School board candidates talk pandemic, critical race theory – Lewiston Morning Tribune


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PULLMAN — Critical race theory and overcoming challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were among the topics discussed by two Pullman School District Board candidates this week in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Pullman.Incumbent Nathan Roberts participated in the forum with his challenger, Carolina Silva. Their names are on the ballots being mailed today for the Nov. 2 election.The COVID-19 pandemic and the obstacles it creates for the school district were significant discussion points during the event Thursday evening, but Silva brought up another issue she finds pressing as well, claiming a lack of policies preventing critical race theory from being implemented in schools. According to Silva, critical race theory suggests a child’s racial and physical characteristics determine their value, perspective and success in life.She said it is harmful and does not even the playing field for students.“It violates your child’s ability to thrive emotionally and intellectually by teaching them that they are either the oppressors or victims, according to societal standards,” she said.Roberts said he does not know much about critical race theory, but said the school district participates in equity training and “the two are often confused.”“To my knowledge all we teach our school directors is equity, how to promote equity in education, how to promote a feeling of belongingness with all of our students,” he said.He said he is not aware of any curriculum that includes critical race theory.One of his biggest concerns, Roberts said, is getting through the COVID-19 pandemic and making up for the learning loss caused by the disruptions of the past year and a half.The school board was at the mercy of mandates from Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, he said, noting he does not know what the board could have done differently during that time.“I think that our board really cares about kids, we care about the students, we care about our employees and we tried to do what was absolutely best for all of them,” he said.He does not want to make any radical changes, he said, but rather get back to education.“What I would love to do in the next four years is just get over this pandemic,” he said. “Get back to learning, get back to education, start working on our test scores, start decreasing these income and race gaps in our testing, and in our education and in our performance metrics and our placements.”Silva said the changes she wants to see include providing more critical training focused on special education, ensuring schools do not close down and allowing parents to be more involved in the district’s decision-making.There are consequences when the board does not communicate well with parents, she said.“If we feel there is a lack of communication, or there’s no communication, it’s a one-way street. You’re going to get parents taking their kids out,” she said. “You’re going to start losing students to neighboring schools, private schools, alternative placements, home schooling if you don’t communicate with parents.”A video of Thursday’s forum will be posted on the League of Women Voters of Pullman YouTube Channel.Pullman City Council candidates in Ward 1, incumbent Al Sorensen and challenger Francis Benjamin, also were invited to participate in Thursday’s forum, but Sorensen was unable to attend because of illness.Though Benjamin did not answer questions, the League of Women Voters allowed him time to introduce himself and explain why he is running.Benjamin, who previously served on the City Council from 2003-15, said his goals include making sure Pullman has amenities for people of all ages and cultures, improving downtown, being involved in the construction of a south bypass road and ensuring the city has long-term water sources.Dan Records and Megan Guido are running unopposed for the two other open seats on the Pullman City Council.

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