The Banks School District is lucky to have two great candidates running for this position.
Ron Frame grew up in Banks and has been working in the architectural industry. He now has a daughter in eighth grade and a son in second grade. He previously served on the Banks School Board as well as its budget committee.
Tom Forest is a software engineer with OCHIN, a nonprofit health care innovation center, and volunteers as an interpretive-hike leader for the Sierra Club. He has served on the Banks School District's technology committee, budget committee and superintendent selection committee.
While he has no children in school, "I want to be involved," Forest said. "I love learning."
We like Frame's big-picture grasp of complex issues, such as the question of how well the new tax money and development fees from a growing population can address problems created as those new children crowd the classrooms.
And while his architectural expertise helps him identify problems at the outdated high school — too many exits, no sprinkler systems, plumbing used far beyond its life expectancy — he also understands why people might be reluctant to make expensive repairs to a building that could be torn down in 10 years.
In addition, Frame's experience both as a dad of two Banks students and as a Banks grad himself gives him a visceral sense of the district's problems, such as the congestion in the middle/high school parking lot during dropoff time each morning. "I've seen it and I've had close calls," he said, while also mentioning the daily vehicle backup on Main Street at the elementary school. Solving this problem would be one of his priorities if elected, he said.
Frame also mentioned the loss of a Banks High class in architectural drafting that helped cement his choice of architecture as a profession years ago.
That's partly why Frame is a big cheerleader for keeping and expanding electives, including more foreign language options (there used to be four — now there is only Spanish).
Forest agrees. If it comes to cutting the budget, both Forest and Frame would prioritize keeping more variety in the curriculum even if it meant fewer school days for students.
Forest is also a big advocate for board and district transparency. As a member of the budget committee last spring, he was surprised to receive the superintendent's budget packet at the beginning of a meeting where he was expected to cast a final vote on all budget issues.
He had hoped to receive the detailed proposal at least several days earlier so he could study it, as in previous years. "The timing definitely hurt my ability to make informed decisions on the budget," he said.
Forest would also like more school-related town halls to deal with issues in a public way. Transparency would be one of his two main priorities if he is elected.
The two candidates seem aligned on technology issues. Forest noted that the middle and high school share three classrooms worth of laptops which are loaded on carts and wheeled from room to room — an arrangement he feels is unsatisfactory given how crucial computer savvy is to so many jobs today and how some Banks students don't have computers at home.
Frame recently saw how his son's teacher effectively used a computer by recording his lesson on it, then walking around the room, helping students as they tried to follow his on-screen instructions.
The two answered somewhat differently when asked about how big a role parent involvement could play in patching any gaps left by the school funding crisis.
Frame thinks the community might be "maxed out" as parents are asked to do more and more, noting how the annual community garage sale was canceled this year and the elementary school auction is much smaller than usual.
But Forest believes more people would volunteer if there were more diversity of opportunities. Forest, for example, plans to start a weekly Code Club next fall where 9- to 13-year-olds can create games, animations and websites while also learning problem solving, planning, design and collaboration.
Forest also gave us a clear, quick lesson on why balloon payments on the current middle school bond will keep the district from going out for another bond (to replace the high school) until 2027.
When rival candidates both have dedication, good ideas and inside knowledge, it's never an easy decision. We actually went back and forth a few times but have decided to give a slight nod to Frame. Having his own children in Banks schools is an advantage but does not necessarily outweigh his opponent's strengths. Our nod is due more to Frame's big-picture instincts and prior experience on the board. We also like his sensible approach to facility maintenance and to avoiding expensive Band-aid measures that won't last very long.
Whoever wins, we hope to see the other back here in two years because we'd love to have them both on the board.