Ready to start: New SFSD board members call for listening, long-term vision

June 2015 Posted in Community, News

By Kristine Thomas

Two incumbents and three newcomers were elected to the Silver Falls School Board on May 19.

Incumbents Tom Buchholz and Tim Roth join newcomers Aaron Koch, Ron Valoff and Todd White when the new board begins its duties on July 1. Wally Lierman and Erv Stadeli complete the board. Julie Norris, Owen Von Flue and David Beeson chose not to run for re-election.

Valoff thinks the election results indicate voters are looking for unity and to be part of the decision-making process. He describes himself as an “open book who likes to talk to everyone.”

As the parent of students who attended outlying schools, Valoff doesn’t believe there is a division between rural and town schools. His goal is to make sure everyone feels they have a voice.

Koch said the election results show voters value committed individuals with differing skills sets. He said this will be of value to shape the future of district.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be chosen to serve,” Koch said. “It’s a position that I take very seriously and commit to doing my very best.”

Koch said he believes a divide exists, in that “those who live outside of the city limits sometimes feel their input is not fully received or their opinions are not fully taken into consideration.”

To make progress, Koch said the school board must work to bring all community members together and listen to their input.

“We need to keep in mind that we’re all in this together and only together in unity will we see this progress,” Koch said.

Current board president Tim Roth said he thinks the election results indicate the majority of people think the school district is moving in the right direction.

“Voters want us to continue listening to community input and make wise decisions for this district,” Roth said, adding he doesn’t see a divided district. He sees agreement and cohesiveness but “also some things that need work. The visioning process the board completed gathered a lot of input from people in all corners of the district. Generally, people thought the district was doing a good job.”

Where there is disagreement is about the best direction to take for school facilities, Roth said, adding it will take working together to create a plan for the district.

White said voters prefer representation evenly distributed among the different perspectives. “I think this vote mirrors that,” he said.

By comparing election results from Clackamas to Marion county, White said he believes there is a divide.

“Rural and town voters often live different lifestyles, and have different perspectives. In the last bond failure, rural voters were singled out as one of the reasons for the failure, and that raised a lot of hackles,” White said. “The district has the opportunity to start over, find common ground, stop the blaming, and put the kids first.”

He said his goal is to make a positive difference, adding he has concerns on how financial obligations are going to be met.

Tom Buchholz is glad to be re-elected, He and his wife are third generation farmers. He thinks “voters want us all to stop bickering and get to work.”

Buchholz said forced unification or the rural with the city districts still has lingering effects, causing divide. “We need a long-term vision for our rural school facilities that reassures them we are not just waiting for the right time to close them and bus them to town, as many other school districts did,” Buchholz said. “We directed $2.5 million in grant funds for major seismic upgrades to Butte Creek and Scotts Mills facilities. As people see more board actions like this in the other rural areas, their nervousness will start to fade.”

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