Thirteen file to fill Vancouver School Board vacancy

The names include several runner-ups from the August primary

VANCOUVER — Thirteen people filed for consideration to temporarily fill Position 4 on the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors, left open after the resignation of Michelle Giovannozzi, who stepped down at the end of last month.

Thirteen file to fill Vancouver School Board vacancy
Tracie Barrows, candidate for Vancouver School Board Position 5, and Lisa Messer, a candidate for Position 4, address SEIU Local 925 members outside a Board of Directors meeting Monday evening. Photo by Chris Brown

And more than a few of those names will be familiar to anyone who voted in the August primary.

Three of the candidates to temporarily fill Giovannozzi’s seat were runner-ups in the primary, including Scott Dalesandro and Jennifer Hawks-Conright, who ran for Position 5, and Lindsey Luis who finished fourth out of four in the race to be on the ballot for Position 4 in November.

All three signed an agreement that they would not apply for the open seat, though they will not be on the ballot in November. Kathy Decker and Lisa Messer, both teachers, will face off for the seat in the November general election.

Among the other candidates to fill the temporary vacancy is Adam Aguilera, an Evergreen School District teacher who finished fourth in the race for Vancouver City Council, Position 6 in the primary and garnered the backing of SEIU Local 925, which represents bus drivers, custodians, nutrition services workers and other district staff in that race.

Thirteen file to fill Vancouver School Board vacancy
Adam Aguilera (right) addresses a group of SEIU Local 925 members outside a Vancouver Schools Board of Directors meeting. Aguilera is one of 13 applicants to fill a temporary vacancy on the board. Photo by Chris Brown

Those SEIU employees are currently in the midst of heated contract negotiations with the district and showed up in force at Tuesday’s school board meeting, decked in purple. 

Outside, Aguilera told the group he stands with them and filed for the vacancy to ensure they get the contract they deserve.

“Our SEIU Local 925 workers are not treated with the same respect and job security as any other job position in this school district,” said Aguilera.

“Yes, SEIU participates in politics,” said Karen Hart, chapter president. “Politics is your paycheck.”

Another familiar name throwing her hat in the ring is Kathy Gillespie, who served on the Vancouver School Board from 2009 to 2017 before resigning to run for the state House, a race eventually won by Rep. Larry Hoff.

Gillespie said her years of experience on the board would fulfill the role of “caretaker” who would provide a “smooth transition and a bridge to the November election.”

Luis said she hopes to serve as the board’s lone person of color.

“As a bilingual Latina, in a school district that serves over a quarter Hispanic/Latino students and families, I will bring the perspective of a member of this community,” wrote Luis in her application. “The board is lacking the invaluable perspective I can provide.”

Hawks-Conright is a mother of four, including a Hudson’s Bay graduate, a Fort Vancouver High School sophomore, and twins starting their first year at Felida Elementary. Both have what is considered high-functioning autism, and Hawks-Conright said their experience in the district’s special education program sparked her interest in running for the board.

“Although the seat is only for a few months, I still feel that I would be making a difference in our children’s lives should I be afford (sic) the chance to serve on the school board,” Hawks-Conright wrote. She has a Masters in International Relations and served as a civilian compliance officer and official top secret translator for the Diplomatic Corps during the U.S. deployment in Afghanistan during Desert Storm.

Dalesandro is a retired business manager who unsuccessfully ran for a Port of Vancouver commissioner seat in 2014. In his application letter, Dalesandro said he believes his business experience would assist the school district in dealing with the upcoming budget issues.

“I have been a regular attendee of meetings for many months and plan on continuing that practice,” wrote Dalesandro.

Another name of note is Paul Scarpelli, a Fort Vancouver High School graduate who is currently a finance manager for Clark County Community Development.

“Although nothing compares in scale to the Vancouver School District,” wrote Scarpelli, “the complexities, breadth, diversity and political environment is similar.”

Other names on the list include:

Spring Benson, a mother of three who works for the state of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services.

Michael Hadfield, a retired US Air Force veteran who coaches youth sports and serves as a scout master with the Boy Scouts.

Trevor Hayward, co-founder and president of boutique engineering firm Hayward, Uskoski and Associates and former member of the city of Vancouver’s Planning Commission.

Scott Judkins, founder and CEO of PayTrace, a web-based payment company. Judkins stated he has volunteered as a lunch buddy for Vancouver Public Schools for the past seven years and is seeking a way to give back further to the district.

Susan Normington, president of the Lieser campus Parent-Teacher Organization and former Messiah Lutheran Preschool board member.

Sindy Sands, a substitute special education teacher and former Washington Speech Language and Learning board member and president.

Holly J. Williams, a former Evergreen School Board member from 2000 to 2009. Williams also serves as a lunch buddy for Vancouver schools and treasurer for Bike Clark County.

Candidates will be interviewed on Aug. 20, starting at 8 a.m. at the Bates Center for Educational Leadership at 2921 Falk Road in Vancouver, Room 100.

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