Spray planes load up last Friday morning at the Colfax Airport. By Sally Ousley Gazette Reporter Colfax airport, now officially known as the Port of Whitman Business Air Center, will be closed from the end of July through October for a major construction project. Debbie Snell, Port of Whitman County Properties and Development Manager, reported to port commissioners at their March 19 meeting that the project is scheduled to go out to bid today, March 26. Estimated cost of the project will be $2.3 million. Bids will be opened April 23. “There’s a lot of contractors interested,” Snell told the board. “We’re hoping for very competitive bids.” Snell said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay 90 percent of the project costs, with the port paying five percent. The port will apply to the Washington State Department of Transportation for a grant to cover the other five percent of the project. The cost includes engineering, construction and testing. Snell said a variety of tests will be conducted during construction on materials, soil and compaction because the project is being built to FAA standards. An FAA engineer in September of 2013 told port commissioners that the FAA core samples taken from the 3,210-foot runway in 2011 found a high water table with layers of clay and silt and no base for the runway. The engineer also told commissioners at that time that when the project is complete, the estimated life of the newly constructed runway, with regular maintenance, will be at least 20 years. The project will begin with grinding off the existing asphalt, followed by excavation of the new runway area which will be widened to the FAA standard of 60 feet. All new drainage will be installed, along with new electrical conduit and lights, a new illuminated wind cone and
By Sally Ousley Gazette Reporter Barb Curtiss, proprietor of the Route 26 Cafe in LaCrosse, had one of her busiest nights of the year Saturday night. Her husband Keith and other friends helped with a crowd that at one point numbered 50 people. She finally closed the doors after 9 p.m. The closing included lots of hugs and farewells because it was the last night of business. She had informed LaCrosse Community Pride, owners of the restaurant, that she could not continue to operate because of health reasons. Her contract with the Pride group, which owns the building, began last July, but Curtiss had to make some improvements before opening Route 26 Cafe last September. She signed the contract a little more than a month after the Grillbilly Cafe closed. That cafe began business in what for years had been the Teapot Cafe in LaCrosse. Grillbilly Cafe opened in May 2013 and closed a year later when proprietors Joe and Dionne Evans said they couldn’t handle the work load any longer and wanted to concentrate on working on their ranch near Hay. The Teapot Cafe had been a fixture in LaCrosse for more than 40 years. Previous owners, Cheri and Steven Garrett, closed the restaurant in November 2012 because of health problems. They had operated the cafe for more than 10 years. Curtiss and her husband moved to LaCrosse in 2005. She said that they fell in love with the LaCrosse area after living in Arizona and Texas. Keith is employed with the Whitman Public Works Department. LaCrosse Community Pride purchased the cafe building when it bought the former LaCrosse State Bank from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC took over the building after it shut down the Bank of Whitman, a branch that occupied the bank portion of the building. Community Pride leased the bank portion of the building to Sterling Bank, which opened its LaCrosse branch in July of 2012. Sterling Bank has since been purchased by Umpqua Bank. According to some of the cafe’s customers, LaCrosse could support a cafe when other businesses lined Main Street, but with those businesses gone, area residents tend to migrate toward Colfax, Pullman, Lewiston and Spokane.
Jerry Pugh Roger Trail By Garth Meyer Gazette Reporter Approximately 75 Colfax area residents gathered in the high school library March 19 to meet two of three candidates for the school district’s superintendent opening. The third, Kathryn Orozco of Whitefish, Mont., needed to reschedule. She was set to appear in Colfax yesterday for interviews, meetings and an evening community forum. The school board’s list of the final three candidates changed last week when Mike Hamilton of Kalama and Steve McCullough of Curlew withdrew after accepting other job offers. The board subsequently added two new names to the list – Orozco and Roger Trail of Clarkston. Trail then appeared on the first interview day, along with Jerry Pugh of Chewelah. In the process, Pugh and Trail both met with the board, toured the district’s facilities, answered questions from staff and student groups and then spoke at that night’s community forum. Dr. Dennis Ray of Northwest Leadership Associates – the consultant hired by the school board to aid its search – led the gathering, introducing Pugh first. Jerry Pugh The principal of Chewelah’s Gess Elementary and intern superintendent, he stood in front of Colfax teachers, board members, parents and others and told a little about his background. Raised in Montana in a family of four boys and a girl, he now lives on 20 acres in Chewelah, with his wife, five girls and one boy. The floor opened for questions. Ed Morgan began by asking about what Pugh might bring to Colfax, going down a list including whether he could “walk on water.” “I am an avid fly fisherman so my feet do get wet,” Pugh said, beginning his answer. “I have a heart for kids. For me it’s about relationships and it’s always about respecting dignity.” He talked about when there is conflict, he aims to be sure people feel like they are heard. “For whatever decision is made, I want them to walk away saying, ‘you know what, Jerry listened to me.’” He was asked about the Colfax District’s no-D grade policy and it’s subsequent C-requirement to play sports, whether it disenfranchises kids who don’t have a support system. He answered, beginning with his experience in Chewelah and its current 71-percent rate for free and reduced lunch, noting how the area’s economy faltered after an Alcoa plant closed. “It’s not necessarily, ‘Let’s do away with the no-D policy. What do we do to get them up to a C,” Pugh said. “… If we set high rigor standards, that’s a good thing to expect that D student to be a B student, but not on their own.” Another question came from a former Colfax teacher. She suggested that educators today have less and less freedom to do original things in the classroom, saying it’s more “scripted.” “I am in agreement with standards,” Pugh said. “I don’t think as educators we run from standards. We’ve always had standards; they are not new to us, they’re more defined…. We are agents of the state, what can we do about that? In my humble opinion, those making the decisions about what’s happening in the classroom are not in the classrooms. They don’t understand how it transfers into the classroom. The solution is, our legislators, they need to hear from you. The key is, we don’t allow them to switch things around on us again.” The parent of a Jennings Elementary student then asked about the Colfax district’s varying methods to communicate with parents, citing different webpages and more. “We have to go back to traditional,” Pugh said, suggesting home mailings. “It’s that print that has to happen.” He continued, after answering another question. “That’s what a small town is all about. You get access to do things. I love your auditorium.” He was asked about how to best keep high-performing teachers in the district. He was asked about faith and family values. “I share those same values,” he said. “We’re still a public school. There are some things, quite honestly that belong in the home and others in the school.” A question then came about declining enrollment in the Colfax District and how Pugh might go about countering that. He answered by talking about work he did in Chewelah to invite home-school students to come in for music classes and then library time and then lunch. He said some parents got more comfortable with the school and later sent their kids full-time. “All of a sudden I have 25 new F.T.E. (full-time equivalent students),” Pugh said. He was asked how many students were at his school. About 330, he answered. “How many kids know your name?” the questioner continued. “They all know me,” Pugh answered. “Some of them know me very well.” The audience laughed. Pugh continued, saying, “Nothing matters unless you have a relationship.” He was asked about why he’d like to be a superintendent in Colfax. “I want to open up again. I feel like I can make a greater impact, holistically, on the kids,” he said. Dr. Ray then stepped in to ask Pugh to conclude with just one or two more questions. He was asked about handling an under-performing or bad teacher. “We have to find out what’s going on there,” Pugh said. “I have released teachers before. That’s offensive to me. I’m part of that (failure); it’s not a notch in my belt.” He expanded on what to do. “The teacher should leave that meeting (about their performance) with hope that there is a plan,” he said. “Maybe that’s too Pollyanna, but that’s who I am… Intent is everything.” The final question followed. “What ages are your kids at home and are they tall and athletic?” Pugh’s educational background includes a B.S. in Secondary Education from Montana State-Northern, a Master’s in Education-Administration from City University of Bellevue, Wash. and Superintendent Certification from WSU. He began his career as a history, English, physical education teacher and coach at Tonasket High School in 1993. Roger Trail Dr. Ray introduced the second candidate, Roger Trail, who came from Clarkston. The Executive Director of Human Resources for the Clarkston School District began by introducing his wife, who was in the audience. He said they had two children, an 11-year-old named Lewis and a high school junior named Clark. “Because I always wanted to be able to introduce my kids as Lewis & Clark Trail,” he said. After a moment and some laughter, he confirmed he was joking. The children’s real names are Austin and David. “Laughter is really important to me,” Trail said. “Laugh, love, learn… the students know when the staff cares about them…. I tell my staff, if somebody asks what you do, their answer should be, I help kids learn.” Trail then talked about his background. After graduation from Moscow High School in 1984, he was an exchange student in Venezuela for a year. After his degree in Spanish from University of Idaho, he and his brother biked across Europe and worked for two years in the ski village of Zermatt, Switzerland. Then they biked across South America, where he met his wife. He began his career in Coos Bay, Ore., at Marshfield High School, teaching Spanish for eight years. In the process, he talked about attending evening school events. “I look at that as something I get to do, not that I have to do,” he said. Questions began from the audience. “Obviously, the way I would love students and staff is different than the way I love my wife,” he said as part of one answer. He was asked about what he had learned that day in Colfax. “I have learned that Colfax is a proud community, a very tight-knit community,” he said. “And an appreciation for the great financial position the district is in.” Trail was asked how he might prioritize the challenges of the district. “Declining enrollment is at the top of the list,” he said. Then came a query about displays of faith in the community, such as prayer at graduation. “Absolutely, if the community supports it,” Trail said. “I’m spiritual as well. I play the drums in our church band.” He was asked about “teaching to the test.” “In one area, tests are really important,” he said. “But then again, it’s one score. What if a kid had a bad day?” He talked further. “I preached Bantam P.R.I.D.E. as principal at Clarkston,” he said. “Personal Responsibility and Daily Effort.” He was asked about the no-D policy and potential disenfranchisement by the sports requirement. “I do like the idea of having that carrot out there to play,” he said. “Am I perfect? No. Am I going to make mistakes? Yes,” Trail said, nearing conclusion. “And am I going to be transparent about that? Absolutely.” Choices to be made This Wednesday night’s community forum for Kathryn Orozco occurred after the Gazette’s deadline. The school district board was set to hold a special meeting that evening to evaluate the three finalists.