News

School Board's Hoff makes it to where others didn't want him

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Controversy generator Charles Hoff was voted the new president of the Federal Way Public Schools board Tuesday night with little commotion from his opponents.

Hoff, the longest-serving board member, doesn't always sit quietly behind the board's dais. Detractors don't like his criticisms of students, teachers and administrators and his policy of not attending graduation ceremonies. Supporters say he cares for students, helps them get into college, finds scholarships, demands and expects academic excellence and sometimes calls upon using unusual approaches.

On an annual basis the board elects from its ranks the officers: president, vice president and legislative liaison. Evelyn Castellar, the newest board member, was elected vice president and will retain her title of legislative liaison. She nominated Hoff as the sole candidate for president. The votes for both positions was identical: Hoff, Castellar and Ed Barney voting yes and Bob Millen and Earl VanDorien voting no.

Millen and VanDorien didn't nominate an alternative to Hoff, and the two boardmembers essentially conceded the outcome before the vote.

Millen told the audience that normally before the annual election, boardmembers interested in serving lobby their peers for votes. But not this year, Millen said.

"Apparently, my support is not solicited or needed," he said.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, Millen assured his colleagues and the district he would support the board and its new leader.

VanDorien echoed Millen's comments.

"Obviously, the collusion has taken place," he said. "Director Hoff has worn the good suit tonight."

The board had been divided on this issue before Tuesday. Earlier in the school year, Castellar proposed a "fair rotation" policy where board members served as officers based on a seniority rotation instead of a vote. Millen and VanDorien were opposed to the proposal because they didn't want Hoff leading the board. Castellar favored Hoff. Then-president Ed Barney supported the proposed policy. However, a review by the district's attorney killed the proposal when he wrote it violated state law that officers must be elected.

Castellar gave support to Hoff recalling a recent telephone call between the two board members. She asked him if he wanted to attend an event, but he declined because he had to tutor students at Federal Way High School.

She acknowledged Hoff hadn't always been supportive of the district, but "in his strange way cares deeply."

When asked to interpret Castellar's comment, Hoff said he hadn't given it a lot of thought, but said at a Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday Castellar described him as a "curmudgeon". Merriam-Websters defines the noun as, "a crusty, ill-tempered and usually old man".

Hoff, 64, said he is usually a "glass half-empty" guy.

His agenda for the next year includes continuing to bring single-gender classrooms to certain middle schools and high schools for math and science. Hoff proposed the single-gender classrooms earlier this fall noting many schools nationwide and internationally had implemented it with good results.

He also wants to work on a K-8 school in the district.

Hoff said he also wants make an effort on school choice throughout the district. What he envisions is parents having information about each school so they can choose which one they want their children to attend.

"We need to make sure every parent in the community knows what their choices are," he said.

The challenge for the next year is convincing parents and students that the impending WASL graduation requirement is real.

The sophomores of 2006 will have to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), the state's standardized test, to graduate as seniors in 2008. Students will have multiple opportunities to pass three sections of the exam - reading, writing and math.

Teachers understand the requirement and are working hard, but some parents and students get it, he said.

He will also attend graduation ceremonies this year, saying it's his obligation as an officer of the board.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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