Barrows and Lewis approach position from different roles in the community
VANCOUVER — The race for the Position 5 seat on the Vancouver School District Board of Directors began with four candidates on the August primary election ballot. Tracie Barrows and Chris Lewis survived the top-two primary and are the two candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election.
Barrows has 12 years experience as a school psychologist, currently working in the Evergreen School District. Lewis has been a Certified Public Accountant for 16 years and he is currently owner of Lewis Group CPAs.
Here is a closer look at the two candidates (in alphabetical order):
Barrows also has experience in school-based behavioral health and as a paraeducator in special education. She served as a trainer for Nonviolent Crisis Intervention courses and has been a small business owner.
She earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Her community service has been as a school volunteer, in children’s ministry at church, as a volunteer for children in foster care, community outreach for early learning resources, staff for summer youth camp, volunteer teacher for English courses overseas, and has led a counseling seminar an orphanage/school in Africa.
“As a school psychologist and wife of a teacher, I know firsthand the opportunities and challenges that teachers face in providing academic learning, while also meeting the increased emotional and basic needs of our students,’’ Barrows said in her voters’ pamphlet statement. “Our schools are tasked with equipping our students with the resources and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century. My job every day is to support students, families, and teachers in these efforts, and that is exactly what I promise to do on the school board.
“VPS has shown success with their Family Community Resource Centers, increased counselor support, and other initiatives for supportive schools,’’ Barrows added. “I want to continue to advance this mission by making sure that the comprehensive needs of our students are being met.
“By prioritizing our budget appropriately, we can ensure our classrooms are safe places of learning and academic growth,’’ Barrows said. “My expertise and experience working in schools gives me the necessary insight to set policies, identify priorities, and best determine how our tax dollars should be spent to meet the diverse needs of all of our children.’’
Barrows told Clark County Today that she believes the key issue in her race “comes down to what students need.’’
“All decisions, whether it is budget/financial decisions, curriculum, policies or procedures, come down to identifying what students need,’’ Barrows said. “Does our budget reflect an understanding and prioritization of student needs? Are our curriculum decisions reflective of what students truly need? So ultimately, the key issue is, who best understands what students need? Is it a parent with business experience? Is it an educator? Is it a school psychologist? Voters will decide that on November 5.’’
At a recent League of Women Voters of Clark County candidate forum, Barrows described herself as “the wife of a fourth grade teacher and I’m a stepmom. I’ve dedicated my life towards Public Education and I am passionate about the work that I do to support students, families and teachers. And my time as a school psychologist, I’ve seen the increase in trauma and mental health needs in our students as well as the impact that these social, emotional and behavioral issues have in the classroom and in a school building.
“One of my top priorities is to ensure that the mental health and emotional needs of our students are being met as we set policies and priorities for our district,’’ Barrows said. “My goal is to have VPS be a trauma-informed district and to ensure that our teachers and staff are equipped with the training and resources that they need to support students’ social emotional learning and mental health needs.
“Another goal of mine is to create a board with open and transparent communication and decision making,’’ Barrows said. “To me that means back and forth dialogue, my accessibility as a board member to teachers, parents and community members, and an atmosphere where the community members feel heard and represented by the board members.’’
Lewis is a graduate of Battle Ground High School and has a degree from Washington State University in Accounting and Finance.
Lewis has been a Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools board member and finance committee member; a WSU Vancouver Business Growth mentor; a Ridgefield High School volunteer in Business and Marketing classes; a Hazel Dell Little League baseball coach and treasurer for five years; Salmon Creek Little League softball coach; Lake Shore Elementary PTA member and a parent volunteer.
“If elected, I will bring the same passion to this position, as I have in my life as husband, father, and business owner,’’ Lewis said in his Voters’ Pamphlet statement. “All three of my children are students in the Vancouver Public Schools; I am a true stakeholder. I am also a business owner and CPA with 16-plus years of experience working with budgets and finances. I will apply my experience in helping to develop a transparent budget that works for the community, the staff, and most importantly, the students.
“I want what is best for all students and believe that we need to continue to attract and retain the best teachers and staff we can find as they are working hard to make this an award-winning school district,’’ Lewis said. “VPS has a high degree of variability in socioeconomic status between individual schools. This can, and should, be utilized to provide outstanding opportunities for lower income students in our district. Lastly, we must insure all taxpayers in VPS, whether or not they have children in the district, receive an excellent return on investment.’’
Lewis told Clark County Today that he believes the key issue in his race “is the budget deficit facing Vancouver Public Schools. I decided to run because I have three kids in the district, and I am a CPA and business owner who possesses a unique set of skills and perspective to bring to the board. Vancouver Public Schools is one of the largest businesses in Clark County with an operating budget of over $340 million, over 3,000 staff, and 24,000 students.
“With the recent bond passage, Vancouver Public Schools is now the largest land developer in Clark County, too, with over $500 million in construction projects either underway or about to start,’’ Lewis said. “We need somebody on the board who has experience operating a business and helping businesses throughout our community navigate difficult financial situations and that is exactly where my experience as a CPA and business owner will help the district.’’
Lewis also told Clark County Today that Vancouver Public Schools are unique.
“An issue that has not been covered in our race is the uniqueness of Vancouver Public Schools and how roughly half our schools reside inside the city limits of Vancouver while the other half reside outside the city limits,’’ Lewis said. “With the city of Vancouver working towards creating additional affordable housing projects, this could increase the concentration of poverty in our schools that reside inside the city limits. As a school district, we need to be working hand in hand with the city of Vancouver so that we are prepared to handle the influx of students this will bring and to insure that we are prepared to meet the needs of our current and future students.’’
At the recent candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters of Clark County, Lewis told those in attendance he was running “as an independent voice that will represent all stakeholders in education, which includes the community teachers and staff and students.’’