Q & A: Randy Smith, Candidate for Wenatchee School Board
Randy Smith is a candidate for Wenatchee School Board Director for District #2. He recently appeared on the KPQ Agenda program to discuss his campaign.
KPQ: Describe a little of your background and qualifications for this position.
Randy Smith: Okay, background moved here in 65, parents came through in 64, found a business for sale. My dad bought a motor repair shop. I moved up here the next year. Been here ever since, I have a hard time leaving because I really really liked the Wenatchee Valley. I worked in a few jobs and then started an ornamental iron business and worked at that for 40 years. It treated me very well. In the meantime, I had two kids and now I have six grandkids and I'm pretty much retired. My son has taken over the welding business and I have a couple of rentals to maintain. I stay pretty busy doing doing different things mainly pickleball right now. I'm a certified instructor at the WRAC.
KPQ: Why did you decide to run for school board?
Randy Smith: It really wasn't on my radar at all. I mean, this is not something that I had even considered. A friend of mine was asking me bugging me about it for quite a while and basically, I couldn't justify a no. I don't have a lot of time. I'm pretty busy as it is, but I just I couldn't say no to it and seeing how what's going on in the school district now. And I'm gonna leave it up to God. I'm not going to lose any sleep one way or the other. So if He wants to me to have it, I'll get it, if He doesn't.....no. I'll do the best job I can if I do get it.
KPQ: The Board eliminated a lot of positions and reduced staffing over the next two years to save about $8 million. Part of those cuts were attributed to the loss of some federal COVID funding but there's also a big decline in enrollment over the next three years. About 300 fewer students are expected with declining birth rates and a corresponding cut in state funding. So what is your solution to running the district with fewer state dollars coming in?
Randy Smith: Okay, the declining birth rate may be there but it is a very, very small part of that. I have the numbers here from 2020, 2019 and up to 2023. And you would expect that if the declining birth rates were a big deal that they would be showing up in the earlier grades. And they're not so much it's pretty much even all the way across the board. So I'm not I'm not going with that. What I am going with is the fact that parents don't like what they're seeing. They don't like what their children are telling them when they come home from school. They don't like the fear. So they're going other places. I've talked to so many parents who say I'm spending $15,000 a year to send my kid to school, but I don't have a choice because I want them to go somewhere. Where they feel safe and they're actually learning more. So you look at the attendance of River Academy, Cascade Christian Academy, Pinnacles (Prep) school, a bunch of homeschools, the CO-ops, all these different schools, they're booming, and they're doing good work. I really applaud them how hard they're working. And I would gladly put them up against any school testing system. And I'm sure they do that to make sure that they're being taught well enough. What are you gonna do? You're gonna try to bring them back. If we can fix some of the stuff that's going on in the schools right now. A lot of these kids will be coming back. $16,000 plus dollars per student per year is quite a chunk of money. So we've got to get these kids back into the school again. And if the parents feel like their kids are safe and they have a a connection with the teachers, that they'll be bringing them back. I'm sure of it. But until that happens, they won't be and it's gonna continue to spiral downward.
KPQ: What did you learn from the COVID-19? shutdowns, masking and vaccine mandates? Should there be another pandemic or a surge in COVID cases.
Randy Smith: Well, that is a really, really big area to cover because there are so many different ideas on how to treat COVID and the medical profession I'm sorry, doesn't have an all in and know exactly what to do. Both my wife and I got COVID and we just got some ivermectin took the doses we needed and we were done. It was amazing how fast it went away. Other people not so much. It seems like the medical profession was just testing to see, well, is this going to work? Well is that going to work? We've got to do this. We've got to do that. The vaccine was touted as being all this miracle stuff and it has turned out to be a bust, a total bust. So real quick, easy, short answer to the vaccines and the mandates and the masks would be a hard, hard no. If I am elected on the school board, I will fight that tooth and nail to the end. There will be no vaccine mandate and there will be no masks required. If somebody wants to do it, I am not going to stop them, that is their freedom to do so. But it's me as a school board member, I'm not gonna push it.
KPQ: The student population of Wenatchee school district is very diverse. Just over half or 54% are Hispanic, 41% White, 23% English language learners, 60% low income and as many as 6% homeless, 14% migrant population and 16% with disability. What can the district be doing to try and make sure that all these kids have a better opportunity to excel?
Randy Smith: Oh, that's tough. I'm not a dictator. I've run a lot of different organizations and the last thing I do is get up there and tell everybody what's gonna go on. I like to get good, knowledgeable people to help me make my decisions. And that would be one of the things that I would lean on a lot. I have several former educators that are more than willing to come alongside and help in different ways for answering some of those questions. As far as the Hispanic population and what to do about the teacher can't talk both Spanish and English. And if they do, it takes twice as much time to teach. There's got to be the technology out there where they could talk into a translation device, and have the student have a headphone on that would immediately translate what the teacher is saying into the person's native language, whether it be Hungarian or spanish or whatever it is and that way, they could get the education. As far as some of the other groups, the migrant and the homeless. Work with them the best you can, you know, try to try to be there, meet their needs. Obviously, with the shortfall in money, we're not going to have a lot of money to go out and hire a whole bunch of people to do this. So if we can get other students to help come alongside and mentor and tutor one of their fellow students, that basically that would that would be a big step forward in that direction.
KPQ: Test scores in every grade for Wenatchee School District are well below half in math, science and reading. These test scores are not where anyone would want them. But we're graduating kids and so what is your solution?
Randy Smith: We are graduating them and that's part of the problem is we don't hold them back. We don't as far as I know, don't hold too many back or enough back. I have 13 years in the school school system. First grade through 12th grade, fourth grade twice. So that's that's the extent of my schooling and I did not achieve in fourth grade and I got held back and it really didn't hurt me too bad. So we need to we need to get the test scores up. I don't know what the homework policy, but I'm not a big advocate for a lot of homework, but some homework I don't think is totally outrageous. But we've got to get the testing done. And we've got to find out how to get these students to learn some of this stuff, and get it to where it stays in their brain. And another thing is, I'd like to see it get to be a little more fun, fun to learn. There people with programs and procedures where it makes it fun to learn. And those teachers are rare and unique and very much sought after.
KPQ: The Washington Legislature has considered bills that would prohibit transgender male athletes from participating in girls sports but nothing has passed. The WIAA policy says each athlete will participate in programs consistent with their gender identity or the gender that is most consistently expressed. There are no legal or medical requirements. And an athlete can appeal a question of eligibility. How would you address the question of transgender male athletes wanting to compete in girls sports?
Randy Smith: Well, that that's another pretty hard No, I cannot see that being anywhere near fair. I can see it being dangerous. Because men are just built different than women. Women break easier than men do. And I can't see putting putting women or girls at risk that way and then allowing a fully intact male into girls locker room is just not appropriate. Now, the transgender theme with all this going on as far as what one feels like at the day, or what the moment is, as far as I'm concerned, it has been for many, a a mental disorder. they're just not thinking quite right. And I'm not saying they're a bad person or anything like that. But they need some counseling, they need help. And I would be all for giving them all the help we can muster to get them to realize what they are and what they're doing. If someone is of age, it's totally their choice, and I'm not going to bother them. But when you start going after the kids, that's where I get really riled up. I see no instance where a teacher needs to ask a student. Do you feel like Jimmy or Janie today? It's just not to be allowed. So the transgender thing competing? Absolutely not. And I don't know what the WIAA is going to do if we basically say no. If I had a daughter on a team, and there was a transgender male student in that team, I would tell my daughter you're off the team. And I'm hoping the other daughters would follow.
KPQ: What what priorities have you identified if elected to the Wenatchee school board?
Randy Smith: Safety, probably number one, other than teaching the kids what they need to learn math, english, science, those things. Safety. Right now kids don't feel safe in the schools. We have students that asked permission to leave the school to go to a neighbor's house to use the bathroom because they don't feel safe going to the bathroom in the public schools. We've had administrators walk around during class between the passing periods during class and check out all of the bathrooms so make sure that there's no drug paraphernalia in there, or there's nothing going on or students hanging out in there. You know, you have no dress code in the school. That's one thing that I would work to implement immediately is a dress code because some of the gals are dressing so provocatively. How can a guy especially in middle school with that many hormones focus when there's a gal there dressed the way they are to just grab his attention? It's totally distractive. So you're not going to get those kids to learn very well until they can focus on learning. So, safety, test scores, that would probably be my top two, and probably one more would be parent involvement. I'd love to see the PTA get back into this thing again. I'd like to see a network between the teachers, the parents and the school board and open communication forum between all three of them so that everybody can have a voice, listen, and make good decisions.
KPQ: What makes you the best candidate for the District #2 seat on the board?
Randy Smith Well, I kind of just went through that but I i have no agenda other than the kids. I'm not a highly educated person. I like I said, I went through 12th grade and made it through the honor roll which surprised the heck out of my parents, but I did. And so my biggest point is just to try to maybe go back a few years in in methods and whatnot and try to try to get the kids back into the learning process. And I know that's going to be a totally uphill fight. Because we are battled on so many fronts on different issues. But if we can focus on the kids, keeping the kids safe, helping the kids to learn helping them to enjoy and love learning, that that would be just so awesome. Like I said, I'm in the trades. And I would love to see a trade fair in a way where we have some equipment from a couple of excavation companies come by and bring out a few backhoes and excavators and set them out there and set the kids on them. I actually have one and I've done that with youth groups before and it really lights a fire in them. They get out there and they can run this big piece of equipment. It's fun to watch them learn stuff like that think I could do this. Plus, they can make a lot of money.
Ballots are due postmarked by the November 7th General Election date or deposited in a drop box by 8pm on Election Day.