In the only contested West Plains school board race, Cheney School Board president Suzanne Dolle faces a challenge from political newcomer Kippie Shadix for the District 2 seat.
Dolle was elected to the seat in 2009. She studied elementary education at the University of Kentucky, has worked as a substitute teacher, elementary school paraprofessional along with several private sector positions. She has volunteered for various positions on PTA and PTO boards along with a community board for drug and alcohol awareness and Air Force support positions.
Shadix has a bachelor’s of science degree in management/marketing, is an Air Force veteran and works for an Airway Heights company as a human resource/office coordinator. She has children in the Cheney School District and volunteers with Future Business Leaders of America, Second Harvest and a program advisory committee for a local university.
Why did you decide to run for office?
Shadix likes to get involved and was trying to encourage others to run, but decided she should “put my money where my mouth is and do something.” She admits she has much to learn about the position, but loves researching and is good at asking questions.
“I think the community needs to be more educated, better informed on what’s going on in the schools and given better opportunities to participate,” Shadix said.
Dolle has always had a passion for children as an educator and parent. She began serving on school boards and committees as a way to keep up on issues and decisions impacting her children’s lives.
“I love what I do, even though it can be frustrating and time consuming,” she said. “When you see you’ve affected just one person’s life, it makes it all worthwhile.”
If elected, what would you like to see accomplished in four years?
Dolle said high school overcrowding and modernization issues are the biggest need right now. The district must address these while keeping existing programs growing and do it with the “least amount of impact on the taxpayers.”
She stressed regular contact with elected officials to let them know how their decisions impact local education and families. She said the board must look at the district’s dynamics, where kids are coming from, their living conditions and incorporate more into budgeting.
Shadix said a bond to improve the high school worries her. She would like to see more research, particularly on other options and ways of shaving costs.
“Eighty million dollars is a lot of money,” she said.
She would examine bus routes for ways of doing things differently to save maintenance, fuel costs and time spent riding. She’d like to look at partnering with organizations to create a skill center in the district that would provide vocational learning opportunities.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the school district?
Shadix lists the implementation of Common Core standards, and while she admits she doesn’t know enough yet, believes it could increase costs to install. She points to continued uncertainty over the economy as another challenge.
Dolle’s challenge is “Getting space for the kiddos.” Another is restoring funding cut during previous state budget cycles, and staying on top of legislators to make sure they keep making progress. The district also needs to look at alternative sources, like more grants, to find ways to keep programs going.
What’s your opinion on how well the state has conformed to the McCleary decision?
Dolle said the Supreme Court decision ordering the Legislature to adhere to its constitutional requirement providing ample provisions for basic education has restored some funding cuts. She realizes there are pros and cons on both sides of the funding argument, but said the long-term effects of reduced educational opportunities cost more than providing ample funding for education up front.
“If we don’t stick up for our kids, provide for our children, we’re going to see more of the vulnerable population growing,” she said.
Shadix said she has more to learn on this as well, but feels it’s important to make sure the increased state funding goes to students and not the system. She would like to see how the state fully funding vs. local levy funding affects property owners, businesses and consumers, but said the decision brings more questions than answers.
“I hope this is an opportunity for a closer review of the finances and the educational processes which could lead to true reform because just pouring more money into the system is not a wise decision,” she wrote in an email.
What are your feelings about a new school in Airway Heights or north of I-90?
This is almost Shadix’ signature issue as she has addressed the school board on several occasions about building a new facility, possibly a new high school, north of Interstate 90. The only district building north of I-90 is Sunset Elementary, constructed in 1952, and Shadix sees a new school closer to, if not in, Airway Heights as a means of reducing transportation costs while supporting growing community spirit.
Dolle is not opposed to a new facility north of I-90, but the district needs to build “where the students are” while being efficient with funding and programs. There are many costs people don’t see when discussing a new school, Dolle said, such as wetlands and soil remediation and staffing, noting the three schools built with the 2010 bond money significantly increased the district’s operating costs.
Why vote for you?
Dolle cited her board experience service in other districts around the country, bringing a variety of perspectives.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I love working for students in the district.”
Shadix said she has the business perspective of being a “wise consumer,” and noted she is adding an education component through classes at Eastern Washington University.
“I work well with people and I’ve always been a good team player,” she said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.