Sunnyside School Board directors had a full slate this past Friday night, as they started conducting the initial interviews to fill the vacant position left by the death of Fred Kilian this past November.
Kilian represented district four, which is the area near Outlook Elementary School.
Last Friday night, the school board conducted interviews of seven candidates for four hours in the office of Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole.
All together, 10 local residents turned in their applications to vie for the vacant school board seat.
On Friday night, the school board conducted interviews of seven candidates, Daria Miller, DeWight Pritchett, Karon Kilian, LaDon Linde, Mike Wedam, John Van Wingerden and James Woodworth.
On Monday, Jan. 24, the school board will be conducting 30-minute interviews with the three remaining candidates, Steve Carpenter, John Miller and Pam Durfey.
Any second set of interviews will be conducted on Monday, Jan. 31, with the board planning to have a new district director in place for the February meeting.
Miller was the first of the candidates to go before the school board Friday night.
Miller sought the position held by Kilian during the last election.
Miller was born and raised in Sunnyside and currently has two children attending Sunnyside schools.
"I feel that I am able to bring a lot of different ideas," said Miller.
Responding to a question from board member Lorenzo Garza, Miller said she felt it was important the board doesn't have any secret kind of deals going with one another.
"I believe it is up to the board members to take information and use it best for the community," said Miller.
School board member Bill Smith wanted to know how Miller would go about finding out the concerns of parents and community members. Miller said she would want to hold a public forum for people to vent their concerns every two months. She would also like to come up with evaluation forms for students.
"I think the effort just needs to be continuous," said Miller.
School board President Joanne Kilian was curious as to how Miller would know if the board was making progress in its efforts.
"There is always work to do," said Miller. "There is always room for improvement."
Miller said her goals as a board member would be to serve as a liaison for the community. She also wants to address concerns in the educational system and help work on improving role models in the school district. Miller also said one of her goals would be to work with the middle school on addressing issues with students.
Pritchett said he became interested in running for the school board from when he was involved with the school district's dress code committee a few years ago. Pritchett said now seems like the right time in his life to seek a school board position.
Pritchett said he feels it is important for the school board to have one voice when dealing with issues.
"If there is a difference within this body itself, that is where it needs to stay," said Pritchett.
To find out about the concerns of the public, Pritchett said he would call people to gather more facts.
"If there is a question and a situation exists, it needs to be investigated," said Pritchett. "Being up front is the best way."
Pritchett said his goal as a school board member would be to help the district address such pressing issues as the WASL and the No Child Left Behind Act.
"They all have to be implemented. I see that as a huge task," said Pritchett. "There is a lot of things on the table."
Pritchett had an interesting response to a question about what would be the best use of the superintendent's time.
"I plead ignorance. I don't know exactly what his job description is," said Pritchett. "That question from an outsider's point of view is a difficult one to answer."
Pritchett said he feels it is important for the school board to not micromanage Cole and each of the administrators in the district buildings.
"You have to be able to delegate and make sure it gets done," said Pritchett.
Kilian said she is seeking to occupy her late husband's school board position because she knows the issues.
"I helped him through it," said Kilian. "I don't know everything, but I have a little bit of an edge."
Kilian said all the activities of the school board should be made public.
When asked how she would prepare for a school board meeting, Kilian jokingly responded, "I would say a prayer."
Kilian said she would want to learn as much as possible about the issues.
"You have to listen before you can talk," she said.
Kilian also had an interesting response on what she would do to find out about community concerns.
"I think I have realized in the past several months you have got to go to Safeway (to find out what is going on)," said Kilian.
Kilian said the most simple way to find out information is going out into the community. She suggested even holding a public forum once a year.
Kilian said the most simplest way to find out if the school board has met its goals is to listen to the community.
"You take one thing at a time," said Kilian. "You do it and do it right."
Kilian said she some of her goals would be to emphasize reading more in the district and for every school to have a booster club. Kilian said she would also work on improving the use of the district's Early Learning Center.
Linde said his family operates a dairy farm in Granger, but decided to live in Sunnyside for the past 20 years in part because of the good educational opportunities the district offers. Linde said he wants to serve the community on the school board.
"I have an interest in the community as a whole," said Linde. "I have always been someone who has been community minded."
Linde said he believes education is the greatest way to change the dynamics of the community.
Linde said there is a possible conflict of interest with serving on the school board due to his wife's involvement with the district. Linde has a couple of contracts, all under $1,500 per month, and is a substitute teacher. Linde said his wife would not reapply for any of the contracts she currently has and he would not vote on any issues involving her.
Linde said as a school board member he would want all of the group's activities to be open to the public.
As far as reaching out to learn about the concerns of the district patrons, Linde said it is important to have an open door policy.
"You have to be willing to listen to them (parents)," said Kilian.
Responding to what his goals would be as a school board member, Linde said he would simply be an asset to the school board.
Linde said it is important the school board and the superintendent work together, but added it is also crucial both sides learn to challenge one another.
Linde, though, also felt it was important for the school board to keep an ear open on the activities of the district.
"They (board members) have to have some role," said Linde. "They just can't be a rubber stamper."
Wedam is a veterinarian in Sunnyside.
Wedam said he feels qualified to serve on the school board. He used to serve on the school board at St. Joseph Catholic School and has vast experience serving on state boards.
"We had to learn how to cooperate. We had to learn how to make informed decisions," said Wedam.
Wedam said the best way to find out about concerns of patrons is to attend events, ask questions.
"I think a lot of people who do have concerns come to Rick's (Cole) office," said Wedam.
To increase the lines of communication with the public, Wedam said the district should use every avenue it has at hand, including media and the radio.
"We have to make ourselves as visible as much as we can," said Wedam.
Wedam said the board has to have some kind of way in place to evaluate the progress it is making towards goals.
Wedam said he realizes the school board faces numerous challenges. He also wants to work on keeping the district diverse, while continuing to offer the variety of programs it does to students.
Wedam said he would like to see strong lines of communication with the school board and the superintendent to ensure a quality, working relationship.
"At least once a week we have to know what each other is thinking," said Wedam.
Wedam said the school board shouldn't try to oversee every little thing going on. Wedam said it is the job of the superintendent to ensure the district is running properly and in turn the superintendent keeps the board informed.
John Van Wingerden
Van Wingerden is a 1974 graduate of Sunnyside High School. Van Wingerden said education is something that is important to him and his wife, Deanna, who is a para-professional at Chief Kamiakin Elementary School.
It came up during the discussion that Van Wingerden's wife will have to find another job if he is selected to the school board because of the conflict of interest. Van Wingerden said he has discussed the matter with his wife and will address it if he is appointed.
Van Wingerden said he was a big interest in keeping the activities of the school board open to the community.
"If you are going to get anything done in this community you have to be open," said Van Wingerden.
Van Wingerden said one of his obvious goals as a school board member is to make sure students are receiving a quality education. But he would also want to make sure the staff is content and he would want to keep the facilities in tip-top shape.
Van Wingerden said the board will be having problems if it tries to micromanage what the superintendent and administrators are doing. Van Wingerden added that it is crucial for the superintendent to keep the school board informed on what is going on.
With the exception of seven months, Woodworth has been a life long resident of Sunnyside. Woodworth has two children who attend Outlook Elementary School. He has an Associate of Arts degree from Yakima Valley Community College and is a volunteer firefighter for the Outlook and Sunnyside fire departments. Woodworth is also Cub master for a local group of scouts and is an Eagle Scout.
Woodworth said it is important to keep all the happenings of the school board public to ensure the trust factor.
The best way, said Woodworth, to finding out the concerns of the public is for the board to make itself available.
"If you are not available to the patrons, you will never know what is important," said Woodworth. "The board has a tremendous responsibility to the taxpayers."
The most obvious way to find out if the board is meeting its objectives is to look at the election results every four years.
"If you have not fulfilled your obligation to the parents, you will no longer be a school board member," said Woodworth.
Woodworth said he would want to promote use of the district's resource center.
He also feels that it is important for the board to let the superintendent and administrators do the job they were hired to do.