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Thursday, July 26, 2012 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.
Dorn hopes big primary victory will seal school chief's re-election
By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
The Associated Press
Randy Dorn expects to win the statewide primary for superintendent of public instruction. His dream is to defeat his four opponents — none with any statewide name recognition — by a margin big enough to make a general-election campaign unnecessary.
Terry Bergeson, whom Dorn defeated in 2008, made it happen in 2000, when she earned 57 percent of the vote against four unknown opponents who did not raise the money needed to run an active campaign. She advanced to the general election unopposed.
Dorn is the only superintendent candidate this time around who has raised money to support his campaign, and only two of his opponents say they are trying to win.
Under Washington's top-two primary system, the two top vote-getters running for superintendent of public instruction go on to the general election, unless one person earns 50 percent plus one vote.
Dorn wants voters to give him a second term, saying he hasn't finished meeting his goals. He said he would give himself an "incomplete" on the job he's done as superintendent, but he mostly blames the economy for his less-than-satisfactory results.
His top goal was replacing the statewide tests with exams that were shorter and online. Work on his next goal — fully funding schools — is just starting. There have been a Supreme Court decision and lots of talk, but not enough money to make a difference.
Dorn said he has made some progress working with others to expand early learning and opportunities for career and technical education. He also said he's counting on an uptick in the economy to help him reach more goals during the next four years.
The former executive director of Public Schools Employees of Washington, the union that represents about 26,000 school workers who are not teachers, as well as some college employees, also has been a lawmaker, teacher and principal.
Dorn said he could work well with either man running for governor.
"I'm not worried that either one would be better than the other," he said, adding that he has endorsed former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, who is a friend.
The Washington Education Association (WEA), the other big school-employees union, has endorsed Dorn again, according to WEA spokesman Rich Wood. The union especially liked his strong opposition to Initiative 1240, the charter-schools proposal on the November ballot, Wood said.
Dorn's opponents agree with him on the issue.
Dorn also has earned the support of one of his opponents.
John Patterson Blair, a former teacher and former Vashon Island School Board member, said he paid the $1,200 filing fee to get on the ballot so that people would read his ideas in the voters pamphlet. He said Dorn has done a good job in a tough economy.
Blair and other candidates expressed disappointment that some counties are not printing a voters pamphlet for the primary and are depending on people to go online to see candidate statements.
His main idea is to offer kids and their parents an education savings account that would allow them to choose how their school dollars are spent and give them more control. For example, they could choose a combination of online and classroom learning.
Ron Higgins, a retired engineer who went back to school to get his teaching certificate and now works as a substitute teacher, is another one-issue candidate who said he has no real hope of winning the election. "Hopefully, someone will plagiarize all my good ideas," Higgins said.
Two candidates other than Dorn say they believe they have a chance to proceed to the general election: Don Hansler, who also ran in 2008, and James Bauckman.
Bauckman, a teacher and video producer, wants to see more frequent student assessments that result in faster help for struggling students. "No child should have to fail first before they get special services," said the former Montessori teacher and administrator who is a graduate student at Western Washington University.
Hansler, a retired science teacher who also teaches college courses, has some innovative ideas including bonuses for teachers who receive "outstanding" ratings from parents, and a three-level high-school diploma that recognizes students who pass the statewide tests but allows those who don't to get a diploma anyway. He also wants to revise the state testing system.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
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