Four candidates compete in Vancouver School District Position No. 1 race

Incumbent faces three challengers for the position on the Board of Directors

VANCOUVER — There is no shortage of candidates for the three openings on the Vancouver School District’s Board of Directors. Just as is the case with positions 4 and 5, there are four candidates on the ballot for the Aug. 6 primary election vying for Position No. 1.

Two of the four candidates will advance from the top two primary to the general election in November.

Incumbent Dale Rice will be challenged in the race for Position 1 by Thomas Higdon, Caressa Milgrove and Kyle Sproul.

Here’s a brief look (in alphabetical order) at the candidates’ profiles offered in the voters’ pamphlet:

Thomas Higdon

Four candidates compete in Vancouver School District Position No. 1 race
Thomas Higdon

Higdon is a retired independent promoter and fundraiser. He has elected experience (twice) as a Precinct Committee Officer. He received an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1972 and has completed Continuing Education courses at Clark College.

“As an accomplished writer and essayist, I have submitted letters to the editor in support of worthy candidates and have helped craft campaign material intended to inform and enlighten Clark County voters,’’ Higdon said of his community service.

As far as his vision for Vancouver Public Schools, Higdon said, “A school district is a team and functions as one. No greater responsibility and privilege has the present generation than guiding the Vancouver School District students preparing to assume the role of informed responsible adults. Their right to a tradition-rich education in a secure environment is paramount.

“If violence in a school setting is to be prevented, security measures as now exist should be examined with an eye to enhancing and refining them, including regular monitoring of the system to ensure against laxity,’’ Higdon said. “Mathematics, Science, Civics, American History, English and literature are indispensable and should be so regarded. Since graduates will immediately find themselves in a competitive setting, English should be highly prioritized as this is the arena where communication skills develop. Here is where we can dramatically reduce such illiteracy as has characterized so many contemporary graduates. 

“No academic facility has the power to confer an education, but in the hands of the right instructor, a student may be infused with a thirst for knowledge and provided with the tools whereby he may educate himself,’’ Higdon added. “I pledge myself to work untiringly to build upon the work others have brought to the VSD.’’

Caressa Milgrove

Four candidates compete in Vancouver School District Position No. 1 race
Cassie Milgrove

Milgrove lists her professional experience as hospitality auditor. She received an Associate’s of Arts Degree from Clark College and majored in Public Affairs with a minor in Business at Washington State University Vancouver.

Milgrove has no elected experience but says she is an “advocate for education at all levels, most notably around ensuring children have enough time to eat and expanding access to higher education. I have volunteered in our schools, planted trees, harvested fresh produce for our food bank, and put together care packages for homeless women and children. I am drawn to serving others and embrace opportunities to do so.

“For the last several years, I’ve dedicated myself to speaking up for what our children need,’’ Millgrove said. “Through countless conversations with parents, educators, and community stakeholders, I’ve heard concerns about issues they consider paramount in our school system. It is clear the health and well-being of every student should be our top priority. I have demonstrated my commitment to improving our schools through my advocacy and activism at the state level, working on successful legislation protecting lunch times for students. 

“As a mom of two VPS students, I’m deeply invested in the future of our schools,’’ Millgrove added. “Vancouver Public Schools are excellent and innovative places for our children to learn and grow. However, I believe improvements can be made by better involving families and the community in the district’s decisions. Our community has always supported its schools. We care deeply about public education. But too often our questions and concerns seem to go unheard. Honest communication and transparency are needed to assure the public that their dollars are being responsibly and efficiently spent in accordance with our community’s values. My devotion to service and equity, fresh perspective, and experience navigating various levels of government are needed assets on the board.’’

Dale Rice

Four candidates compete in Vancouver School District Position No. 1 race
Dale Rice

Rice has 29 years experience as a director for Vancouver Public Schools. His professional experience includes 20 years as vice president of Northwest National Bank; five years as president of Northwest Investment Management and 20 years as owner of Dale Q. Rice Investment Management.

Rice has securities licenses (Series 7, 24 and 63) and also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Economics from Western Washington University. He has served the community as a member of the Vancouver Public Schools Management Task Force.

“For 29 years, I have been honored to serve the students of Vancouver Public Schools,’’ Rice stated. “With my banking and money management experience, I have helped negotiate lower interest rates on more than $700 million in bonds for school construction, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. VPS has received a clean audit report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office for the past 13 consecutive years. 

“Additionally, I have helped VPS evolve into a district highly respected for innovation,’’ Rice added. “Tablet or laptop computers have been provided for every student in grades 3-12, along with technology tools, training and support for teachers. VPS has created dynamic educational choices including Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Vancouver iTech Preparatory, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement courses, second language learning pathways, career-technical education, and many other offerings. 

“U.S. News & World Report in its 2019 ranking placed five VPS high schools among the best in the state and nation,’’ Rice said. “The on-time graduation rate has increased from 64 percent to 85 percent and continues to improve. Community partnerships have expanded through 18 Family-Community Resource Centers and two mobile FCRCs. I am proud of the entire VPS team and all of our accomplishments. I respectfully ask for your vote to sustain our progress.’’

Kyle Sproul

Four candidates compete in Vancouver School District Position No. 1 race
Kyle Sproul

Sproul has professional experience in commercial marketing and management at Target and Gap corporate headquarters. She later transitioned into small business, developing new business initiatives, managing business strategy and marketing, and participating in budget review and contract negotiations. 

Sproul has a Master of Business Administration Degree in Strategic Business Development from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and a Bachelor’s Degree (English and Art) from Georgetown University. Sproul said she “spends countless hours in classrooms and on sports fields volunteering for Harney, Eisenhower, and Felida elementary schools; Salmon Creek Little League; and Vancouver Parks and Recreation.

In her statement, Sproul said she “is a VPS parent of three and a business professional with 19 years of experience in Strategic Business Development.’’ She added that she “is uniquely qualified to serve as school board director.’’

Sproul said she “knows how to strategize effective, long-term solutions to address the district’s budget shortfall.’’ She said she “volunteers in our schools to directly support teachers and classroom learning’’ and “understands the changing needs and demographics of our school district and community.’’

Sproul also states that she “is committed to achievement, accountability, and action’’ and “was spurred into action by VPS’s shockingly low achievement scores on standardized tests and its substantial achievement gap among certain populations.’’

Sproul said, “There is no excuse for VPS to perform so far below the state’s average.’’ She indicated she “is determined to represent VPS’s underserved populations to ensure consistent and improved achievement for all.’’

Sproul also promised to “challenge the VPS administration to raise the achievement bar and quality of education for all students.’’

CVTV coverage of League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

Here’s a link to CVTV’s coverage of a League of Women Voters Candidate Forum held on July 16 with candidates vying for positions on the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors:

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