Lake Stevens school candidates differ over Common Core

Lake Stevens School Board president John Boerger is asking voters to elect him for a third time. He is being challenged in next week’s election by newcomer Kerry Goodwin, a local grandfather.

Other than the men’s political affiliations — Boerger is a Democrat, Goodwin is a Republican — the sharpest difference between the candidates is in their opinions of the new Common Core State Standards, an initiative of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

All but four states have adopted the standards, which seek to provide consistent expectations in math and English language arts across the country. Washington state joined the initiative in 2009, approved the standards in 2011, and expects to have the new standards — and an online testing system that goes with them — in place by 2014-15.

“Foundationally it’s a great idea,” Boerger said. Having a common set of expectations in this Washington as well as Washington, D.C., will make it easier for parents, whether they move across state lines or not, he said.

In practice, bringing the Common Core to Lake Stevens will mean “balancing the need to implement these standards and also let these teachers teach and not be bogged down by a lot of rules and requirements,” he added.

Goodwin said he gets the same unsettled feeling about the Common Core as he has about past standards-based accountability systems in Washington, particularly the tests that went with them.

Those tests included the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, and the current testing system, consisting primarily of the Measurements of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exams.

“Those standardized tests don’t really help the students,” Goodwin said.

He worries there is too much emphasis placed on topics like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “What about character? And the arts? And sports and music? … I want to make sure that as a school board we are looking at those things,” he said.

If elected, Goodwin said he would focus on ways to give teachers more flexibility in the classroom. “By golly, we’ve got to let the teachers teach. That’s what they’ve spent their time and money doing. My goodness, cut them loose.”

Goodwin, 57, is director of school security for the Puget Sound at Sonitrol Pacific, a security systems provider. He is the father of five grown children and has 10 grandchildren.

Boerger, 36, is an IT project manager at Frontier Communications and father of three. His two youngest children, ages 6 and 8, attend local public schools. His oldest graduated from Lake Stevens High School in 2010.

He was first elected in 2007 to fill out two years on an existing term, then was elected to his first full, four-year term in 2009.

In general, Boerger said he would like to continue the good work the school board has been doing. Highlights of his service have included the 2010 technology levy, as well as weathering the recession, he said. “I think we’ve been going on a great path of success in doing what’s right for kids, and I want to continue to be part of that.”

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