Five seats to be determined for the Douglas County School Board of Trustees
Five seats on the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees will be up for election Nov. 7.
Incumbent George Echan, the board’s only Lake representative, faces one challenger for the Area 3 position.
Bill Laughlin, Echan’s opponent, said he is running for school board because he disagrees with the way the administration handles public and staff concerns.
“I was disappointed in the way some of the problems were handled by the administration and I went to the school board with my concerns and nobody listened to me,” Laughlin said. “I will listen to people and I will educate myself on what’s going on. My background is not in education, but I feel if the board does not listen and pay attention to what’s going on in the community, then there will be another situation like there is now.”
Laughlin, a South Shore resident since 1976, works as a safety and environmental manager at Bently Nevada. Both his children and his grandchildren attended Douglas County schools.
Echan has lived and practiced law in Zephyr Cove for 21 years. His son, Todd graduated from Whittell High School last spring.
Appointed in July 1998, Echan ran unopposed and was elected to the school board in November 1998, to complete the last two years of Mary Bennington’s term. Bennington moved to the valley after serving two years as the Area 3 representative.
Echan said he ran for school board in hopes of contributing to student achievement.
“I’ve been involved in community service my whole life and most of the community service I did was with adults,” he said. “I have always treasured kids and really felt I could contribute what energy and intellect I had to student achievement.”
District competency standards are also important to Echan.
“People are generally too prepared to write off our kids and their abilities,” Echan said. “I’m committed to excellence whether that’s going off to college or entering an honorable vocation. I’m also really committed to the competencies and would really like to continue to stretch and raise the bar even further.”
Laughlin also commented on both vocations and competencies.
“I think the competencies are a good thing, but I think they’ve been overemphasized at the cost of other things that are equally important,” he said. “There are absolutely no vocational classes given at the lake. The students who are not college bound have been kind of de-emphasized. I don’t know if I could make that change, but I’m certainly concerned about it.”
Both candidates addressed the issue of limited state funding.
“Teachers are unhappy, and at the same time, the district simply doesn’t have the dollars to give the kind of raises they’d like to give,” Echan said.
Laughlin said he has a good idea of how governments work and how numbers get adjusted.
“I question some of the numbers that are published in the accountability the district puts out each year,” he said. “The board says the state Legislature doesn’t give the district enough money and they think that’s the only problem, and I just don’t believe that.”
Lack of communication between staff and administration is another major issue, according to Echan, who spoke of qualities he thinks a board member should possess.
“You have to be a consummate professional and have a singleness in purpose,” he said. “You are obligated to listen to all stake holders, parents, staff, teachers, students. To me that’s really important. Once you’ve heard, you have to have the courage to make decisions. You can’t pander to any individual group, with one exception and that’s the students.”
Laughlin said he wants to make himself available to parents, students and teachers alike.
“I would want to make myself available to each of the 12 schools in the district,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be formal, but parents can come and talk to me. I think there needs to be a way around the administration because the administration can be very hard to deal with. I’m happy to share my thoughts with people, but I’m more interested in their ideas.”
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