Jul. 27—Advancing equity work and addressing pandemic recovery is, in part, what has the Vancouver Public Schools board's longest-serving director believing the district's brightest days are ahead.
Wendy Smith, first elected to the board in 2017, seeks reelection in Position 3 — one of two board positions up for election in Clark County's second-largest district ahead of the Aug. 3 primary.
Smith is being challenged by Jorge Bailey and Megan Gabriel. Bailey and Gabriel did not respond to The Columbian's inquiries for this story.
The district's equity work, long-term pandemic recovery and the reopening of schools for 2021-22 are some of the more pressing issues Smith addressed to The Columbian. She noted August will be its most pressing task; school starts Aug. 31. The state Department of Health hasn't made major revisions to its fall guidance for schools since the CDC announced earlier this month vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.
DOH guidance first released May 13 reads masks must be worn indoors in the fall; however, it has since added "a more comprehensive update in consideration of CDC recommendations will be completed later this summer."
While Smith said she admits there were frustrating times surrounding COVID-19 and reopening last school year, she said she believes VPS responded to pandemic-related challenges "in a reasonable and properly cautious way" while maintaining a student-centered focus in decision-making.
Recently, VPS published its equity audit, showing results and recommendations for the district. Work is ongoing, and Smith added one "overarching lesson" she's learned from the pandemic is "how absolutely essential our schools are in connecting families to the services they need." Those include the Family Community Resources Centers, which are located at select campuses districtwide and are not funded through state dollars.
"I have long been a believer in community schools, and that position has only strengthened over the past year and a half," Smith said. "Schools are expected to provide so much more to our students beyond academics. Educators have long understood the importance that safety and security play in students' readiness to learn."
Smith is a social studies teacher at Heritage High School in Evergreen Public Schools, and is the board's longest-serving director on a newer board that's endured turnover. Since 2019, the VPS school board has featured six new directors, including two directors in Position 2 since last summer. The board appointed a new superintendent; Jeff Snell began superintendent duties July 1.
The top two candidates from the primary advance to the Nov. 2 general election.