Candidates find common ground at political forum

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

VALE – As the candidates for Vale School Board and Treasure Valley Community College Board sat down and started answering questions, those in the crowd learned one thing: the candidates agreed with each other on issues.

And one brightened the policy-heavy evening by suggesting she should be voting for her opponent instead of challenging him.

Ballots in local elections went out this week and are due May 16.

Ten of those appearing on the ballot took questions from a number of sources during the Election Forum ’17 Monday evening at the Vale Elementary School. The Malheur Enterprise sponsored the forum.

The candidates opened the forum with a short presentation before taking questions from moderator, Les Zaitz, editor and publisher of the Enterprise. About 30 people attended.

Vale candidates Jessica Kulm, Christine Phillips, Jeff Mendiola, Randy Seals, Topper Schlupe, David Wenger and Pamela Post each expressed a desire to serve the community and students of the district.

“I just want to give back to the community,” said Schlupe, on the ballot hoping for a fourth term. He currently chairs the school board.

Mendiola, a county road department employee, said he was running because he’s worried about the future.

“The kids have no life skills,” he said. “Something has to change. This is our future work force.”

Asked about the district’s budget of about $12,000 per student, Wenger, an incumbent, wished the community was more involved.

“We want more people to show up and express their wants and become involved,” said Wenger, a veterinarian seeking his second term on the board.

Kulm said an assessment is needed in the community to determine how the money should be spent.

“I think there is a void in our community and we need more information to direct funding where it needs to go,” Kulm said.

An issue popular among the student questions and among those in the community is the returning arts to local schools. The candidates noted, however, there isn’t money in the budget for music, choir and other programs.

Phillips praised the current partnership the district has with the Foundation for the Arts in Vale.

“The state values math, English and science right now,” said Phillips, a dental hygenist. “We needs to look at grants and other ways of funding to bring back the arts.”

Post also supported bringing the arts back, and suggested a place to get the money: student testing costs.

“We need to start fighting the state,” Post said. “Kids are learning, they are memorizing for a test.”

When questioned about personal ethics, all the candidates said ethics need to be modeled by the individual and the board.

In a final question to the candidates, Wenger said the board needs to do a better job highlighting academic success in the schools.

“I just don’t want kids to hate school,” said Post.

Kulm advocated placing a student on the school board to provide those that are being served a voice.

“We need to focus on the positive and the good of this community,” Phillips said.

Mendiola expressed his attitude towards the work needing to be done.

“I am a no BS guy,” he said. “We need to get it out and get it done.”

The candidates for the TVCC board were afforded the opportunity to discuss their visions for the future of the community college.

“The college is an asset to the community and I have the desire to help out,” Hall said. His opponent, Cydney Cooke, didn’t appear at the forum.

Findley, seeking a second term on the board after teaching at the college for 37 years, voiced his concern over declining enrollment and possible accredidation issues. “We also have a retention problem,” Findley said. “Last year, 48 percent of freshman did not return to the college for their sophomore year. We have to offer new programs that entice students to come here and stay.”

Myers, a local banker, said the college also has to consider how it serves students.

“We need to look at online classes,” he said. “We have to offer a value.”

Hall said he advocates more adult classes like he himself took for photography.

All three candidates for the TVCC board supported the college again going before voters for a bond. A previous attempt failed at a 60 percent no vote.

“We do have an image problem we need to fix, but we need a new vo-tech center,” Findley said.

“We need the facility,” Hall said in agreement.