Ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 2 election, the Reader is presenting a limited series of election guides featuring questions and answers with candidates for a range of local offices.
This week focuses on candidates for the Zone 2 trustee seat on the Lake Pend Oreille School District board. This is the only contested seat on the board.
For more information on candidates running opposed, visit Election Central on sandpointonline.com (sandpointonline.com/news/elections.shtml). For all other election-related information, visit Bonner County Elections at bonnercountyid.gov.
Contested races in Sandpoint and Dover will be featured in the Thursday, Oct. 22 edition of the Reader. In the meantime, the Reader will host a candidates’ forum Tuesday, Oct. 19 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner County Library (1407 Cedar St.). This will also be broadcast live on KRFY 88.5 FM.
1. Why are you running as a trustee for Zone 2 in the LPOSD race?
2. What are your top priorities if elected to the board?
3. The community (and nation) remains divided on COVID-19 mask mandates and safety measures. Where do you stand on masks in school? What is your ideal scenario for Bonner County’s school children?
4. Idaho has consistently ranked last in the nation for funding per pupil. How would you, as a trustee, work locally to overcome this deficit to make sure students receive the best education they can?
Gary Suppiger (incumbent)
Age: (did not answer)
Birthplace and residence: St. Louis, Mo.; Cocolalla, Idaho
Years in Bonner County: 29 years (since 1992)
Government service: 4.5 years trustee Lake Pend Oreille School District
Profession: business owner and professional forester; founder and owner Panhandle Forest Products, 36 years in Bonner County, 25 employees
Education: Duke University, Durham, N.C.; bachelors in chemistry, masters in forestry
Family: married 31 years; wife Sally, children Gerhart (28), Madeline (27) and Caroline (24)
1. I believe in public education. I was educated in public schools, as were my parents, siblings and my three children, who attended LPOSD schools from K-12. They received an excellent foundation and excelled in college. Two have earned advanced degrees and are all now pursuing rewarding careers of their own. Education benefits the individual, families, communities and our state. Educated individuals are healthier, happier and more productive for their entire life. Education builds communities. I want to do my part to ensure that current and future students from LPOSD get the education and opportunities that they deserve.
2. Support and ensure the academic success of every student. To that end, my main priorities are and will continue to be:
• Safety and security, especially during the pandemic. We must maintain our safety protocols including social distancing, daily disinfecting, deep cleaning, clean air, clean water and cohort groupings;
• Academic achievement. Make sure every child is engaged and learning. Focus on reading in K-3, teach students to problem solve and be critical thinkers, work independently or with a group, be creative and innovative;
• Acquire the skills in communication, math, science, and social sciences to compete and succeed at the next step.
3. The health and safety of our students and staff is a prerequisite to our mission of education. This school year our plan is much the same as last year. We do not require masks or vaccines. LPOSD continues a modified cohort grouping in elementary schools. We social distance, deep clean every day and wash hands constantly. So far this school year our plan is successful. By the fourth quarter of last school year, based on the district’s own data showing schools were safe, the board relieved the isolation requirements after exposure to an infected student and dropped the mask requirement for older students.
4. The state provides about half the resources to support LPOSD. Districts must rely on local property tax levies and federal funds for the balance. This model is inherently inequitable because every school district is different — from enrollment to support for levies to assessed valuations. During the 2020 fiscal year, the state had a $1.4 billion revenue surplus. All the local property tax levies in the state total $400 million. With our strong economy and large revenue surplus the state can afford to eliminate local property tax levies and increase funding so every child has a chance to succeed.
Birthplace and residence: Born in Arizona, I now live in Cocolalla.
How many years lived in Bonner County?: 4 1/2 years
Government service: NA
Profession: I own a handyman business
Education: High school diploma
Family: I’ve been married for over 20 years, I have three sons
1. I want to help bring greater parental accountability and transparency through monitoring. I believe in the family-first model to learning. I have vast amounts of experience working with students and parents as a former youth pastor and lead pastor. I also have vast experience with leading teams, organizing/delegating and overseeing budgets as a missions director and construction superintendent. I feel our LPOSD could use my strength in making decisions. I care about the next generation of citizens and want to do my part to contribute to their success.
2. a. Parental involvement in the classroom and extracurricular activities;
b. Fiscal responsibility while being accountable and frugal with taxpayer money;
c. Partnering with teachers when it comes to selection of curriculums and testing requirements, even if they differ from state mandates;
d. Never allow Critical Race Theory into LPOSD in any form;
e. Work toward improving the trade programs and trade schools for those students that choose not to attend college;
f. Ensuring personal liberties for parents, students, teachers and administrators;
g. Work toward educating the children of LPOSD not indoctrinating them.
3. I feel that the only thing people are divided on is the infringement of personal liberties. I personally feel that wearing a mask to combat this virus is counterproductive and even more damaging. The science and studies show that oxygen deprivation is worse for us than the virus itself. It also creates a greater risk for our lungs to become severely infected when there is lack of oxygen. When the survival rate among people under 60 is 99%, I am baffled that people would wear a mask or take a shot to try and make their chances of survival 100%. If someone wants to wear a mask or get a shot, they have the personal liberty to do so. And so do those that do not wish to do so. An ideal situation would be where people were free to choose what they did with their own health care without being forced or mandated one way or another. And from there, people use common sense when they feel ill and stay home accordingly. We would “quarantine” the sick… not the healthy.
4. My first response would be, does funding equal quality? While I do agree that products are typically better when they cost more, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to spend more to have better students, curriculums or test results. Maybe the budget would not be an issue if we were able to cut unnecessary programs that drag finances down. I think that a lot of how a student learns and grows has much to do with their “buy in” of the school or that particular class. If we can work toward creating environments where students want to be there, then maybe we would have academic excellence regardless of funds. This may come through offering electives that students find appealing for their long-term goals or through giving teachers the freedom to share life with the students. Where students feel loved and valued. Some of the best teachers I had growing up were tough on me, and they held me accountable. Those were some of the reasons I knew they cared.
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