There seem to be two schools of thought on the role of schools in the lives of our children: some think that schools should do most of the raising of our kids; others think that education in school should be coupled with life education in the home.

Contemporary education movements have put much currency in public education as a tool to get our children ready for life—training for a trade, for example.

For decades, the American Dream entailed becoming whatever one wanted to be regardless of their beginnings. The poorest child in the worst ghetto, via hard work in schools, could become a world-class doctor or an attorney on the ranks of Supreme Court justice.

Some students today certainly harbor a desire to attend a four-year university and earn a doctorate in medicine or law. It seems we don’t want to produce doctors and lawyers as much as we want to produce workers for the trades.

With that background, voters will be faced with two distinctly different candidates for Position 6 for the Salem-Keizer School Board election in May. Incumbent Chuck Lee has served for three terms (12 years); his opponent, Danielle Bethell, is a businesswoman with three children in Keizer’s public schools and experience with Individual Education Plans—a written statement of the education program for a child who is eligible for special education.

Lee has a strong resume including leadership of Blanchet High School and president of the public-private Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC).

Bethell is passionate about what schools should be and what they should not be. As a mother she wants to be sure all children are getting the education they deserve.

It is no surprise that Lee thinks that career and technical education is a key to a successful high school education. While Bethell supports CTEC, she believes that it is not the only game in town and it should be a part of high school education, not the be all and end all.

Our students are not cut from the same cloth. Students here in the state’s second largest school district come from diverse backgrounds (economically, racially, nationally, linguistcally, etc.). The time has come to stop trying to ram all of our kids into the same classrooms and curriculums.

Our schools need to be centers of learning. Bethell is frustrated by the cuffs that bind teachers’ hands when it comes to dealing with disruptive students. That does nothing for the kids who are ready to learn.

Class disruption is but one small part of the education system that needs to be addressed.

Lee says that the school board has one employee and one employee only: the district’s superintendent. That means that what happens in the classroom is not in the board’s wheelhouse. What happens in the classroom is the responsibility of Superintendent Christy Perry, her cabinet of nine administrators and those that serve under them.

The school board is where the buck stops. Though many want to lay responsibility for what happens in Salem-Keizer classrooms at the feet of the state education department or the legislature, policy is what the school board does. You may not know if you attend a school board meeting—it’s all about the budget, money and grants. Nary a word about curriculum.

We would like to see the Salem-Keizer School Board be more involved with the setting of curriculum at all levels of education in our schools.

Regarding the election for Position 6, if you think that career and vocational education is the future for our high schools, vote for Chuck Lee.

If you believe that teachers need to have more say in how their students behave including consequences for class distrupters and a well-balanced curriculum is important, vote for Danielle Bethell.

Both candidates are equally passionate about our schools. Let your passion be your guide in choosing.

          —LAZ