OKANOGAN — Voters in Okanogan County will have choices on the Aug. 6 primary ballot for Republic, Tonasket city government, and Omak School District voters will have a choice for a board position.

Last week, The Chronicle sent questions to all of the candidates who are in local contested races in Okanogan and Ferry counties seeking answers to three questions, along with their age, town of residency and a photograph of themselves.

Some candidates responded, others did not.

Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 100 words per question. For those who exceeded the word limit, their responses have been cutoff at the nearest complete sentence. Full response will be available online at omakchronicle.com.

Omak School District • Director District 5 at large

Kathie Brown

Age: 73
Background: I was born in Omak to Bill and Ruth Anderson, who raised me here. I graduated from Omak High School in 1964 and have lived in Omak most of my adult life. My late husband Jerry and I raised two daughters, who also graduated from Omak schools. I retired in 2008 after working for the Omak School District for 32 years as secretary to five superintendents. I have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. I’ve been a school board member for 10 years and also serve on the Omak Performing Arts Center Foundation Board.
In what direction would you like to see the Omak School District go in the next few years?
I want to see the district continue to develop partnerships that expand career and technical education, collaborating with local business and WorkSource to provide intern and apprenticeship opportunities. We want to increase opportunities for college-bound students to access college credit courses, which ultimately reduces their costs for post-secondary education. It’s important to strengthen connections with community members, business, parents, and staff so that we can respond to our students’ diverse interests and needs. To be successful, it’s vital that our schools and community work together and support each other.
Should the district build a new middle school and why?
Community members, parents, and district staff participated in a two-year facilities study, concluding that replacing the existing middle school is Priority No. 1. Our enrollment is growing and pressures for new technological/vocational education increasing. We listened to the community then, and I want to continue listening, especially to people who may not agree. I’ve heard concerns about the proposed location. Only a few properties were available, and all but the site on Sandflats Road were rejected because of environmental issues and/or cost. The property was purchased for less than the appraised value and will accommodate future changes and growth.
What are some of the most pressing challenges to the district? (Budget, enrollment, state funding, curriculum, security, other, etc.)
Safety of our students is our highest priority, and we will continue projects underway to improve security and address emergencies. Operating budgets are always a challenge as state funding continues to be unpredictable. Current rules also constrain funding of capital projects. We must continually seek ways to fund the best possible education for each child as we focus on student achievement with high expectations for student learning. A significant challenge will be the search for and selection of a new superintendent to replace Dr. Swanson, who will retire in 2020. I look forward to involving the community in that process.

Steve McNeese
Age: 71
Background: I was born in Omak and lived on Happy Hill as a farm boy. I farmed until I was drafted into the Army. I got back from Vietnam in 1969. I worked on the plywood plant, third-powerhouse in Grand Coulee, did construction on hospitals and schools, the swimming pool in Omak in 1980, jail in 1981, college friendship hall in 1983. I  was in business from 1985 until retirement a few years ago.
In what direction would you like to see the Omak School District go in the next few years?
I would like to see the district  use a lot of vocational and trade-type schooling. So the kids, when they get through and leave school, can get a job in the trades or in a shop. Skill-based education.
Should the district build a new middle school and why?
I don’t believe they need a new middle school. We toured two of the schools. We saw empty classrooms when we were in there touring the school. I think they need to schedule themselves so they have room for 
everybody. We saw empty classrooms in the high school. This needs to be utilized. The population bulge is temporary. It’s not practical to build a new middle school.
What are some of the most pressing challenges to the district? (Budget, enrollment, state funding, curriculum, security, other, etc.)
The curriculum is going to need to change. State funding — the budget as far as we have WAVA (Washington Virtual Academies) it’s reducing the load. Security — I personally think they should have security armed people in the schools to take care of that with signage outside that says you enter this at your own risk.

Kenneth Crofoot
Candidate did not respond to Chronicle questions by press time.

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