Boise school board candidates take on the issues

With less than two weeks to go before the Sept. 6 election, Boise’s three school board candidates shared some common ground Thursday morning.

Incumbent David Wagers and challengers Beth Oppenheimer and Monica Walker appeared at a forum sponsored by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. The candidates said they supported many of the same things: expanded preschool and early childhood education programs, high standards for student achievement and improved college and career readiness.

On several occasions, the candidates stressed that the district would be in good hands no matter who is elected.

But three hopefuls come from different backgrounds and boast different skills. And before an audience of about 75 — including business leaders, other elected officials and taxpayers — they spelled their priorities for office.

Beth Oppenheimer
Beth Oppenheimer

Question: What do you believe has best prepared you for this role? (Answers edited for length and clarity.)

Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of Idaho Association for Eduction of Young Children: “In my current position at the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children I get the opportunity to really look deep into the education system as a continuum. I focus primarily on early childhood, but I have to have a really good understanding of the continuum of education in order to do my job well. I have been advocating for quality education across the board for many years. “

Dave Wagers
David Wagers

David Wagers, president, Idaho Candy Company: “I think the board decided they wanted a variety of folks on that board, and I think that’s pretty important when you look at the board. What I bring to the board is I bring that business operations experience. I’ve run Idaho Candy Co. for 25 years. I really understand the value of a dollar. I bring financial expertise. I’ve got a finance background, property management.”

Monica Walker, loan officer with ENG Lending and an interior decorator: “What makes me different and stand apart from the other two is I do come from a union household. I understand the difficulties of the struggles with lean times. I also see benefits in positive times when we have surpluses and what it can do for our union. When we look at our teachers, I truly do believe I have that empathy of what they go through on a day-in and day-out on having to make what they can with the budget they are given.”

Question: What outcomes and output matter most to you?

Walker: “Something we should really look at is the vision statement the district’s board has. We graduate our students and we want to see college, careers and also citizenship. So we are not looking at a student truly as just what are their test score numbers, we’re looking at them as a whole.”

Monica Walker
Monica Walker

Wagers: “Output is scary word to use for our schools. For me, it’s all about kids, kids, kids. It is our job to produce graduates. But it is also our job to produce good members of society. Also we want to make sure they are educated and understand how to balance a checkbook (and) understand what challenges they face.”

Oppenheimer: “We want to ensure our kids have the tools and resources they need to grow and develop and leave the pre-K through 12 system ready for a post-secondary education and beyond. We want to ensure our kids are prepared to enter the workforce however they see fit. We want to ensure we are growing talent to remain here in the Treasure Valley.”

The candidates are running at large, and voters can choose two candidates. The top two vote-getters will be elected to six-year terms.