There are three North Thurston school board seats on the Nov. 7 ballot, and two are contested. Voters face mostly lackluster choices.
In the position 2 race, incumbent Chuck Namit is a 24-year veteran of the board and the incumbent. Another incumbent, Marcia Coppin, is running against him after district boundaries changed and put her in the same district as Namit. Either candidate could serve but neither impresses us. That is our rough conclusion in the other contested race.
Namit does have greater experience, which includes a role on the executive staff of the state school board association, but it may be time for him to step aside to let fresher voices be heard on the board.
Namit cites improving achievement scores, higher graduation rates and good board hires for superintendent as reasons to support him. He also appears respected and has command of many facts and figures about the district and some grasp of state education policy.
Coppin has the experience of a former para-educator and talks about her concerns for what families are experiencing outside of the classroom these days. Her passion for children is more genuine and recent.
Namit struck us as someone who does not listen well; he talked over Coppin a few times during our joint interview of the candidates. If Namit wins, he’ll need to be less oblivious; if Coppin wins, she’ll need to be more assertive.
In the position 3 race, Melissa “Mel” Hartley is running unopposed as the incumbent with good credentials. She is an Army veteran and lawyer who both practices law and teaches health law and ethics at the Madigan Army Medical Center.
In the position 1 race, two people with experience around public schools are running for a two-year unexpired term. Neither earns our endorsement.
Gretchen Maliska served on North Thurston levy campaigns and works for Olympia School District. Steven Capps has served on the board of the North Thurston Education Foundation and lists experience in banking and accounting.
In the Thurston County’s voter pamphlet Maliska spoke of her work managing a career and technical-education program for Olympia schools, which is a valuable perspective.
Capps wrote of his ability to think outside the box in getting resources to students. Capps also responded to an Olympian candidate questionnaire, noting that children eligible for free or reduced-price meals make up more than 40 percent of the district enrollment.
One of his prescriptions is to counter district poverty by working with Lacey city officials to “entice professional and technical employers” to the community.
Neither Maliska nor Capps agreed to attend editorial board interviews, and both were completely unresponsive in other ways. That raises questions about their readiness to serve the public.