Long-time residents vie for School Board Area 7
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles on the school board races.
Two well-known faces in the town of Minden are vying for a four-year term to represent Douglas County School Board Area 7, which is being vacated at the end of the year by veteran school board trustee Keith Roman.
n Jeanette Turnbeaugh, 60, is a former Douglas High English teacher who retired in 2008. After graduating from Douglas County High School in 1967, Turnbeaugh spent 36 years with the school district teaching English, history, drama and speech. She has lived in Winhaven for the last 14 years, and her familial roots go back generations in Alpine County.
“Part of my decision to file was the SpringBoard issue,” she said. “It’s different seeing both ends of the spectrum, from the teacher side to the school board side. I know the processes we’ve gone through as a district in developing the competencies, which are still in place. I know how some of the testing was developed that did turn into high school testing.
“I always felt someone ought to stand up for the kids. A lot of times in education, we’re doing things to kids, at least in their perception. When you have spent as many hours with a roomful of kids as I have, you do know what’s going on in their minds and what they’re looking for, and education is a pretty hard sell these days.”
In a budget pinch, Turnbeaugh said, things that directly affect students should be last to go.
“Personnel is such a huge chunk of the budget, and most of the time, when you’re looking at saving money, it has to be somebody,” she said. “It’s always hideously difficult. Budgets are complicated, and it takes serious thought and understanding to see if there is anything left to cut.”
Turnbeaugh does not believe No Child Left Behind paints an accurate reflection of the work teachers do on a daily basis.
“Over the years as a teacher, there has been an awful lot of teaching to bad tests,” she said. “The last data anyone wants to look at is the data teachers gather everyday. They always want to look at what some testing company brings forward.”
Turnbeaugh said No Child Left Behind is like saying every student must play football and furthermore must win every game.
“We’re rapidly losing ground,” she said. “I wish we could make schools as important here as they are in Japan, where students and parents value what they’re getting for free, which we have somehow lost along the way.”
When it comes to SpringBoard, Turnbeaugh is not a fan.
“Although it is being touted as this sacred and holy thing done by the College Board, the College Board is not a textbook company,” she said.
She said the College Board, which created the Advanced Placement program, used to be independent and separate from the book industry while developing tests.
“The College Board is interested in making money these days,” Turnbeaugh said. “SpringBoard has also been sold as aligning curriculum. I spent 10 minutes on the Internet and found 2-3 other companies doing exactly the same thing.
“I’m not a fan of the process that was used, and I’m not a fan of the product. The district should make it a supplement. That would solve many ruffled feathers from both the district office’s point of view and the teachers’ point of view. I don’t see the point of having so many teachers upset. I don’t know why the district grasped onto it with so much intensity. I can’t figure it out.”
n Ross Chichester, 54, is a retired Douglas County Sheriff’s officer who still works part time for the department as a financial manager. He’s lived in Minden for 30 years and is nearing the end of his final term on the Minden Town Board.
“I have a lot of knowledge and financial background in government accounting, and I believe I can be an asset to the school district as far as being a candidate who truly understands how revenues come in and how they’re spent,” he said. “I think I have a real good understanding of the finances. I am very conservative and don’t believe that just because you have money, you have to spend money. I believe in trying to get the best possible education for kids, and in trying to do it as most cost-effectively as we can for the people who pay taxes.”
In a budget crisis, Chichester said school trustees need to focus on the basic essentials of education.
“We really need to make sure to concentrate on the basics these kids need to survive in the world out there, whether they go to college or into the workforce: reading, writing, arithmetic, English, those types of things,” he said. “I would look at those programs that provide for a well-rounded human being but aren’t essentially the things students need to get through life.”
Chichester said No Child Left Behind is an “unattainable federal mandate.”
“It’s a great concept, a great catch phrase, but a lot depends on the child and parent and how involved they are in their children’s education and the desire of the child to get an education,” he said. “I’m not sure there is a better way (to measure progress) at this point.”
Chichester said he would not have supported the SpringBoard curriculum if he’d been on the board in June.
“There’s too much controversy over SpringBoard both from different states and jurisdictions that used it,” he said. “I don’t think it was as well thought out as it should have been. I wouldn’t have approved it. People closest to the students are the teachers. I think we can take a lot from what they say they need. We need to ask more questions of them.”
Chichester said implementation of SpringBoard, “at a large cost to the school district,” seemed premature given the state’s hesitance to approve it.