News

Hoff can't recall 'gene pool' jab in Pennsylvania

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Charles Hoff, Federal Way School Board member, said he didn’t tell an audience in State College, Penn. last week the community had “a far better gene pool” than Federal Way’s.

Hoff said he told the audience that in a town full of professors, (State College is near Penn State University) high school test scores should be higher because of greater parental involvement.

However, others at the meeting confirmed the quote in the local newspaper attributed to Hoff.

In a newspaper article in the Centre Daily Times, Hoff related to the audience of a few hundred people how small schools in Federal Way had led to improved test scores.

“And this town (State College) has a far better gene pool — so to speak — than the town where I am now,” Hoff said in the May 16 story.

Hoff was part of a panel of speakers on May 15 talking about whether the State College Area School District should change its high school from two smaller buildings to a large one by adding onto and renovating one of the existing buildings. Hoff, a graduate of State College Area High School, was there speaking in favor of small high schools.

When contacted by the Mirror, Hoff initially said someone in the audience made a comment about the gene pool while he was making his remarks and both were attributed to him.

After he was told others at the meeting confirmed the quote, Hoff said he didn’t “recall saying it”.

“If I did say it, so be it,” he added. Hoff hadn’t seen the newspaper article when contacted by the Mirror.

Janet McCracken, a State College school board member, said she was at the meeting and heard Hoff’s comments. It seemed to come under his breath and with a snicker, she said.

McCracken interpreted his comment to mean Federal Way was doing better than State College with a lesser gene pool.

Toby Short, a supporter of the Pennsylvania district’s plan, said it was an “unfortunate, off-the-cuff comment” but Hoff seemed serious and he (Short) took it to mean having Penn State nearby gave the district “a leg up” on Federal Way.

There might have also been a feeling of a birth right associated with living in State College, he said.

The controversial Federal Way School Board member has not been afraid to criticize students and parents in the past. Hoff didn’t attend graduation ceremonies for a time because he believed many students were not exhibiting the proper decorum and were not academically ready to graduate.

When he became the School Board’s president in 2005 he attended graduation ceremonies and said he might attend this year’s.

Hoff has also said parents need to take a greater interest in their children’s educations and they don’t do enough to make sure students are enrolled in classes to prepare them for college.

Education is not a focus, he said.

“I’ve never been embarrassed to admit that before,” Hoff said.

When asked if he believed the gene pool in State College was better than in Federal Way, Hoff noted the Pennsylvania school district had more than 20 National Merit Scholars while Federal Way had only two or three. He also noted the greater parent involvement at State College and the fact a few hundred people attended the meeting where he was a panel member.

Federal Way Public Schools has difficulty getting people to attend meetings and few people came to district-sponsored meetings about the failed $245 million capital bond.

McCracken said State College, historically, has had a similar problem but the debate over the high school construction has brought out many in the community.

While he didn’t care for the comment, people in the audience didn’t seem to get too upset with Hoff, Short said.

It might not have gone over so well in other communities where he’s lived, Short added.

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

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