Race for Position 1 on the Vancouver School Board hotly contested

Longtime incumbent Dale Rice challenged by Kyle Sproul

VANCOUVER — For many, the most intriguing of the three races for a seat on the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors is that for Position 1, between incumbent Dale Rice and challenger Kyle Sproul.

Rice has 29 years experience as a director for Vancouver Public Schools. Sproul states she “is a VPS parent of three and a business professional with 19 years of experience in Strategic Business Development.’’

The two candidates advanced from a field of four in the August primary election. Rice garnered 36 percent of the votes and Sproul was close behind with 33 percent of the votes.

Here is a closer look at the two candidates (in alphabetical order):

Dale Rice

Rice’s 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.

Dale Rice
Dale Rice

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

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. 

Kyle Sproul
Kyle Sproul

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 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.’’

More from Dale Rice

When contacted by Clark County Today, Rice was asked what he considers to be the key issue in his race.

“It is always about the students and student achievement,’’ he said. “Preparing them well for the world after K-12 is the goal. So, how are we doing?  A recent nationwide Stanford University study shows Vancouver students are outperforming many students nationally. Stanford says our students are outperforming other students in the nation of the same socioeconomic group by 14 percent per year.’’

Here’s the link to the Stanford University study:

“The key standard for any school system is not the various lower level grade score differences from one year to the next, but the high school graduation rate,’’ Rice said. “Vancouver’s is at an all-time high of 85 percent with its summer extend graduation rate of 89 percent.  So, no matter where our students come from; poverty, newly immigrated or just your average wonderful regular student, we get them up to the state’s high school graduation standards and do it at an on-time basis no matter where they started in their earlier grades.

More from Kyle Sproul

When contacted by Clark County Today, Sproul said, “I am focused on student achievement and achievement gaps in our district. We need to do better for the students of Vancouver Public Schools. Our students are not graduating with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful — 65 percent of VPS high school students fail to meet the state standard on the basic 10th grade math test. 

“There is clear evidence that the status quo is not working for our increasingly diverse student population,’’ Sproul said. “According to the OSPI data, our Hispanic and low-income students are half as likely to meet the state math standards. The recently released Stanford study shows Hispanic students are 1.9 grade levels behind their white peers and low-income students are 2.4 grades behind.

“Vancouver is a dynamic and diverse community and I believe it is time we evolve our school policies to better meet the needs of the students we have,’’ Sproul added. “I believe that many issues have been covered in my race. I am proud of the fact that my race has brought much-needed attention to the issues of student achievement within Vancouver Public Schools.’’

Rice responds to criticism

“My opponent offers criticism of the educational system but no solutions,’’ Rice said. “She has no experience with managing a large educational system.  She has never managed an educational system with nearly 24,000 students, and 3,000 employees and fought the negative impacts of poverty and immigration in education.  There are no overnight solutions when you are educating students from poverty with mobility rates of 40 percent (students that start the year in school but do not finish the year in school) in some schools, or dealing with new immigrants that start with little to no English skills.  She probably does not know it takes 4 to 6 years to catch these students up to grade level. And, when you test these students before they reach standard they will score poorly on tests. Her criticism focuses on the lower various grade level test scores, not knowing that these kids enter the system at various different grades throughout the system and impact those grades adversely, until they are caught up.  This is expected and it is being dealt with by our many intervention programs designed especially for these under-performing students. It takes time to bring these students up to standard. Without that time any system will look poor.’’

Rice continued, “Criticism by a politically motivated opponent is hollow without offering solutions.  This shows a lack of deep understanding of the complexity within the K-12 education system. Our society has changed over the past many years and Vancouver has changed with it.  The new societal composition and its education are not only the challenge in Vancouver but in the state and the nation.

“The Vancouver School District is winning this race but it takes time for system modifications which are being provided by the many wonderful, dedicated, hard working employees of the Vancouver School District, and its outstanding supportive community,’’ Rice said. “We have not built this system and received national awards for leading education in the country by accident.  Do not let some new critics change the successful path Vancouver Public Schools is on.’’

League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

Among the questions Rice and Sproul responded to at a recent League of Women Voters Candidate Forum was this:

In view of budget shortfalls and potential budget cuts, what are your top three program items that should not be cut in three areas that could be considered for reduction?

Sproul: “Unfortunately, Vancouver Public Schools does not release its detailed budget to the public. I look forward as a school director to the opportunity to evaluate the comprehensive budget and to go line by line. I do think fresh eyes and fresh perspective add a lot of value to budget processes. Right now, we need to trim by 2.5 percent. And, I do think that that is a doable task. My priority is money going to programs and initiatives that are proven to support and enhance classroom learning. Lastly, like our neighboring districts, we must host town halls to gather community input. And to address our budget concerns, the budget should be a reflection of community values and the public must be engaged in the budget process.’’

Rice: “So we’ve had to make cuts, but we stayed away from the classroom. The intent is to stay away from the classroom and impact the system in an immediate way, the least amount possible. But, you want to hang on to counselors and clerical workers and custodial staff and all as best you can. So, if it gets down to it, we will have to find out where the deficiency is, if there is one, and then that decision will have to be made at that time, but for me, I don’t want to impact the students in their classroom and they’ll be the last ones we go for. But, they may be necessary since 85 cents on every dollar in the district is human costs. It’s going to be a tough decision if we don’t get additional supplemental funding.’’

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