After finishing the second set of interviews Monday evening for the vacant Sunnyside School Board position, the school board decided to ask four of the 10 interviewed back for a second set of interviews to be held Monday, Jan. 31.
Called back were LaDon Linde and James Woodworth, who were interviewed Jan. 14, and Steve Carpenter and Pam Durfey, who were interviewed last night (Monday). Also interviewed Monday was John Miller.
In executive session, each of the 10 candidates were evaluated on their interviews and the board chose in its opinion who the top candidates were, said Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole. Based on the questions asked, Cole said, he believes the board is looking for someone who fits in with the rest of the board and the goals and objectives of the district.
Following the executive session when the top four candidates were chosen, Cole contacted all the candidates to let them know about the board's decision. "My feeling was all four of the candidates (moving forward in the process) were looking forward to a second interview," said Cole.
He said the decision to narrow it down to four was difficult because of the high quality of the 10 candidates.
Each of the candidates will be interviewed for 15 to 20 minutes on Jan. 31 and the board will meet in executive session to narrow the candidates to one. According to Cole, if a person is selected for the school board vacancy, they will be sworn in at the regularly scheduled meeting that night, which is to follow soon after the executive session.
Steve Carpenter was the first of the final three candidates to be interviewed by the members of the school board.
A Lower Valley native, Carpenter has spent most of his life in the Valley with the exception of four years spent at Washington State University in Pullman.
He returned to the Lower Valley, where he began working on the family farm, which he farms with his brothers.
Married with four children, Carpenter has three daughters who have graduated from Sunnyside High School and a son, who is currently a sophomore in the school district.
Carpenter said that following the death of Fred Kilian, several people approached him and suggested he fill the vacant position. After several weeks of struggling with the decision, he decided to put his name in the running.
The first question of the evening came from Rick Cole, who read board member Lorenzo Garza's questions for him. Garza participated in the interviews via telephone from Olympia. Garza's question brought up whether Carpenter ever felt it was appropriate for a school board member to have secret dealings with other members to get an idea pushed through.
"I can't see any time to work outside the (school board) meeting with a few board members to meet an objective," said Carpenter.
When asked by Larry Pangle how he would prepare for the meetings, Carpenter said he would review the school board packet beforehand. He said his goal would be to be as prepared as possible going into the meetings.
When it comes to finding out concerns from parents, community members and students, Carpenter said he would want to take a process oriented approach to understanding who has the strongest interests. He said then it's time to roll up his sleeve and hammer through the issues.
Carpenter said he has found a process oriented approach to working with people has its merits. He explained that getting people and stakeholders from both sides of an issue involved in the process yields a better result.
"What you come up with has a better chance to stand the test of time," said Carpenter.
When answering Joanne Kilian's question on how to know if the board is succeeding, Carpenter said it is very important for any organization to have a very clear purpose or mission statement. The Sunnyside School District's mission statement, he said, is to basically produce critical thinkers. He said looking at dropout rates and although controversial, test scores can help measure their progress. Carpenter said looking four, five or 10 years down the road at the students graduating from Sunnyside High School may also be a way to measure the product of the school district.
When it comes to working with the public, Carpenter said that he hopes to promote communication. He believes it is the school board's responsibility to take the extra step to let the community know what's going on and to bring those standing outside the process in kicking and screaming. He explained that it is important to listen to the patrons of the district but also the educators, administrators and students.
A native of Wisconsin, Miller was the second to interview for the school board position Monday evening. Married to Daria Miller, who is also seeking the school board vacancy, Miller is the father of two boys in the Sunnyside School District.
A marketing business consultant for Allstate, Miller said he has an interest in being part of an organization which his children are in.
When asked if he believes that secret dealings are appropriate, Miller said he feels everything should be left in the open.
"I believe in a team concept and working as a team," said Miller.
In preparation for school board meetings, Miller, who prides himself in being able to multitask and work well as a team, said he would get the agenda and do his best to prepare and research as best as possible.
Working with parents, students and staff, Miller said he would get the pulse of people through evaluations. He said he would send home evaluation forms quarterly for the parents.
"I'm very high on evaluations," said Miller. "If someone sees something not right I need to know so I can change it."
He said he believes that through open communication, parental involvement and feedback, they will be able to know if the school district has reached its objectives.
As a board member his goals would include making sure the children in the Sunnyside School District have a proper education to prepare them for the future. He added that he sees his role as a school board member as also overseeing the superintendent.
Miller also said it is important to promote communication between the schools and the community and to get more parents involved in the school district.
He said he sees the role of superintendent as the administrator of the school district, carrying out policies and overseeing the schools. He said the superintendent, in his mind, also oversees disciplinary actions and finances.
A sports enthusiast, Miller said the superintendent is like a sports team's general manager and the school board is like the CEO over the general manager.
Miller said he believes the school board should be totally involved in management and as hands-on as possible, in a positive way.
He anticipates that the group or individual who will influence him most will be the parents, but, he said, he would have to treat everyone equally and not favor anyone.
Miller said he believes that some school districts are better than others because some have the proper resources.
"I think we have a very solid school district here," he added.
The son of a former school board member in his hometown, Miller said he remembers being teased by friends who said he had an unfair advantage because his father was on the school board. He feels that students whose parents are administrators, teachers and school board members should be treated no differently than other kids in the district.
He said the school board needs to work as a team to benefit the community. In his work each member of his team has its strengths and weaknesses, he said.
"We keep moving on our strengths and working on our weaknesses," he said.
Miller added that he feels communication is one of his strengths, as is being a team player.
"If you give me an assignment I'm going to get it done and give it 100 percent of my effort," he added.
The final candidate to interview Monday is a Sunnyside native with strong ties to the community. The granddaughter and niece of former school board members, Durfey said she and her husband are trying to stress the importance of giving back to the community to their daughters, which she added is difficult to teach when you're not doing it yourself.
"I'm so excited about how many people who have applied," said the mother of two high school girls.
Looking at the school board as a long-term commitment, Durfey told members that she has no hidden agendas, but is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.
She said she has no other goal than to be a quality board member to serve the community and the people living here.
When questioned, Durfey said she doesn't believe in under the table dealings between board members.
"If it can't be out on the table it's not the way it should happen," said Durfey.
She said when preparing for a board meeting, she plans to do her homework before getting to the meeting.
"If I don't understand I will find someone to explain it to me," she said. "When I go into that board meeting I need to be aware of the issues. We need to be there ready to make decisions."
When it comes to looking for feedback from the community, Durfey expects that if selected to the school board she won't have to go out seeking how the community feels about an issue. She added that as a board member there is a lot more liberty to directly asking questions and for feedback.
"People have a tendency to talk to you if you have an interest," she said.
When asked how she will know if the district is meeting its objectives, Durfey said she hopes that public feedback, WASL scores and other information put out by the district will help gauge how the district is doing.
Durfey said she sees the role of the superintendent as putting into order the policies set by the school board.
"We give the superintendent direction, but he also gives us information," she said. "I think we need to set policy and be there, but I don't think we need to manage it."
When asked who would be the most influential in her decision making process, Durfey said the families the school board is trying to serve would be most influential.
"I look at our children as our greatest resource. Our future lies with our children," she said. "We need to feel we're doing the best we can for the children we're responsible to."
When asked if she felt one school district was better than another, Durfey said, "I believe some school districts have more money than others, but that doesn't make them better."