"Primary election still needs workMany South Whidbey voters joined others throughout the state in complaining about last week's presidential primary election.The problem is that organizers did not pay attention to this state's long, proud history of open primary elections. There are hundreds of thousands of voters in this state who have never had to declare a party preference in public, and the thought of doing so no doubt kept many from the polls.The state has now conducted three presidential primaries and all have drawn low voter turnout. That's likely to continue until total privacy is once again guaranteed at the polls and on the absentee ballot.One disconcerting fact of the primary was the many individuals who voted for someone other than their real preference. The thinking went like something this: I want Gore to be president, but I'll say I'm a Republican so I can vote for McCain, because I don't like Bush.This kind of individual politics playing has no place in the voting booth -- people should honestly vote their preference in order to help produce an honest presidential primary. In four years, there should be a totally open presidential primary in this state, along with a voter education campaign to inform people on the ethics of voting. There was no information about last week's primary except for an extremely tedious state voter publication which few people in their right minds bothered to read. Put some informational ads on TV -- the fact is, that's where most people get their information. Remind people to vote their conscience and the large majority probably will.On the positive side, the primary did attract the leading presidential candidates to our state, giving thousands of people a chance to meet them in person and providing local TV stations with a reason to increase their political coverage. Both of those are good things that should be encouraged in future years.But in 2004, honor our state's tradition by keeping the presidential primary open. The political parties can make what they want of the results.Take time to find new superintendentDr. Lisa Bjork followed in the footsteps of her predecessor, Dr. Art Jarvis. Neither could garner unanimous support from the South Whidbey School Board, so both chose to resign their positions.That's one of the hazards of our system in which the public elects an eclectic mix of school board members and the superintendent has to get along with them all. When that fails, superintendents often jump ship when they realize their antagonists will be around for years before their terms expire.This is particularly sad in Dr. Bjork's case because she had so many strengths, particularly in curriculum and staff development. Her resignation letter mentioned differences with certain board members in her style of leadership, which can be described as leadership by consensus. This served her well most of the time, but on those occasions when a quick decision was required it wasn't always the best approach. Rarely, situations reached the boiling point and stayed there too long as Bjork sought consensus. Perhaps this is why some board members criticized her leadership style. In totality, however, Dr. Bjork improved education considerably in her four years at the head of the South Whidbey School District. She made both students and teachers more accountable for their performance. She was a leader in the state school reform movement and no doubt can take her pick from among a variety of job opportunities -- most, no doubt, offering better pay, less stress and fewer hours.The community owes Dr. Bjork a thank you for a job well done, and for giving her all to the betterment of our children. She left a mark that will be seen as the children perform better in coming years. Their success will be the ultimate monument to her contribution.Now, the school board faces the daunting task of finding a replacement. It is important to keep the process public, to take it slowly, and to make sure the right person is selected. Make the search a broad one, not simply limited to those with a doctorate in education. Seattle found success with a former military officer, while other school districts have prospered under former business executives.As Dr. Bjork would no doubt recommend, think outside of the box."

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