LEAVENWORTH — A challenger for the Cascade School District believes the board needs some new blood, while the incumbent hopes to continue shepherding projects that began during her tenure.
Cindy Puckett, 55, is a first-time candidate seeking the chair now occupied by Teddy Rieke, 43, who’s been reelected without opposition three times since she was first appointed in 2002.
Puckett, a Leavenworth native, is a merchandise manager for Dan’s Food Market and a former title clerk. She said she wanted to “try something different and be involved” as her 16-year-old stepson and kindergarten-age granddaughter enter Cascade schools. Her late mother, Arleen Blackburn, served on the board in the 1970s.
“Some of the people I’ve talked to say they want a more diversified board,” Puckett said. “It’s been kind of the same for a long time.”
She said the district needs to find thrifty ways to serve its students. A $46.4 million bond levy in 2011 that would have rebuilt Cascade High School fell 12 points short of the 60 percent of votes needed to pass.
“If they really, seriously look at the school and there’s really some issues that need to be fixed, let’s find a way to fix it economically, in a way that will last another 10, 20, 30 years,” she said.
Schools should also try to find ways to pay for classroom supplies, like pencils and tissues, to take pressure off parents who are now asked to provide such things at the start of the school year. And pressure on high school students could be alleviated by doing away with senior project requirements to graduate, she said: “To me, it feels like a punishment.”
As a parent of three, Puckett formed a group in the early 2000s concerned by the schools’ adoption of the Make Your Day program, in which middle school students were asked to share “concerns” about the behavior of classmates. Such pressure led to the program’s overhaul, and now Puckett, a former Sunday school teacher, says schools should try to involve parents in the classroom dynamic as much as possible.
“I really see my role as setting policy and being a cheerleader and advocate for our teachers and administrators, and making sure I can be there for people in my district,” said Rieke, who’s now co-owner with her husband Kevin of The Wood Shop and The Hat Shop in downtown Leavenworth.
A new attempt at a school construction levy is on her agenda if she’s voted in again — citizens’ committees are now looking at ways to finance the project, and what to build.
“We aren’t on these committees,” Rieke said of school board members. “We are letting the public do this research and ask the questions about what that might look like. It’s a very transparent approach that’s been led by our superintendent (Steve McKenna).”
A bond amount hasn’t been finalized, but in this way, the board hopes to build public engagement into a successful levy campaign. “We need everybody on the same page for something like this to pass,” she said.