Six questions were posed to Walla Walla School Board candidates Joshua Gonzales and Sam Wells, who are running to fill the Director 1 seat on the board. These are responses from Wells.
Name: Sam Wells
Occupation: Financial advisor, Edward Jones.
Community service: Noon Rotary Club; Blue Mountain Human Society board member for six years, board president for two years; Junior Achievement classroom volunteer for nine years.
Education: University Preparatory Academy, Seattle; University of the Pacific at Stockton, Calif., bachelor of science in economics.
Family: Wife, Joyce, and three children.
(1) How could the school district best improve its education programs and services to prepare graduates for life in the 21st century?
Evaluating the effectiveness of programs through testing and feedback from teachers, parents, and students should be one of the highest priorities of the school district. A continual improvement process of the current systems, and plans for implementation of new technologies and systems, should be in place and monitored by a diverse group of teachers and administrators. The cumulative experience of Walla Walla’s teachers and administrators needs to be leveraged across the district. We should not be afraid to discontinue programs that are no longer working, however challenging making some of those decisions may be. Preparing graduates with a solid education, problem solving skills and a direction toward their best skill set would be a good start toward introducing them to a world where change is a constant and the future can feel uncertain.
(2) How could the board and district do a better job communicating with constituents?
Having a diverse board where individual directors share the district’s vision, programs, and results with their own personal and business community networks would be ideal. The wider we can share information with the community of Walla Walla, the more involved parents and other community members will feel toward whatever efforts the school district is making. These communications would, of course, be in addition to the communication already taking place through the district’s website, newsletter and board meetings.
(3) How would you have voted as a school board member on whether to put the Feb. 12 bond proposal on the ballot and why?
Yes. A tremendous amount of work from many well-informed constituents went into that proposal. To deny the voters the right to vote on an improvement to their schools seems misguided to me. However, I don’t think the proposal would have looked exactly the same had I been on the board in prior years. In general, I would like to see smaller bonds that address more specific objectives.
(4) What criteria would you use to evaluate whether a bond or levy measure should be placed before voters?
We need to balance the benefits over the life of the project with the cost to the taxpayer. Also, we need to gauge its likelihood of passing. It seems that smaller projects with a narrow focus are more popular with the voters and we need to keep this in mind. I hope the current research the district is doing in their surveys will shed some light on this.
(5) Do you think there is room for more tax-supported school funding measures in the current local economy?
Yes, but of course it depends on how, what, and when. People are proud of our district and, like me, want it to be better. People want a good deal when it comes to shopping or a bond proposal. They want to see what the benefits are and decide whether they can afford it. Just because one recent bond didn’t pass, doesn’t mean the next one won’t. The voters and taxpayers deserve a chance to look at and browse what the best bang for their buck is, and buy it when the time is right. I want to give them those options.
(6) Is there an issue you would like to raise not covered by the previous questions?
The most common reaction I get in telling people I am running for the school board is, “ Are you crazy?” followed up with, “You would be good, thanks for running.” Maybe I am crazy, but I am truly excited about bringing my business experience to this position. A better solution doesn’t always need to cost more money. There are plenty examples in American business that prove this. However, the best is always a result of hard work and tough decisions. Let’s do the hard work and have the best. That’s my goal.