The Sunnyside School Board brought to a conclusion Monday night what turned out to be an extensive process in replacing Director Fred Kilian.
The board formally began holding interviews to replace Kilian as director of district four in mid-January. Kilian, who had held the position since the 1980s, succumbed in late November 2004 from complications due to his long battle with diabetes.
After interviewing 10 candidates for the position, the board chose farmer Steve Carpenter to fill the vacant seat.
The 10 candidates the board interviewed included Karon Kilian, LaDon Linde, Daria Miller, John Miller, Pam Durfey, DeWight Pritchett, John Van Wingerden, James Woodworth and Mike Wedam.
Linde, Durfey, Carpenter and Woodworth were called back for second interviews Monday night before the start of the regular school board meeting.
Linde was the first of the four candidates to be interviewed.
When asked about some of the concerns facing the district, he said people have expressed how the district caters too much to different groups.
"You hear a lot of different complaints," said Linde.
Linde said while people do have a variety of issues, the underlining purpose of the district is to ensure every student achieves success in school.
"We really want to help each child learn to their potential," said Linde.
There are several things going well in the district, said Linde.
He said the district is making headway with the WASL scores, as the district recently improved its marks by 10 percent in some areas.
"We are making some good progress," said Linde. "We must be doing something right."
School board member Bill Smith said sometimes the board has to deal with issues that not all sides involved agree on. He asked how Linde would deal with those concerns.
"I probably would want to listen to both sides," said Linde.
Board member Larry Pangle asked how Linde would deal with parents who have issues surrounding a coach in the athletic department.
Linde said he feels there is a value to children participating in athletics. But he would like to see parents care more about their children's education than the final score of a game. Linde said he would want to hear the concerns parents have.
Linde was then asked about how he would deal with the diversity in the district, with 83 percent of the students being Hispanic.
"You hear different opinions about this," said Linde.
Linde said he feels it is good for the different ethnic groups to work together. But he feels the most important part is the ability of everyone to treat each other with respect, regardless of race.
Linde was then given a chance to sell himself on why the board should pick him.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel confident in my ability to contribute to the board," said Linde.
Linde said he also has a personal stake in seeing the board succeed because of his children attending school here.
The fact he is fluent in both English and Spanish is another asset, Linde said.
Linde said his past experience on different boards and his understanding of how the legislative process works would be an asset to the board.
Durfey said she doesn't find many faults with what the district is doing.
"I feel real positive about the school and about the education the girls (her two daughters) are getting (at the high school)," said Durfey. "I feel like the school district does a really good job."
Durfey said probably the biggest area for improvement could be in how the district reaches out to students with after-school programs. Durfey said there are too many students who are not getting the attention they need at home to further their education.
Durfey said the teaching staff in the district is one of the more positive attributes of the district.
"People care enough that they are reaching out," said Durfey.
Durfey said she would try to learn as much as possible about situations where parents may not agree with what is going on with teachers.
"By understanding what each one of them wants, it is easier to sit at the table," said Durfey. "How are we best going to serve our children? Isn't that what the bottom line is?"
Durfey had an interesting response to the diversity question. She talked about how she recently chaperoned a dance at the high school.
"I just saw kids," said Durfey. "I hope the kids are just seeing themselves. We need to learn from each other."
Durfey said she would like to be part of the board because she wants an opportunity to serve the community.
"I am willing to roll up my sleeves and go to work," said Durfey. "I care about the community and I would like to be able to be involved."
Woodworth said he has noticed that parent involvement is lacking in the schools. He also said another challenge for the school district is the WASL test.
"Perhaps the WASL holds back some of our students," said Woodworth.
Woodworth said there are many pressing issues facing the district, but praised the efforts of the board in addressing them.
He also said the district should be proud of the way it is maintaining its facilities.
Woodworth said he would weigh any issue that may put parents against teachers or teachers against administration with what kind of benefit it will have for the students. He said many of the issues facing the board deal with money. He said he would base his decision on what would be more economically sound.
In regards to how he would deal with concerns regarding a coach, Woodworth said he would want to hear from the parents who are not voicing concerns. He said sometimes the few parents who voice their concerns are not speaking for everyone. Woodworth said he would also like to hear all sides of the issue.
Woodworth didn't look at diversity as much of a problem in the district. He said that regardless if the parents speak English or not, everyone still has the same vested interests-the education of their children.
Woodworth said one of the reasons he sought the school board seat is because of his children.
"I do have two children in the school district. It does give me a sense of where I need to be," said Woodworth. "It is a passion of mine to know what my children are going to be doing."
Carpenter said one of the larger challenges facing the district is communication.
"I think it is one of the jobs of the school district to get all of the stakeholders to the table," said Carpenter.
Carpenter said he also feels the district needs to worry more about the low-income students and how their economic backgrounds affect their education.
Carpenter said there are some good opportunities for students in the district. He said the diversity in the district is one of the factors that make Sunnyside unique.
"We have a community for the most part that does get along together," said Carpenter.
In regards to how he would deal with issues that may raise the ire of some, Carpenter said he would want to get as much input as possible. He said it is important to involve everyone with the decision making process, so all sides take ownership in the result.
Carpenter addressed the diversity issues by saying he feels there is a good benefit to children being around different cultures. Carpenter said when he looks at children he doesn't see them based on their race, but rather what they are-children.
Carpenter said he doesn't know if he is any more qualified for the board than any of the other candidates. But, Carpenter said he feels he can bring some valuable experience to the seat. Carpenter admitted he is no expert on education, but he wants to see children do well in school.
Carpenter commented during the school board meeting that he is excited about serving on the school board and gaining the trust of the community.
"I look forward to rolling up my sleeves," said Carpenter.
Sunnyside School Board President Joanne Kilian commented after the meeting that Carpenter's business experience was a key factor in the decision.
"I think he has got a leg up. We are replacing Fred (Kilian) and this is as close as we thought we could get," Kilian smiled.