmental safety at Bently Nevada. He has lived in Douglas County since 1976. He and his wife, Janie, who previously worked for the district, have six grown children and a granddaughter who is currently a student in DCSD. Laughlin said his past experience serving as a Round Hill GID board member will help him as a member of the school board.
Laughlin admits he doesn’t have all the answers, and doesn’t even know very much about the district, he doesn’t buy the argument that the public should vote for incumbents because they have the experience.
“These people have been on the board, some for only two years. These people have seen the situation develop into what it is,” Laughlin said. “I question whether we really want to trust fixing the situation to their care. A lot of things I don’t know anything about, but if that’s what we based our votes on, we’d never put anybody but incumbents in there. I have time to talk to people and I will learn and gain experience.”
Laughlin said he became very upset when he was refused help by the district, and the more he looked into it, the more people he found with similar hurt feelings.
“I made a commitment I was going to challenge (George) Echan if no one else would. We need to change the school board members. The more I get into it, I still see nothing to diminish my feelings.”