Pullman School District candidates present platforms

TYLER WATSON, Evergreen reporter

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The four candidates for Pullman School District’s director of District 4 presented their platforms at a Whitman County Democrats meeting last Wednesday, with ideas ranging from curriculum changes to improvements in special education efforts.

The first candidate to speak was WSU Libraries Coordinator Lipi Turner-Rahman. She said the school district is effective for students who can complete work on their own, but leaves behind students who may need further assistance, such as those with special needs or who need free lunches.

“I don’t think we value special education in this school district,” Turner said. “I don’t feel that [for] the amount of money that we put into the school district that we get that great of a return.”

The second candidate, WSU assistant professor Elizabeth Siler, said she is running to stir the pot and spark debate on issues she feels should be public knowledge. Siler, who went to Pullman High School, said the district used to retain teachers much longer.

“I have [had] the opportunity of seeing things in the long view,” Siler said. “When I was a kid in the high school here, the teachers stayed for a long time. I went to some of their funerals in the late ’90s.”

She went through a list of teachers and found many of those who educated her daughter, now a high school freshman, are no longer teaching in the district.

Siler said she also wanted courses focusing on foreign language competency, with a possible emphasis on Pacific Rim cultures. Additionally, she wanted to add arts to the STEM acronym, making it STEAM.

“I am very concerned about making the schools a better place to produce students who have 21st century skills,” Siler said.

Nathan Roberts, a data analyst for the Carson College of Business and the third candidate for District 4 director, said his main goals include ensuring the schools in the district foster a conducive learning environment. He said he is looking into adding skills training to the schools, such as coding and technology.

“These are the kind of things that change really fast,” Roberts said, “and in this environment, you can get a really good job just with some really good coding skills.”

He would also consider introducing activities, such as robotics competitions, to bring the district and community together, Roberts said.

Karl Johanson, the incumbent District 4 director, was out of town at the time of the meeting. He left behind remarks with his representative, stating his primary area of focus is to reevaluate the Core 24 state requirements, a Washington state to-do list of what credits high school students across the state need in order to graduate.

In an interview Monday, Johanson said that he also supports programs like College in the Schools, which allows high schools to receive college credit, and Tech Prep, which allows students to earn technical credits at a community college.

“I’m a fan of things that convey college credit for free and keep kids in the school and in the milieu of a school,” Johanson said. “I’m for all kinds of opportunities for kids that fit with their aims and goals.”

Through parenting and teaching, Johanson has been involved in public education for the last fifty years, including a 15-year stint in experiential learning, helping to design programs for juveniles and those with mental health impairments in Texas. He has been serving on the Pullman School Board for the past 19 years.

The primary election is Aug. 1. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters starting July 14. The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is July 3.