BRIDGEPORT — Stuart Dezellum said he was asked to challenge longtime Bridgeport School Board member Tracy Zahn by a part of the community who lost trust in the board and district.
Zahn, a board member for 16 years, has never been opposed. The Bridgeport orchardist is also up for re-election on the board of the Washington State School Directors Association, a school board association, which he will lose if he’s voted out.
“I’ve spent a lot of time developing good relationships and I think we’ve turned the school around,” Zahn said.
Dezellum said the district has neglected school maintenance for too long. The roofs leak, the air systems are shoddy and the problems continue to compound.
“I would like to see a little more attention paid to maintenance and operations instead of personnel,” Dezellum said. “With any government agency, after years and years of good times there is waste and excess. Sometimes it takes someone from outside to find that it’s there.”
Both candidates agree the district should study its facility needs, prioritize the list and build a finance plan.
Zahn said the district’s facilities are better than they were 10 years ago. The schools have sidewalks now and the middle school’s roof has been rebuilt.
“We’ve been addressing things and working on them and we’d like to do everything, but we only have so much funds,” Zahn said.
Dezellum has been city public works director for two years. He was fire commissioner for 14 years and past director of Lake Woods Golf Course.
As the assistant coach for girls basketball, Dezellum said the district needs to boost extracurricular activities and challenge students in more ways than College in the High School alone. College in the High School offers up to 45 credits of college-level classes to high school students.
The large, multi-year federal grant that funded Bridgeport’s after-school programs expired last year, and the district and board are trying to find ways to make up for that loss, Zahn said.
Meanwhile, the school board spent its $4,000 Magna award on plane tickets to San Diego for the awards ceremony. That money should have been put back into students and programs, Dezellum said. The Magna award recognizes districts across the U.S. for outstanding programs that advance learning and encourage community involvement in schools.
Zahn said the prestigious national award helped get Bridgeport’s name out as a leader, and the four staff members who traveled with the school board to San Diego picked up ideas from the best and brightest school districts in the nation.
“You have to go somewhere to get somewhere,” Zahn said.
Rachel Schleif: 664-7139