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Candidates vie for school board positions

MARYSVILLE Voters will have even less to choose from as yet another candidate has dropped out of the running for the three open seats for the Marysville School Board on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Smokey Point businessman Steve King filed to run against Darci Becker for seat No. 3, but dropped out of the race after butting heads with the teachers union during an interview last month. His name will still appear on the ballot, however.
That leaves another drop-out who dropped back in, district No. 5 director Sherri Crenshaw, who was appointed to the seat 16 months ago, filed to run this summer and then quit after two others filed for the same seat.
Crenshaw didnt pull out of the Aug. 20 primary in time to remove her name from the ballot and then prevailed handily, beating Corrine Diteman and former Marysville City Councilwoman Lisa Vares. Vares is on the ballot, but has since moved to another Marysville address and changed her name. She has not returned repeated telephone calls and emails from this paper, but will still appear on the ballot.
That leaves the other incumbent Cindy Erickson to face challenger Don Wlazlak, who was endorsed by the Marysville Education Association.
Erickson faced Wlazlak before when she moved from district No. 5 to district No. 2. Erickson was elected to her former seat in 2005 then moved to another house at the same time two other members of the board resigned for personal reasons.
Erickson is 45 and has four children, two who are still in Marysville schools. She said she still wants to find a way to increase test scores across the board, and across the district. She acknowledged that the district is making progress but wants to make sure they dont let up.
Erickson also wants to increase graduation rates and thinks the new Smaller Learning Communities will help.
There have been some glitches in converting a large high school into the nine SLCs but Erickson believes in the mission.
I truly believe that we needed to do SLCs because we needed to increase our graduation rates, Erickson said. I truly believe that SLCs will be a big plus, even though right now it might not feel that they are.
She said converting the middle schools to a consistent configuration of grades six-seven-eight will also help ensure students get a consistent education as they prepare for high school. A new math curriculum will also help, and she endorsed the districts focus on improving literacy scores, as reading is a prerequisite for all other subjects.
She has served as PTA chairman and president, and was the vice chair of the districts special education council in addition to volunteering in classes and at the school library.
Ive been actively involved in our school system for more than 15 years, Erickson said. Im not just interested in the aerial view, but Ive been interested in all levels.
Wlazlak, 70, is a former newspaper publisher and legislative aide, who served as a legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council for seven years. He was an administrator with Snohomish County superior courts, working on planning, budgets and payroll. Like Erickson, he has no college education but worked his way up from a printers assistant to advertising manager and minority owner at the Snohomish Tribune.
I learned how to budget real well, Wlazlak said.
He would like to focus his sharp eyes on the districts budget and cites some decisions he would examine more thoroughly, such as cutting back on school nurses. He thinks the money the district spends on travel for directors to visit Washington, D.C. might be chump change to some, but it sends a bad message when other things are being cut.
I think theres some things that maybe need to be looked at. Wlazlak said. I just wonder why were spending money on sending board members back to D.C.
He and Erickson share an amazement with what superintendent Larry Nyland has accomplished in only three years after the devastating 2003 teachers strike. Wlazlak also thinks the Washington State Superintendent of the Year has assembled a great staff.
I think they just do a tremendous job in the community, Wlazlak said.
If I was on the board Id want to keep Dr. Nyland for ever and ever.
He also supports the SLCs, and thinks once the bugs are worked out the change will yield dividends to a community where 30 percent of students dont graduate.
I think its tough for kids to be in a 3,000-student high school, he said. If you break it down into small schools I think it might benefit the kids over time.
The two differ on the issue of the cooperative education program at Quil Ceda Elementary school.
A big fan of the program where his daughter is a teacher, Wlazlak thinks the concept should be expanded. Thats a big deal for board member Darci Becker, who wants to expand the K-5 coop to the eighth-grade level. Parents at the program volunteer a set amount of time each week as part of their childs enrollment.
Erickson said she supports the co-op and thinks it could be expanded someday, but wants to hold off until the district, parents and students absorb some of the many changes taking place. Erickson voted with the board majority last November to limit the co-op to the current grade levels because community members are already saturated with the many programs in the works, including several new schools underway.
You cant make 10 changes all at once, Erickson said. You have to do things incrementally.

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