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Voters to have choice in race for Bainbridge Island School Board
There’s something unique about this November’s race for the Director District 2 position for the Bainbridge Island School Board.
Yes, it’s the first time in 12 years where voters have been given a choice between two candidates.
It’s also the only race on this year’s ballot featuring an incumbent.
That incumbent would be Mike Spence, who currently serves as the president of the school board.
Spence, 57, is an attorney who is seeking a second term. He’s facing a challenger for the first time, Dale Perry.
Perry, 52, is a semi-retired utility executive running for public office for the first time.
Spence said he hopes to get re-elected, because there is still work to do.
“I have some unfinished business,” Spence said.
I find these issues very stimulating and exciting. There’s a part of me that really likes the mental gymnastics of education. Plus, I just love education,” Spence said.
The love of education, he said, probably comes from his start in teaching real estate law classes almost 20 years ago at North Seattle Community College.
“I was teaching a group of students some complicated concept and some guy in the back of the room obviously got it for the first time. And I saw it in his face,” he said. “It was the greatest feeling.”
One of Spence’s priorities if elected will be to help get the tech levy that’s planned for the February 2014 ballot passed.
“We’ve got to pass that tech levy, because we’re falling behind in computers,” he said.
Career and technical education, once called vocational training, is another focus area to look at, he said.
Not every Bainbridge student is bound for college, he said.
“We need something for the ones who maybe have something else in mind,” Spence said.
Spence said the district has accomplished great things in recent years. He noted the money saved in the building bond that paid for the Bainbridge High School 200 Building.
“We returned 800 grand to the voters,” he said.
Debt has also been restructured, and it’s saved taxpayers $12 million.
“Fiscally, we have been very prudent with the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
The reconstruction of Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary was also completed, and the district is almost paying no interest on the debt, he said.
“What a lot of people don’t realize that some of the expense went into things that were very prudent,” Spence said, such as the radiant geothermal heating system.
“The heat bills for that building will be very low,” Spence said.
“I would prefer to pay less on heat, and more into the classroom,” he said.
The school district has had its critics, Spence acknowledged, and he noted that his opponent has been one of them. Perry has been outspoken in the past on the district’s Spanish immersion program and its multi-age learning program.
Part of the problem has been that the district has not been very good at tooting its own horn, Spence said.
“We don’t tell our story very well. It’s a good story,” he said.
“There’s a small group of very loud critics. I would love to figure out a way to make them happy,” Spence added.
Spence said there is a clear difference between himself and his opponent. Spence said he’s worked hard to bring people together who have opposing views.
“All he’s done so far publicly is bash me. He wanted to shut down the Spanish immersion program, he wanted to fire [District Superintendent] Faith Chapel. He’s more like a wrecking ball, I think, than he is a constructive guy,” Spence said.
Perry, however, denies ever saying he wanted Chapel fired.
Instead, Perry said, he met with Spence to ask the board’s process for evaluating its top official.
“I wanted there to be an audit of her performance and let them decide,” Perry said.
His reason for running is simple.
“I know that we both want what is best for the kids on the island,” Perry said.
“One area that is coming clear in how we differ in utilizing data. Is it because I am an engineer and he is an attorney? I don’t have the answer for that. I do know, having watched the tape of the recent forum that my opponent said words to the effect of, ‘You can make numbers say whatever you want them to say.’”
“While that statement may be true for some, I believe the numbers (test scores) of our students are very important and very telling information. We should be using that information to help us analyze what is working and what is not,” he said.
Perry said there are performance issues at Ordway Elementary.
“Part of the remit of our school board is ‘quality assurance’ and this is a quality assurance issue. If
I was on the school board today, this would be a specific agenda item and there would be a call for ‘all hands on deck’ to assist and support Ordway with their challenge,” he said.
“I would call for a task force comprised of principals and teachers who have advanced their scores over the last four years at the other schools, along with those from Ordway,” he said.
Occupation: Attorney, part-time law instructor
Education: JD, William Mitchell College of Law
Previously held elected position: Running for second term on school board.
Community Service: School board.
Web address: Facebook/Mike Spence for School Board
Fun Fact: Part owner of the Green Bay Packers.
Current Job: Semi-retired utility executive
Education: Valedictorian of a class of 525 at Coeur d'Alene High School; AB, Engineering Sciences and Russian Language, Dartmouth College; qualified as Nuclear Engineering and Submarine Officer, U.S. Navy
Community Service: President, Wing Point Community; volunteer math tutor; volunteer parent with Bainbridge Island Rowing and Bainbridge Cross Country; former board member, Bainbridge Schools Foundation.
Fun fact: Training to run the Seattle Marathon. Have run marathons in Baltimore, Barcelona, Spain and Delaware.