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Letter: Best interests

To the editor:

I have served on the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees for the past 10 years. During this time, like hundreds of others, I have invested a great deal of time, blood, sweat and tears to improve and strengthen our education system. And, I’ve loved it – most of the time! My reward has been seeing two of my kids graduate with great educations and being able to believe that my daughter will have an opportunity to get an even better education – that she will take with her a diploma and an education that prepares her for the “outside world.” If this happens, it will be due to the hard work and dedication of those many people who care about kids, who have believed in and worked on the strategic plan and who helped to develop and implement competencies. It will be because our students and our teachers will be held accountable.

Knowing that there is currently an organized effort to destroy much that we have accomplished these past years, I have a lot I want and need to say. I hope you will bear with me.

First, let me stress that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the majority of this district’s teachers. But, what the public needs to know is that there is a huge difference between “teachers” and the “teachers’ union.” And it is the union that is trying to manipulate the composition of the school board. Under the current “union leadership” (clearly an oxymoron in this case), the union’s primary jobs are to demand the most lucrative salary and benefits package during negotiations (at any cost) and to protect the weakest/poorest teachers (also known as “tenure”) from being reprimanded or fired. Teachers’ unions do nothing to contribute to your child’s education. The best interests of the students are never mentioned in union dealings with the school district.

During 1994-1995, the District Accountability Committee (with an emphasis on “accountability”), comprised of parents, staff, community members and business representatives, spent 18 months developing exit competencies for core academic skills. A final draft was shared with educators, parents and the community. Eight public meetings were held to explain the competencies as well as to gather public input and respond to questions and concerns before the competencies were approved by the board. Meetings continue to be held with parents to explain the competencies. In all, more than 250 people worked to develop these competencies and to align assessments to the competencies. Don’t you have to wonder why the union is so afraid of words like “competency” and “accountability”?

Although the expectations we have for our kids are now higher, these new competencies do not require that students have the I.Q. of a rocket scientist! It is not “asking too much of our kids” to be able to read and write, know some history, geography, science and math at a solid 9th- or 10th-grade level. A diploma from Douglas County School District should count for something! It should say, “Hey, world, here I come! I can work. I can learn. I can succeed!”

When you cast your vote, please do not let your choice of candidates be driven by an embittered spouse of a former employee bent on undermining effective leadership; a retired coach/teacher set on rolling back the clock 10 years to when a Douglas High School diploma meant very little and a “D-” average and sufficient “butt time” in school were enough to earn a diploma; and/or a teacher out to challenge a state law that clearly states he has a conflict of interest and cannot serve as a school board trustee.

Instead, for our students to continue to receive the best educational opportunities we can give them – which is no more than they deserve nor than the taxpayers should expect and demand -we need the best people for the job. I hope when you vote, you will mark your ballots for the following:

(1) George Echan, a local professional businessman, who is insightful, intelligent, always prepared, has integrity and a sense of perspective that gets to the critical issue, or the “bottom line.”

(2) Charles Pullen, a private businessman with young children (ages 8 and 4) who is young, extremely bright, eager, willing and has no “baggage” to bring with him.

(3) John Raker, a hardworking, successful, local businessman, who is intelligent, honest, always prepared, thoughtful, conscientious and the father of two children in Douglas County schools.

If you have questions or just want to know more, please give me a call at 782-3855. You have my word that you will hear from me.

Randy Wallstrum, DVM

Gardnerville

Oct. 27