EAST WENATCHEE — Social-emotional learning and charter schools were among the topics covered Monday at the first Wenatchee School Board candidate forum of the election season.

The forum was hosted by the 12th Legislative District Democrats.

All five candidates seeking three open board positions fielded questions from a crowd of about 40 people gathered in the meeting room at the Douglas County Fire District 2 station.

The candidates:

Position 1: Incumbent Laura Jaecks vs. challenger Meliesa Tigard

Position 2: Incumbent Karina Vega Villa

Position 3: Incumbent Sunny Hemphill vs. challenger Martin Barron

Here are some of their responses:

What are your thoughts on the charter school coming to Wenatchee?

Tigard: “If you have an environment that is responsive to families, we will keep people in the district who might have gone to the charter school. The best thing we can do is serve families well. If we are creative and flexible, then the students win. That’s what we’re here for.”

Jaecks: “It is going to impact our budget rather directly. Our relationship with those families is key, regardless of whether they move to a charter school. We must maintain our commitment to quality education and maintain an open door so we can continue communicating with anyone in the community who has school age children.”

Barron: “Charter schools are allowed, so we will have to firm up and deal with that. The response is to deliver the very best education we can for our students in the face of this. We as a school district are going to have to adapt.”

Hemphill: “I see it as a direct threat to the fiscal security of the district. The best way to address it is for the district to look at charter school for what it is — competition. We need to do everything we can to provide a better service for children in the community.”

Vega Villa: “As a district, we need to do some self-reflection. What did we do wrong that led parents to start a charter school? That’s where we can start. Then we can start building collaboration with a charter school.”

How would you prioritize academics, behavior and social-emotional learning?

Hemphill: I don’t think we can separate them. School can be a refuge for a child from a home in crisis. Or school can be a torment. I can tell you that for children with special needs who are not identified, school can be overwhelming. ... There are too many children out there in that situation. If we are not meeting the needs, providing children with emotional safety and understanding they are individuals, we aren’t going to teach them anything.”

Barron: “There are no easy answers to those questions. That’s the truthful reply. You learn better when you have comfort and social/emotional needs of students are being met. … The school board needs to create freedom and space for educators to be not so totally focused on measuring and have-tos. Out of that they can create the ability for teachers and students to handle problems. … Blending academics with social education, you learn better. You learn survival skills.”

Jaecks: “We have to be creative in our solutions for children struggling with social emotional issues. We need to collaborate, look outside the district at best practices, set priorities and hold each other accountable in achieving our objectives.”

Tigard: “Teachers are natural problem solvers. We need to allow them the space to do that. I learned early in my career that when you hire staff, you hire good people, stay out of the way and let them do their job. That’s the most effective way we can help with the needs that are going to walk through the door.”

Vega Villa: “You can create the best academic tools, but they fly over their heads if basic needs are not met first. We need to see the child as a whole and serve the child as a whole.”

Another candidate forum, hosted by the Wenatchee Education Association, is planned in October. The Wenatchee World also will be interviewing candidates. If you have suggestions on topics to cover, send an email to mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com.

Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151

mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com