methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Education Deciders
Methow Valley School Board

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Don Calvert, 56, a dentist, former teacher and high school baseball coach for the school district, is in his ninth year on the board.

He and his wife Jill, also a dentist, and their son, now a freshman at Liberty Bell, came here partly for the outdoor recreation opportunities on the advice of friends after working in Alaska, where they spent seven years attending to the dental needs of native peoples. They settled near Winthrop, but the Calverts still regularly travel to far-flung locations to bring dental services to underserved populations.

“Although I’m a dentist, I think of myself as a teacher first,” says Calvert, who confesses that his own teaching experience at Olympia High School was short-lived. “The challenges were beyond what I had anticipated,” he says. It gave him “a tremendous amount of respect” for what it takes to be an effective teacher. “They’re paid only a fraction of what they’re worth,” he adds. “You’re dealing with our society without any filters.”

Critical thinking, character development and life-long learning are the district’s three stated overarching goals for its students. Calvert adds that confidence, competence and compassion also are key values to foster as part of every student’s educational experience. On the academic side, as an anatomy and physiology major in college Calvert advocates introducing those courses to the high school curriculum. They’re the underpinnings of careers in health care, and health care professions are among jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas, he argues. At a time of shrinking budgets, “It’s a nicety,” he admits. “But it’s an important nicety.”

Calvert says he sees lack of proper funding as the biggest, and enduring, challenge to educating the district’s youngsters. ”It’s kind of embarrassing how our society approaches it,” he says. Over the last three years, administrators and teachers have been able to work together to avoid layoffs, Calvert notes. But it’s unclear if the current special session of the legislature will trim education budgets and if so, how that might affect the district. Despite the Jan. 5 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that affirmed, once again, that the legislature remains in violation of its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education, “I don’t see it getting any better,” says Calvert.

“This board has been a learning board,” he adds. “One of the reasons I’m on the school board is that I find it intellectually stimulating.”

Gary Marchbank Frank Kline Dana Stromberger Mary Anne Quigley