Educational priorities: School board candidates share their thoughts

April, 2017 Posted in Community, School

Editor’s note: Election preview of additional races will be included in the May 1 edition of Our Town.

By Mary Owen

Candidates have filed for the school board seats that will be decided with the May 17 ballot. While many seats on locals boards are uncontested, with just a single person filing, a few positions have challengers.

North Santiam School District

Four people are vying for three open director positions on the North Santiam School Board this May.

Incumbent Laura Wipper and Adrienne Campbell are vying for director, position 3, zone 2, for the NSSD school board. Alisha Oliver has tossed her hat in the ring for director, position 7, at large #2. Incumbent Tass Morrison is running unopposed to keep her seat as director, position 1, zone 1. All positions are for a four-year term.

Wipper wants to continue as a school board member because, she said, “Education is my community’s most important business.”

She believes a quality education system fosters economic vitality and prepares young people to go on to become “engineers, healthcare professionals, accountants, software designers, builder, developers” and more.

“Education and those involved make all of this possible, and I want to do all I can in support,” she said.

Wipper views student learning and high school graduation as an area that needs steady and vigilant work. The district also needs stable funding, she said.

“The way we educate must continue to evolve as the world evolves,” said Wipper of balancing innovation with fiscal realities. “One example of this is technology. Teachers and books are still the backbone of education, but technology is an integral part of how the world works. We must continue to incorporate technology into student learning so they are prepared for the future, but this takes planning and resources.”

Wipper said she brings a genuine interest in doing what is best for youth, a commitment to data-based decisions, and a conviction that the district strives for excellence in all school programs. The mother of three, two grown and one at Stayton High School, she has spent decades volunteering in the schools.

“This is just an extension of that willingness to volunteer and contribute to my community,” she said. “Of my almost 30 years with the Oregon Department of Transportation, I found my greatest satisfaction in working with small teams to do great things. In fact, I worked in three different programs that were considered to lead the nation in their efforts. I see my participation with my fellow board members, superintendent, Andy Gardner, and the district staff as more of the same – working with a team to do great things for all students of our district.”

Challenging Wipper for the seat, Campbell believes schools are the most important asset of a community. The mother of a first grader at Stayton Elementary, she said the school board fits her interest in being active and engaged in the community. She currently volunteers as vice president of the Booster Board at her daughter’s school.

“Two major issues that I believe are important, not only in our district, but statewide, are graduation rates and daily student attendance,” Campbell said. “It is imperative that students attend school on a consistent and regular basis as a foundation for educational growth and social skills as well as good work habits to become productive citizens as adults. That flows into graduation rates.

“Attendance accountability is the first key to making sure students are present to get the assistance needed to achieve and eventually graduate from high school,” she added. “The North Santiam District has many ways for a student to earn a diploma. We need to make sure students are aware of these options and using them in order to graduate.”

Campbell has previous local government experience and works in a school setting – all attributes, she said, that give her a unique perspective.

“I can sympathize and understand the challenges and important issues facing parents, our schools and our community,” she said. “I’m excited to work with like-minded individuals who want the best for our schools, staff, faculty, students and their families.”

Alisha Oliver decided to run for school board because, she said, “North Santiam School District is doing great things for our kids!”

“Strong schools are part of the foundation of strong communities,” she said. “It’s something I want to be a part of and something I am willing to dedicate my time to. I believe in the programs and opportunities the district has implemented over the last few years, and want to see their continued success.”

Reliable and consistent funding is one of the biggest challenges facing the district, she said.

“My understanding is creating a sustainable budget has been an area of focus for the district since experiencing the economic downturn,” she said. Additionally, “creating success for every student is an area of focus because there is not a one-size-fits-all model. I believe the board and administration have made and continue to make these a priority by creating and sustaining programs that afford a variety of opportunities.

Another area of focus for the district is increasing the graduation rate.”

Oliver said her professional experience provides a financial, service and risk perspective. She also believes her role as a parent is important for a balanced board.

“My kids have taught me that success comes in all different shapes and sizes, and we need the programs and opportunities that support this,” she said. “My volunteer experience through organizations such as Relay For Life and the Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce has taught me the value of collaboration, partnerships, and the benefits of an engaged board or committee.”

Morrison also believes educating Stayton’s youth is the highest priority for the community.

“I want to strive for even greater community engagement in our schools,” she said. “I want parents who live here to have confidence that their children will receive a high-quality K-12 education.”

In her 10 years of service on the NSSD board, Morrison believes she and fellow board members have succeeded in making significant improvements in how the district serves students.

She said the board has increased graduation rates and decreased the dropout rate; become an evidence-based decision making organization; created career and college pathways for high school students; completed a $22.85 million remodeling and upgrading at all the schools; improved physical education and athletics facilities; improved the ability to hire and retain high quality teachers; and created positive connections with community businesses.

“I want to continue this momentum,” she said.

In addition to seeking stable funding and insuring all students graduate, Morrison believes it critical to be alert on how the increase in housing developments impact school enrollment.

“We have mostly old and aging buildings in all three communities, so maintaining them and knowing when we may need to build new facilities is an important issue,” she said.

Morrison said she has experience, knowledge, and a commitment to students and their families that will allow her to advocate for and do what’s best for them. She is a chamber of commerce board member which lets her stay informed about issues important to local businesses and government agencies.

“I am diligent about staying informed on current trends and issues facing public schools in Oregon by reading and attending conferences specifically for school board members, specifically those provided by the Oregon School Boards Association,” she said.

Morrison credits school administrators and staff, parents and community members for sustaining the “outstanding schools we have been developing in recent years.

“I am deeply grateful to be a part of our schools and the education of our girls and boys,” Morrison said. “I look forward to serving another term on the board of directors.”

Cascade School District

Cascade School District has four uncontested seats on the May 17 ballot. Daniel Van De Hey is running unopposed for director, position 2, two-year term. The three, four-year positions are being sought: Karen Ramseyer, director, position 3; David Kuenzi, director, position 4; and Brett Stegall, director, position 5.

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