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Mihocko, McIntire vie for Position 5

A parent critical of the Eagle Point School District's approach to controlling student access to inappropriate material on district-issued iPads is challenging the incumbent for Position 5 on the School Board.

Voters have until 8 p.m. May 16 to cast their ballot in the Special District Election.

Dianne Mihocko, a retired teacher who's served one term, said she hoped to continue to steer the district on its current path with successful programs, emphasis on technology and a focus on providing the best education for all students.

Challenger Emily McIntire said her primary goals would be to re-evaluate the iPads to make sure they're used for educational purposes only and work toward better relations between district administration and the community and parents.

Mihocko, 68, said her long career in education made serving on the board feel like an extension of her focus on education.

"I really enjoy the work," she said. "It sounds crazy, but I feel like it feeds my soul. As a former teacher, the school environment, to me, is high energy; and the district has some exciting things going on.

"I've learned a lot in my first term and I just hope to be able to continue."

Mihocko said she was eager to see efforts continue toward raising graduation rates and focusing on career technical education programs, which give high school students the option to learn a technical trade as an alternative to traditional college.

Mihocko voiced concerns about McIntire's desire for more restrictions on the iPads, voicing a preference, instead, to trust district administration and teachers to guide children with the learning tools.

"I know people are fearful of change," Mihocko said. "Because the iPads are something different, there are going to be some issues to work out. When I was a student, they banned Judy Bloom (books). Access at the school is not the only access students will have to technology.

"In my experience working with the school from two different perspectives — as a board member and also as a teacher — I really do see the value of giving our kids exposure to technology. Miss McIntire has used the word 'white list' (for acceptable websites); which, to me, is the same as censoring. I think that compromises intellectual curiosity and impacts academic freedom for teachers that we have hired because we trust them to do their jobs."

McIntire, 35, owner of Pizza Schmizza and Figaro's, said even if she is not elected she would continue to fight district policy on the iPads.

"The biggest reason I got involved was that I learned that our kids can access all kinds of inappropriate material, and the filters are not working," she said. "There are apps that look like a calculator or a calendar and they have hidden access to videos and chat rooms.

"I know there are a lot of pluses, and I'm not saying to not let the kids use technology, but the district isn't even willing to say, 'Maybe we should rethink this.' They're so gung-ho and holding their stance on it, to a fault."

McIntire confirmed plans to create a white list of acceptable sites and said parents were "better suited than the district" to decide whether their children should have unfiltered access to the Internet.

"White-listing is where you turn the entire internet off and there are no apps, no iTunes ... you lock it so kids can't get on and teachers submit the names of the websites kids can have access to," she said.

"Kids are shopping during class or playing (games)," McIntire said, adding high school kids play "these 17-plus (mature audience) games where they are blowing up cops or where they can choose to be a terrorist or not. It is maddening and shocking." (See correction, below.)

McIntire said transparency from the board and better communication is "desperately needed."

"My goal, whether I'm on the board or not, is to start posting all board agendas and open the lines of communication so parents know what's going on," she said.

"Win or lose, I have absolutely zero intention of stopping this fight."

— Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly quoted McIntire as saying elementary students were playing these games.

Emily McIntire, left, and Dianne Mihocko