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A peek behind the editorial curtain

Ken Vance Editorial Clarkcountytoday.comCAM Academy issue piques the interest of this newspaperman

On occasion I like to give you a peek behind the curtain of our news organization. In this case, I’m referring to coverage decisions I’ve made recently.

Our reporter Alex Peru has done a good job recently providing ClarkCountyToday.com readers information on the bond measures on the ballot for next week’s special election in the Evergreen, Battle Ground and La Center school districts. Providing funds for desperately needed facilities in area school districts isn’t sexy news, but it’s obviously very important that voters are informed before making a decision on how they feel about a district’s request for millions, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars.

After we provided an analysis of each of the bonds in the three districts mentioned above, I received a thoughtful email from Madelaine Prather-Albers, a senior at Battle Ground’s CAM Academy. Madelaine wanted to inform me of the potential impacts the bond measure in her district could have on CAM Academy.

Madelaine didn’t hide the fact that she had a motive in writing me. She treasured her experiences at CAM Academy and she didn’t want the school to lose its culture, its sense of community, that has been cultivated over the many years the school has been in existence.

Those of you who are regular readers of my thoughts on Clark County issues, know that I go out of my way to not attempt to influence elections. Some folks in the newspaper industry feel it’s OK to tell voters how to fill out their ballots, but I don’t. I am more comfortable when scribes like me give you the information and then let you decide. What a boring and, frankly, horrible world would it be if we all thought the same way or voted the same way.

Our first effort in addressing the issue at CAM Academy was a story mostly representing the thoughts of Madelaine and a few of her fellow students. There was representation in the story from Rita Sanders, communications manager for Battle Ground Public Schools, but for the most part we allowed the students to tell their story.

I received some thoughts from readers that the story appeared to be a bit one-sided from the students’ perspective. It was valid feedback. But, I assure you that when I asked Alex to do the story, there was no intent on my part for our coverage to influence public opinion one way or the other.

I don’t have a dog in the fight. I don’t live in the Battle Ground School District. To my knowledge, I don’t have any close friends or family members who are students or have students at CAM Academy. That said, my impression is that CAM Academy is a special place. That perception was created in my nine years working at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, during which time I interacted with many who worked as staff members, students and families at the school. I will disclose that Alex is a CAM Academy grad and we also employed CAM graduate Michael McCormic Jr. last summer as an intern.

The reason Madelaine’s email piqued my interest was much more personal to me than anything closely relating to any of the above connections, or lack thereof, for me. It reminded me of my own high school experience.

I grew up in Skamania County and I attended Stevenson High School. Despite the fact that our small school not only had a small enrollment but also a modest building and other facilities, there is nowhere on earth I would have rather spent my formative years. I’m not putting us up for comparison to CAM Academy or its students, but we had our own wonderful community and culture and our own share of achievements and successes.

That is why I thought these students at CAM Academy deserved to have a voice. If the bond measure in Battle Ground passes, they are going to be moved to a different location. The dynamics of their community, their culture, are going to change and they don’t want change. They want that same culture and sense of community that has become their legacy to continue for the students that follow. Let me remind you, the CAM students we talked to aren’t asking for anything other than the status quo. They’re not asking for a new facility.

I don’t believe that Battle Ground School District officials have any sinister motives in this situation. That district has a serious problem with its facilities, which have deferred maintenance and obsolescence issues, not to mention the fact that the district faces significant challenges in accommodating a rapidly growing enrollment. In addition to that, the district doesn’t own the current building CAM Academy occupies, and Alex Peru’s coverage has detailed the problems that creates.

The district held an information night Tuesday for CAM Academy students and their families. Battle Ground School District Superintendent Mark Ross expressed confidence that if CAM Academy does move to a new location, its incredible culture and sense of community will continue to exist because of the students, teachers and staff members who have helped create and maintain it. I hope he’s right.

If you’re a Battle Ground voter, I encourage you to read our coverage for more information. If you live inside the Battle Ground School District boundary, I encourage you to vote on this important bond measure. How you vote is your business.

Ballots for the bond vote must be submitted by Tue. Feb. 13 at 8 p.m.

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About The Author

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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