Meet the Hood River School Board candidates

Two contested races have emerged in the May 21 Special Districts election.

Ballots were mailed May 3 and must be turned in by 8 p.m. ion May 21.

Profiled in the Hood River News print edition on May 8 were at-large candidates Jan Veldhuisen Virk, the incumbent, and challenger Timothy Counihan, and board Dist. 6 incumbent Mark Johnson, and the his write-in challenger, Mary Reynolds.

Here are the full texts of all four candidates’ comments.

They were asked the following questions:

Why are you running?

What are your greatest strengths as a candidate?

What are your top three goals?

What are your thoughts on the proposed cutbacks to make up the 2013-14 budget shortfall?

What are your wishes for the Class of 2026 and what must the district to do help achieve that?

What is the book you are currently reading?

Who inspires you?

The candidates were also given general topics to comment on in the way of their choosing: local and state funding, enrollment and growth, labor negotiations, curriculum development, magnet schools, and Cascade Locks School.

(Note: Some of the candidates answered the questions in a slightly different order, or consolidated answers.)

Virk has 14 years on the board, and faces a challenge for her at-large seat from May Street parent Counihan, a research biologist who has lived in Hood River the past four years.

Johnson, the second most senior board member, is alone on the ballot for District 6. Unlike Reynolds, he filed prior to the March 21 deadline

Two weeks ago, Reynolds announced a write-in campaign against Johnson, a state representative who owns a contracting business.

Reynolds, a 15-year county resident, is a kindergarten teacher in The Dalles.

Also on the ballot are two uncontested races for school board.

David Russo and Julia Ramirez will run for the board seats, currently held by James Sims and Jeff Kopecky, who decided not to seek reelection.

Mary Reynolds

Mary Reynolds works as a kindergarten teacher at Colonel Wright Elementary in The Dalles, a position she has held the past three years.

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Mary Reynolds

Previously she worked as a reading specialist at Mosier School. and the high school and elementary school levels in The Dalles.

Reynolds and her husband, Mark, have lived near Odell for 23 years. They have a daughter, Rose, who attends Linfield College.

Note: Only Mark Johnson’s name appears on the ballot, as he filed prior to the March 21 deadline. Reynolds is running as a write-in candidate.

Why are you running

I decided to run when I heard about the $1.4 million shortfall next year, and I'm running because I can be a voice for the community and teachers and students. Because I work in the schools every day I know the issues that children and teachers are facing.

What are your main strengths as a school board candidate?

I’m a reading specialist, reading is the bread and butter of education, and my experience with reading will really serve the board well. Also, as a classroom teacher I have the confidence and support of the teachers, so I can serve as a bridge between the staff and the board

Hood River Education Association and Uniserv Council both unanimously endorsed me.

I didn’t decide to run until after we found out about the financial shortfall. I wasn’t considering running before that.

“In my campaign I’m putting up yard signs and passing out flyers. I had 14 people canvassing last weekend, and a mailing or two. This is my first time to run for office. I was a board member of the Mid Columbia Reading Council, an teacher organization for promoting literacy, now defunct.

Top three goals

Here are my three goals: Be a voice for students, parents, and teachers. Offer my expertise as a reading specialist and teacher. Conduct board business with a commitment to transparency, public discussion, and debate.

What are your thoughts on the proposed measures for making up the district $1.4 million shortfall?

I strongly believe we need to be clear about what happened, the public has a lot of questions about where that money went. We just passed a local option, and the patrons want smaller class sizes and preserving programs, they want that money to directly benefit students, so I think we need to honor, as much as possible, their desire to protect the experience of the children and use the money, first of all, to reduce class sizes and protect programs. The administration cuts should go first.

There were three things last year that would have prevented (the cuts). We wouldn't be looking at the shortfall if they hadn't over expended last year: money from state reimbursement for construction, higher enrollment, and we sold the Frankton property, so we shouldn’t be facing this large of a shortfall, and people want to know what happened so we can prevent it again.

Local school funding

The state has been cutting our funding and every year we face more cuts and more cuts. so it's really a legislative problem. The districts hands are tied because he revenue pool gets smaller and smaller, WE need to find long term solutions that are out of the hands of board, but we need to work collaboratively to find solutions. I think things need to be more fair and equitable, so those who are ale to afford their fair share can pay, and Nike is not getting a free ride, that they pay their fair share as well, and I don’t really know exactly what form but a commitment to raising the revenue needed for schools is what we need.

I would not be opposed to a dedicated sales tax. I think it's time to look at whatever. WE have to raise revenue and I think people are going to have to pay more. And I think people are willing to ay more, if the money goes directly into the classroom.

Labor negotiations

It has been relatively smooth in the past with Hood River, that they’ve worked together quickly and they have a good contract. Whatever they are doing right we just need to continue, o0f course I know that from the teacher’s point of view, but I am pretty able to look at all sides of the issue. I think I would be a good person to be involved because I can mediate differences.

Enrollment and growth decisions

On boundaries, it doesn’t seem like the solutions they come up with are long-term solutions. Thirty children in the classroom is too many, and that's the biggest issue. it does not work for anyone. It does not work for the teachers, the students, or the parents. It seems like Hood River has grown enough that just moving kids from school will not serve us long enough, and we need to build a new school. I think it comes back to the revenue issue. I can't imagine they can afford to build, and at this point I don't see the local patrons going for another construction bond. I think were going to have to heal the rift from this latest shortfall before the public would be willing to do that

Magnet schools: I am very much in favor of magnet schools. I grew up in Eugene, where there were more than a dozen magnet schools, and the highest test scores in the state were at an arts magnet school. I think that they need to be public magnet schools and not private. I feel very strongly about that.

Curriculum development

Teachers are the experts about what needs to happen in the classroom and they need to be in on all the decisions. Top-down decisions are not in the best interest of students and teachers. I am in favor of local control rather than some corporation or bureaucrat telling us what to do and how many minutes we have to do it.

How do you exercise local control? You can still meet standards but still make decisions about what to teach, how to do it and which materials to use. There are children for whom you can have all the standards you want but they are just not ready and we need to the freedom to teach to where they are developmentally.

I think that there are excellent teachers in this district and I am continually amazed at what they are able to accomplish in their classrooms. I think teachers are frustrated with some of the top down decisions that are made.

My husband had been an ESL teacher; the district decided unanimously on the last choice for curriculum and no one was happy with it. The teachers need to be listened to; they could have chosen a curriculum that was accepted by the state and they were happy to use, but that was not the one they chose.

Cascade Locks School:

It makes sense to have the middle schoolers come this way since they'll be going to high school here.

What is your wish for the class of 2026, and what must the district do in the next five years to help them achieve it?

I think it all comes back to adequate funding from the legislature. I have great faith i the teachers of this district. My daughter got such an excellent education here. I have great faith that given adequate funding and adequate class sizes and protection of programs for these kids, but if we continue to erode the funding the way it has been the past several years, it's going to be so difficult for the teachers and the students, and that’s what it comes down to — protecting class sizes and programs.

We have to preserve PE and music, clubs, and athletic opportunities. The more diverse experiences we can give our kids; you don’t know how those experiences are going to affect their lives. We have to fight to keep those things alive. Things that we had the benefit of when we went to school, and I want them to be at least as good for the children coming in.

What book are you currently reading?

“How Children Learn,” by John Caldwell Holt

Who inspires you and why?

I'm, a fiber artist, and my fiber arts teacher, Judith McKenzie, who is an author and artist from Forks, Wash., makes you feel like you can do anything. She is a wonderful teacher because she is so gracious and encouraging, and she is so incredibly knowledgeable, she knows about every textile ever made anywhere in the world, and all the fiber producing animals and plants, and how any textile has ever been made.

Tim Counihan

Tim Counihan, a Chicago native, works as a research biologist and has lived in the Gorge since 1993.

He and his wife, Jen Bayer, have a son, Sean, a fourth grader. They moved from White Salmon four years ago.

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Tim Counihan

Why are you running?

“I want to make a positive contribution to the community, think it is important that elections for the School Board positions are contested to foster a discussion about the views of candidates and incumbents, and I am troubled by some of the recent budget missteps and decisions by the School Board.”

“I bring a strong commitment to public service and to working hard to provide the best possible education for all of the kids in the Hood River County School District.

“I also bring skill sets associated with my educational background (Master of Science, Minor in Experimental Statistics) that will help me make sense of the complex information that a board member has to deal with.

“Communication and the effective transfer of information between all of the parties involved in running our schools are essential. In my job as a Research Biologist for the United States Geological Survey, I frequently facilitate conversations between folks with very different technical backgrounds and with the public. I believe my experience communicating with people with different backgrounds and perspectives will help me identify strategies for improving communication within the School District. I believe that poor communication, from the District to the School Board and from the Board to the District, is the root of the problem associated with the unanticipated budget shortfall that occurred this year.

What are your top three goals?

My top three goals are to: provide the highest quality education for all of the students in the Hood River County School District; retain as many teachers and other staff that have direct contact with students as possible as we negotiate through the current and projected budget shortfalls; improve communication and information transfer between the Hood River County School Board, the public, School District staff, and teachers.

What are your thoughts on the proposed measures for dealing with the 13-14 budget shortfall?

I think that we need to explore options that will retain as many staff with direct, regular contact with kids as possible. I will say though, that given the information that has been presented publically, there is not a lot of detail that you can critically evaluate. I am concerned that the teachers are not involved in the discussion about how to best absorb the budget shortfall. I think that they would have valuable input since they are so involved in the day-to-day operations. In general, I would like to see the District move away from presenting the School Board with just one budget scenario. I think that to critically evaluate budgets, there needs to be options presented to the Board with a full disclosure of the bottom line effects on the day-to-day education of our kids. This will require that teachers be involved in the discussion and will require that District staff seek out and employ novel ways of presenting budget scenarios.

What is your wish for the class of 2026 and what must the district do in the next five years to help achieve this?

I wish them happiness in whatever path they choose for their life. To do this, the district has to ensure that each and every student has an equal opportunity to explore and achieve their particular dream.

When I think back on how much things have changed in the past 10 years it really makes me realize how much we need to be thinking proactively. So the District really needs to have conversations about how and where the County is expected to grow and how our existing infrastructure will need to change to accommodate growth. We can’t wait until after it’s happened and react because the students of 2026 will bear the consequences of our inaction; the same way that current students are bearing the burden of not dealing with the disparity in enrollment in our elementary and middle schools.

While we need to keep an eye on the future we also have to address the current situation. This will require that the District adopt a strategy to retain as many teachers as possible in the current budget environment, and that teachers contribute new strategies for efficiencies, so that we will be able to address the diverse needs and dreams of our students.

What book did you last read or are currently reading?

“Don Quixote de La Mancha” by Cervantes

Who inspires you, and why?

Children: they all have so much potential, are tough as nails, generally lack prejudice, say what they mean, and don’t hold grudges; the world could use way more of that.

Local school funding

The local community is so supportive; it’s one of the main reasons why we wanted our son to go to school here. It’s also the reason why I was so disappointed with the handling of poor budget projections and budget shortfalls that occurred this year.

I was also disappointed with the decision by the School Board to allocate $20,000 for a feasibility study for astroturf installation at the High School. I think every parent with a kid in school right now is aware of some pressing maintenance needs at their school that would provide more immediate benefit to students.

As I was walking my son to school this morning we entered the school on a sidewalk that was literally crumbling. To maintain public support and trust, I think we have a responsibility to demonstrate that the levy money is being used wisely.

State school funding

Clearly the way we are currently funding our schools in Oregon is broken. Some like to point to PERS as the primary reason that our schools are underfunded, but that’s an over simplification of the problem. We cannot fix all of our school funding issues through the reduction of retirement benefits for middle and low income public employees. Some revenue generation and making funding for our schools a top priority will be necessary to find a sustainable solution to the school funding issue. I really question how much our local School Board should get wrapped up in it. That the School Board spent the time this year proposing and approving a resolution to support PERS reform when there are so many direct immediate challenges honestly seems counterproductive; especially given that teachers would be directly affected.

Labor negotiations

The ability of employees to negotiate with their employers has played an invaluable role in defining the rights of workers. I am glad I live in a country where we can do that.

Enrollment and growth decisions

I think that the whole issue of adjusting the existing boundaries to balance enrollment across elementary and middle schools was very frustrating for many people in the community. In the end, the School Board decided to not do anything for the middle schools and it was not clear when they were going to address the issue in the future.

For the elementary schools they chose to adopt a strategy other than the one recommended to them and for which no analysis was prepared by the Boundary Committee. Consequently, there is no real way of predicting the outcome.

It is unclear to me whether or when the strategy adopted by the School Board for May Street and Westside will have a measurable effect. The process associated with the development of the options, solicitation of the public’s opinions, and the decision points and criteria for adopting the strategies seem poorly defined. I fear that we will need to address this issue again in the very near future.

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are an appealing option for providing diverse learning opportunities and for attracting students to under-utilized schools in the district. However, the final costs of implementing them are presently unclear and need to be better understood before we head too far down that path.

Curriculum development

The development of curriculum for the elementary, middle, and high schools is obviously a complex task that requires the skills and hard work of our teachers and administrators and is obviously not unrelated to the student testing requirements imposed by the State of Oregon.

Cascade Locks School

The long-term viability of Cascade Locks schools could benefit from the development of Magnet Schools but again the costs associated with doing this are not well understood. There has also been some discussion about the benefits of allowing transfers from neighboring districts with overcrowded schools. The community of Cascade Locks is obviously committed to their schools and we need to acknowledge and work to honor that commitment.

What book did you last read or are currently reading?

“Don Quixote de La Mancha” by Cervantes

Who inspires you, and why?

Children: they all have so much potential, are tough as nails, generally lack prejudice, say what they mean, and don’t hold grudges; the world could use way more of that.

Jan Veldhuisen Virk

Jan and her husband, Dick, an ER physician, have three daughters: Katie, 22, who starts this fall at OHSU medical school; Meredith, a Gonzaga University freshman; and Anneke, a sophomore at HRVHS

Virk has lived 23 years in Hood River; she earned a bachelor in nursing from the University of Portland, took 20 years off from nursing to be mom, a volunteer, and serve on school board; she got relicensed and now works as a per diem nurse at Hospice of the Gorge.

She has served on school board for 14 years, originally as the downtown representative. The Virks moved to the eastside district so she stepped down mid mid-term, and ran for the remaining two years on the at-large seat

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Jan Veldhuisen Virk

Top 3 goals: My biggest goal right now, unfortunate I have to say this, but it's financial. Ever since I've been on the board finances have been a big issue, but I wish it was not one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue. This board has made a clear goal to have a sustainable budget. Creating a sustainable budget for schools is difficult, with variables every year with state funding, enrollment, grants, employees and contracts, also a lot of one-time monies. It is hard to know every year how much one-time to put in and still consider it a sustainable budget. Every year there will be variables, but it needs to be long-term; these peaks and valleys we seem lately to have been in a low, have been more frequent than any of us in education want them to be. So we need to keep our teachers and our employees and our kids in a sustainable situation, so we're not reacting.

Number two goal is to keep good relationships with our community. I think this year has caused some questions and this year the district has gone through some difficult times, and our relationship with the community, and our staff, and communicators, just the overall relationships have been strained. Ever since I've been on the board a goal of mine has been to have good relationships with people, and a respectful, healthy rapport with teachers, classified employees, our administrators, with the board, and with the press. It has always been a goal, and it will stay a goal of mine, and I think this year has put it to a test. I think we're going to have move very deliberately and carefully through that process and keep our key communicators involved, and respond to people as they come forward.

Third goal is welcoming our new administration, and welcoming (superintendent-to-be) Dan Goldman. I am personally excited about his new leadership. He's going to be really exciting for this community. He's young, he has two young children, and he brings a lot of enthusiasm. He is very bright and intelligent, and with that he has a great sense of humor which I think will be very helpful. His goal is to stay.

(Editor’s note: Penny Grotting has resigned as curriculum director, for a position with Columbia Gorge ESD; principal Karen Neitzel is leaving HRVHS as is assistant principal Todd McCauley; and Kevin Noreen is completing his first year as director of Human Resources.)

I see it as an opportunity more than a challenge. Honestly that is one of the reasons I would like to stay on the board. I think a strong board provides strength and creates a relationship with our employees that I think is critical, and I think I've been that person. I've created good relationships with our superintendents. I think that with the changes I see opportunity.

I see the opportunity to move some of our key current employees to different positions that perhaps they have been wanting.

I think that having a strong board through that process is going to be really important.

What is your main strength as a school board candidate?

Fourteen years ago, before I ran for the school board I was a really active parent at May Street. I started May Street Coop, as a strong supporter of public education I tried to figure out ways to make people want to be involved in the system, and then I was asked to run for board and I did.

Public education is completely my passion, my parents were both teachers. I can't think of anything more important than having a really good public school system. Through the years I've been on the board I have never lost sight of that. I have never forgotten how important public education is. I have never represented one school, but all schools and all parts of the district. I've always made my decisions based on what is best for 4,000 kids. I've never picked a year or a grade and thought, 'this is okay, or not okay,' I've always picked the global. Through that process I have worked really hard to work in a complementary way with our staff. I think people forget that, that we are not educators, and I need to respect and listen ... and sometimes I also need to redirect phone calls to someone who is a better person to handle it than I am.

I think I, as a nurse and someone who prides myself in reading the audience, I try to make sure everyone is heard. I am constantly looking up and down, looking in the audience to make sure everyone is heard. That personality trait is going to be really helpful, that ‘keeping the doors open’.

What are your thoughts on the proposed set of cuts to make up the 2013-14 shortfall?

I understand there will be push and pull about cutting a district level cabinet position. The proposal does show restructuring of positions, but there will be a lot of push to (cut) a cabinet position, but my honest opinion is our district is run so efficiently at that top level I think (district office) would be really challenged to have one of those positions cut. Cutting a human resources director now, I don’t know who would do that work. It’s going to take everything going back on the table.

“I do know we’re getting to a point where I don’t know where else we can cut.

Local school funding

I feel really strongly that it is our state legislature’s job to create a system where we have more stable funding, and we can count on our funding, and we don’t have to -- when there is recession or anything happens in our state funding, that the schools don’t have to take a really hard hit. And the way Oregon’s funding works, we get hit hard and we’re the last to come back.

“I would like to see a state sales tax, personally, I think it would provide a more consistent level of funding for our schools.

But since we have been put in this situation where we’ve had a lot of challenges with our finding from state level, I think the Local Option has been very helpful. When we went into the Local Option I feel like we had some specific goals with that money, and it was for some specific goals that we have and our district still does have and a lot of districts don’t have, all day Kindergarten, a smattering of PE and music at elementary level, a block schedule at the high school, and, honestly, class sizes. I know people would debate me on that but when we call Portland and Eugene, and I ask them their class sizes, they are blown away. We do have some bumps, I won’t deny that.”

State funding

I regret not being more of a presence in Salem. I have gone down and advocated but not as much as I should have. I made phone calls, but probably as board members, being more involved at state level would be a good think and doing that even hand in hand with our teachers or our unions. Kelvin (Calkins, HREA president) and I talked about that the other day, and I told him that one of my regrets of 14 years is we have to work better. We still have our moments when we don’t.

Labor negotiations

“To me, I feel our goals should be the same: my goals are to continue to have small class sizes, my goals are to pay our teachers well. We should value that we pay the people well who spend time our children. We should be proud of that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but we need to work collaboratively.

The board gives direction with negotiations, but it has never felt as collaborative as I wish it could. I believe that the HREA and our classified union and our confidential staff, all the groups that we negotiate with area all really good people and they want to be treated fairly and respected, and it would be my goal at the end of negotiations that everyone feels that way. That’s not often the way it is. At the end of negotiations there’s always hard feelings on both sides.”

Enrollment and growth decisions

Since I’ve been on the board we’ve had a steady increase every year, it does this (hands in oscillating fashion)-- at mid year, getting to end, and in December and we’ve had years when it went down . . . and it’s really hard, and we’ve had a lot of kids who move a lot.

So I think with growth we need to anticipate we’ll have a one percent increase each year and we need to be more proactive in reviewing boundaries. and do it more often, not wait five years until we’re at a critical point. ”We have eight great schools, there’s a perception in this area and I disagree with it. And I think the parents would disagree with it. I don’t like the idea of moving kids. It’s not good for their education. We have great schools but we need to be more proactive in looking at boundaries. For awhile we were too lax, there were too many transfers going on.

We need to anticipate for growth, but we don’t have enough growth to say, ‘yeah, we need to have another building in three years.’ Maybe that will happen, but I don’t want to be quoted as saying we’re going to do it. We have the property, and that’s another thing I’m proud of.

I foresee that if this trend of people living in town continues I think a K-8 that would alleviate May Street and Westside and Hood River Middle school, there would be options of moving fifth graders. Forcing people from Odell to drive up to Parkdale, I don’t think we can make that happen.

What I would like to see is every year on the agenda, perhaps in November, to review boundaries on an every year basis, and have a system, where the boundary committee stays the boundary committee, and takes a look at this.

Magnet schools

I went to an arts magnet school in Eugene. The problem is they’re very expensive to set up. They are complicated, you have issues. Dos Mundos (at Westside, 2008-10) was a great charter program but there was controversy with it.

I feel very strongly about equality for all our kids. We have to be able to provide the same programs and education to every kid, and I am sure people will mention to me that class sizes are different, and that is true.

Cascade Locks School

Short term I see keeping it as a K-5, definitely. I have never heard and have no thoughts it won’t remain as a K-5. I don’t like the idea of busing little kids, it’s an hour commute and too much for elementary kids, and for parents. Your kid is sick you want to be right there. It’s a great school and Cascade Locks is a great community that needs to have a quality K-5.

Everything is on the table at some point. If the numbers get down to a level where we can’t provide them with a similar education than our kids in hood River than I think we need to think about how we should structure it.

As far as the high school and middle school decision, that was a hard one. I’ve been on the board in some difficult decisions. In hindsight, it’s gone pretty well, but when the kids got here and saw the opportunities available to them, they really like it, and it’s been a successful transition. There are plenty of people in Cascade Locks who miss their high school and I understand that.

Curriculum development

This one is not my specialty. That’s why we hire good people, good teachers, good TOSAs, curriculum director, superintendent they carry it out, and the job of the board member is to support it, and not dictate it or encourage any changes. I feel with my tenure on the board I have been very fortunate that the administrators really do listen to me, and I don’t call very often, which is smart.”

What is your wish for the Class of 2026 and what must the district do in the next five years to help them achieve that.

The first wish is that they graduate from high school, and that they all come out with an education that encourages them to question things, and to keep learning. I think sometimes our education system, in general, kind of creates a ‘this is the subject and these are the answer’.” They need to find information and how to seek out good information.

“We need to keep our class sizes as small as we can, and keep our focus on what to do help all 4,000 kids. We need to keep all day kindergarten, enrichment in schools and keep our teachers feeling respected and like they have the resources they need to stay on top of things, and that is going to be hard under the current financial situation but that is definitely the only way we can do it.”

What book are you currently reading?

“The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak

Who inspires you?

So many people inspire me. My mother, Kaye Veldhuisen (of Portland). My parents go divorced, and my parents were both great, but my Mom continued to be my solid support. I’ve never questioned whether she would be there to bounce things off. Her advice for my kids was . . . right on.”

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson has served on School Board for eight years, and is a live-long resident of Hood River County. He and his wife, Melodi, have three grown children.

Johnson also serves as State House Representative in Dist. 52, which includes Hood River County and portions of Clackamas and Multnomah counties.

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Mark Johnson

Why are you running?

“I am running for re-election to the HRCSB because I care deeply about our community, our students and families who are part of it, and believe that I can make a positive contribution to our public education system and the future of our kids.

What are your main strengths as a school board candidate?

“I have served on the board for eight years and over that time have had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of circumstances and situations. I believe these years of service have prepared me to be able to provide strong leadership as the school board strives to provide the best possible education for our students.” Knowledge. During my years on the board I’ve learned a great deal about public education and instruction. I have a good depth of knowledge about the academic programs and methods that our district has been using and what our strengths and weaknesses are. In addition I have a good depth of knowledge about education policy at the State level and how that may impact our efforts locally. Relationships. I’m proud of the relationships that I have built with people throughout the school district and the education community across Oregon. I believe they serve me very well as I work with the board to develop policies that serve the needs of our students and staff.

Top three goals

My top three goals as a board member are the following:

Work with the board and district administration to get the district’s budget onto a long-term sustainable financial footing while rebuilding our budget reserves, so that we can have the resources necessary to fund our school district’s needs.

Secondly, I want to help our new superintendent Dan Goldman to make a smooth transition into the district and to help him be successful as we create common goals for the success of our students and our schools.

Third, I want to encourage our district to continue to look forward for strategies to engage every student in a meaningful way to ensure that they are able to realize their academic potential.

School funding

At this time, the Legislature has not officially adopted a funding amount for K-12 education, but the primary consideration that the board must use when balancing the budget for next year is doing everything possible to preserve a quality classroom learning environment for our students. In addition, I believe we must also give consideration to long term budget sustainability and determine if there are measures we can take in this budget year that can help us move closer to that goal.

What is your wish for the class of 2026, and what must the district do in the next five years to help them achieve it?

2026 will be the year after our state has resolved that we will have accomplished the aspirational goal of 40-40-20. Basically, this goal means that all students will graduate from high school with 40 percent going on to obtain a two-year post-secondary degree or career technical certification and the other 40 percent a 4-year degree. I am very hopeful that our school district will be able to accomplish this. In order to be successful I believe the following need to occur in the next 5 years: the state must effectively address the cost drivers that are cutting into local budgets and there must be an increase in the level of state funding for K-12 education as a percentage of the overall budget. At the same time, our district needs to focus on improving elementary literacy, improving test scores in middle school and providing greater career and academic counseling to ensure that all students are on a pathway to success.

Enrollment and growth concerns

HRCSD is experiencing slow growth with the majority of the growth happening in the lower valley. This has led to some crowding issues that the board has addressed recently with some attendance boundary modifications.

Magnet schools

As we move forward I think we have to take a serious look at how we can use programs to balance our student numbers in the district. One of these programs could be creating magnet programs within schools that may attract students to voluntarily attend a school outside of their home attendance area. I think that both Wy’east and Parkdale could be good opportunities for this kind of magnet opportunity.

Cascade Locks School

I believe that the district has an obligation to maintain a school presence in Cascade Locks. The school is a vital component of that community. We must continue to ensure that the students of Cascade Locks have access to the same quality of education as the other students of Hood River County.

What book are you currently reading?

“Toward One Oregon”, a book about rural-urban interdependence.

Who inspires you?

My inspiration for public service is my wife, Melodi, who motivates, supports and encourages me in my roles as a school board member and state representative.

Additional Thoughts:

It is really impossible to separate local school funding from state school support. When 70 percent of local funding coming from the state, the amount of funding available to us in Hood River is directly linked to what happens in Salem. What needs to happen in Salem is a serious attempt to address the cost drivers that are taking needed revenue out of our local budget and at the same time resolve to increase education funding as a percentage of the general fund.

Over the past few negotiation cycles the board has determined to use a collaborative approach to bargaining with our various employee groups. This has been a good faith effort on the part of the board to be as open and transparent and non-confrontational as possible and to also try to build a relationship of mutual respect between labor and management. I remain hopeful that this can be a fruitful process.

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