Mt. Angel School Board: Candidates discuss skills, challenges

May 2019 Posted in Community

Mt. Angel School District Board of Directors election
Position 1:
John Conklin vs. Donna Hues
Position 4:
Theresa (Schaecher) Kinkaid, unopposed

 

Three candidates are running for two open seats on the Mt. Angel School District Board of Directors in the May 21 election. John Conklin is running against incumbent Donna Hues for Position 1 and Theresa (Schaecher) Kinkaid runs unopposed for Position 4.

The five members of the school district board volunteer for four-year terms, are the district’s only elected officials and may not be district employees. The current candidates’ terms commence July 1, 2019.

The board is the principal governing body and decision-making force of the district, representing citizens on education and school-related issues. The board’s role includes:

  • Establishing policies and regulations by which the district is governed.
  • Hiring, evaluating and terminating the district superintendent, who is considered the board’s only employee.
  • Prioritizing and approving the budget.
  • Establishing a vision that reflects overall goals of the community, staff and board.
  • Making decisions on school expansion and closures.

 

Here, candidates in the contested race address Mt. Angel School District issues. Some answers may be edited for space. For the complete responses of all three candidates please go to www.ourtownlive.com.

 

What is your occupation?

Kinkaid: I am a recently retired teacher and current substitute teacher in local school districts.

Conklin: I am a military retiree having served in both the Marines and the Army with combat service during Operation: Iraqi Freedom from April 2003-April 2004. Additionally, there was a span of 10 years of working in social services at the state, county and local level. Positions included program director, caseworker in both financial and personal services.

Hues: I retired from teaching in 2013. During my more than 30 years’ experience as an educator for Cascade School District, Salem-Keizer School District and Mt. Angel School District, I served on site councils and other committees to develop strategies for best-practices learning.

Why are you running?

Kincaid: As a newly retired teacher I will bring a perspective to the school board from a teacher’s point of view. This is an expertise on education which I believe is greatly needed on the school board.

Conklin: I have much history and interest in education. Discussions with friends, neighbors and longtime city residents that this would be a good place for me to use my talents and that new blood in the school board appeared necessary. Position 1 was selected since the incumbent was appointed, not elected. This opportunity comes up at an optimal time.

Hues: I am presently serving a vacancy on the school board and would like to continue in that position. A former teacher’s perspective is vital to all: administration, staff, students, and parents. Being actively involved during Oktoberfest, and at the Senior Center, I understand the residents’ desires for quality schools.

What is the biggest challenge facing the district right now and what do you propose to help deal with it?

Kinkaid: One of the biggest challenges for our district is building trust between the administration and teachers/staff and community. I will be able to bring on-the-job expertise to this position, and my unique perspective will help build a bridge and trust between our administration, teachers and community.

Conklin: Our problems are: attendance rate, high school graduation rate and retaining good leaders – principals, counselors and teachers. Attendance rate is directly addressed in our Mount Angel School District 91 Strategic Plan for 2017-2022 with metric measurements and a person responsible. It seems that an advantage of our independent school district status may be an opportunity to help mitigate the leader-retention issue.

Hues: I believe the biggest challenge we face is to prepare our students for life beyond high school. Mt. Angel School District adopted a Strategic Plan in 2017 and it will culminate in 2022. This plan is based on the SMART goal format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. The district is progressing to meet each of the strategies on time. As a member of the board, I will ensure we are doing all we can to meet the goals of the Strategic Plan.

What skills, experience or insight makes you the best qualified to help guide district policy?

Kinkaid: As a recently retired teacher, I have been in the trenches and have seen and experienced the changing landscape of education. This is a perspective and insight that will benefit our school board, schools and community.

Hues: I am presently on the Mount Angel School Board, Position No. 1. I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Francis and a Master’s of Science in Education from WOU. I have over 40 years’ experience teaching, the final 13 for Mount Angel School District. I have served on site councils, teacher association committees and presently, Executive Board for Oregon Christian Writers.

Conklin: I am a 21+ year city resident and father of nine. I was Assistant Professor for Military Science at Southern Oregon University 1992-1997 and Oregon Institute of Technology 1994-1997. Our children’s education included private, home, public and alternative high school, all of which are part of Mt. Angel School District 91. As a parent, activities included Parents Club President (four times), school board member, City Planning Commission and Assistant Scoutmaster.

There’s been repeated turnover at the helm of the middle school and high school over the last few years. What impact has that had on educational goals?

Kinkaid: Repeated turnover at the high school has made it challenging at Kennedy, affecting the morale and climate of staff and students. The middle school has a new principal this year, but the previous principal had been there several years. Time will tell what kind of impact this will have.

Hues: We are a strong district with dedicated teachers and staff that make sure the students are the top priority. Even with changes due to distance factors, or opportunities elsewhere, educational goals remain the same.

Conklin: Repeated turnover of leadership at our middle and high school is noteworthy. Further query into its impact on academic goals appears justified in terms of its effect on district/school goals and the environment resulting from these changes.

What is the board’s role in fostering a positive, learning-focused environment for students and staff?

Kinkaid: The board’s role is to commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction for our school district. It needs to build a collaborative relationship with staff and community and keep up strong communication to inform and engage those involved with our schools.

Hues: The board works closely with the superintendent to ensure a positive working communication is in place. Through that communication, the goal collectively agreed upon, with teacher input, filters into the classroom environment for the best possible education for our students.

Conklin: A school board has the role of leading and being responsible for the school system. This is in partnership with its community which has as a major role advocating for and taking or making advantage of opportunities. The school board is responsible for the Strategic Plan, setting vision and goals with policies establishing direction, priorities and outcomes.

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