Amy Mason and M.J. Bolt understood that joining a school board would include a unique set of challenges. They also realized that their particular task would involve replacing a pair of leaders acknowledged as pillars of the education community.
Mason was first, appointed to the CVSD board of directors last June as the successor for Anne Long who resigned in late May after 10 years. Bolt followed, earning a place on the board in the November election – her predecessor was Cindy McMullen, whose tenure on the board spanned from 1987 to 2011.
“We know we can’t replace leaders like that,” said Mason, a Washington State University grad who has served as the Liberty Lake Elementary PTSA president and worked on several Central Valley bond and levy campaigns. “We just have to concentrate on what we can bring to the board.”
After her appointment, Mason ran on the November ballot and won. Like Bolt, she was the only candidate to appear in her respective race.
Bolt, who has held elected PTA leadership positions at Ponderosa Elementary and Horizon Middle School, said the shortage of candidates during the election season meant less discussion about topics surrounding education.
“When you have contested races, there is a lot more opportunity to hear from the public and to talk about the issues,” Bolt said.
Mason and Bolt are both supportive of additional programs in which the district provides more opportunity for community dialogue. They pointed to the example of a series of successful events in November called “Community Connections” that reviewed the 2011 District Report Card, a progress update on a variety of subjects, from student achievement to teacher quality.
“We had great attendance at those events,” Mason said. “The Report Card was great because it showed where the district is excelling but also where we need to improve.”
Bolt said that while residents are welcome to comment during monthly board meetings, the scheduling of more community gatherings would help the district gather more feedback and ideas.
“I’d like to see us work on that,” she said. “We should be doing things that give our patrons the opportunity to be heard.”
While high school dropout rates throughout the state have been cause for concern in recent years, the numbers in Central Valley – an on-time graduation rate of 84.6-percent – is one of many encouraging statistics in the 2011 Report Card.
“I think it’s important that people find out what Central Valley is doing differently than other districts,” Bolt said.
Mason is the mother of two children who attend Central Valley schools. She taught Spanish and English at Post Falls High School from 1994-1999. Mason said one of her goals as a representative of the board is to ensure that students have the skills to be successful once they leave the district.
I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we educating for the 20th century or the 21st century,” she said.
Like Mason, Bolt is the parent of two kids who attend schools in the district. She helped co-found the district’s H.E.A.R.T. program that provides support and resources to families in temporary and transitional housing.
Bolt and Mason were among over 500 people in attendance at last week’s campaign kickoff in support of a three-year programs and operations replacement levy that will appear on the Feb. 14 special election. The CV board approved the $27.1 million levy at its meeting on Oct. 10. Bolt said generating community awareness about the vote will be critical in earning the necessary simple majority for passage. The levy represents 22 percent – or around $24 million – of the district’s overall budget and supports an extensive list of programs and expenses, including sports, music, utilities, staff salaries, books, transportation and more.
“We hope that voters realize how vital the levy is to our district,” Bolt said. “Talking about the campaign is so important. I think people are not taking it for granted.”
Mason, who is serving as co-chair of the Citizens for Education group, said the campaign will has a goal of reaching 28,000 households with an ambitious doorbelling effort. Mailers, yard signs and social media will also be part of the campaign.
CV last failed a levy in 1980 while the district’s most recent levy vote was victorious by a 62-percent margin in 2009. Mason said levy supporters are “very optimistic” about their chances this time around.
“We don’t want to discount that voters understand how critical this levy is,” she said.