Election returns are showing Brad Bafaro defeating incumbent John Hayes in the race for the Forest Grove School Board Position 1 seat, 52 percent to Hayes' 47 percent.
The latest tally from the Washington County Elections Office, at 1 a.m. Wednesday, also showed Banks High School Principal Mark Everett leading the Position 3 race with 59 percent of the vote, compared to incumbent Lonnie Winkler's 40 percent. And Valyrie Ingram had 38 percent of the vote in Position 2, leading Fallon Harris and incumbent Charless Waterman, who had 31 and 30 percent of the vote, respectively.
This school board race was a higher-profile affair this year. All candidates had lawn signs and some went door-to-door.
"I am a little surprised that all three incumbents are losing," Hayes told the News-Times shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Without knowing what percentage of votes had been counted, Hayes noted that Bafaro was ahead of him by 150 votes. "At the moment I can't imagine I'll catch up to him."
The Hayes-Bafaro race was particularly competitive. Hayes and some of his supporters campaigned door-to-door and at events.
Bafaro, director of special education for the Forest Grove School District, has worked in the district for decades and even taught adaptive PE to Ingram's sister when they were both elementary school students at Harvey Clarke. Two of the nonprofits he founded — Adventures Without Limits and Community Based Activities Program — have strong, well-earned reputations. And his father was such a well-known coach at Pacific University that one of the stadiums at Lincoln Park is named after him.
Hayes was dean of the college of arts and sciences at Pacific University and has been very involved in city-related groups such as the sustainability committee and the economic development committee. He has also led countywide lobbying efforts for school funding, which resulted in about $1 million extra for the FGSD in funding for students with high-cost disabilities a few years ago.
Some people said they would have liked to see both Hayes and Bafaro on the board. But Bafaro said he signed up to run for Position 1 on the board before he realized Hayes was holding that seat.
"It's disappointing of course," Hayes said. "But I've got other things in my life I can do. I will definitely continue to engage in public service."
He hopes Bafaro will continue his own mission, "which is to be an advocate at the state level for more funding. That's the most important thing that I do."
Bafaro was not available for comment Tuesday evening.
Winkler v. Everett
Upon learning the preliminary results, Winkler said he was shocked, given the support he has received from the community. "I'm a little disappointed the numbers didn't show stronger support."
Winkler has served on the school board for four years and works for Hillsboro's SureID Inc. Forest Grove resident Everett is currently the Banks High School principal and will be retiring at the end of the school year.
Winkler said he was most proud of carefully reviewing the district's expenditures and questioning how funds were being spent. He said he was happy to "bring business ideas and focus" to the school board while he served.
Everett was not available for comment Tuesday night.
Both candidates have experience helping balance tough budgets, Winkler as a school board member and Everett as a school administrator.
When the Banks School District faced budget cuts, Everett said he advocated to cut school days, not teachers.
Another major goal of Forest Grove School District leaders is to increase the graduation rate, which relies on a variety of factors. Winkler acknowledges that tight funding makes it difficult, but would like to see a decrease in class sizes, pointing to some kindergarten classes with more than 30 children. Winkler also thinks offering more Career and Technical Education courses is a way to keep students engaged and coming to school, especially those who aren't interested in the more typical English, chemistry and history classes and who don't have college apirations.
In his experience, Everett said keeping track of students as they transition into high school is paramount because that's "when you lose them."
Everett was the only candidate at the April forum to say he would not support offering contraceptives to students through the school-based health center.
Waterman v. Ingram and Harris
In the race for Position 2, Waterman was surprised by the early results. She said she expected to be leading the race. But she said the election seemed more intense than when she first ran in 2013 and didn't use any lawn signs. "I definitely have done more campaigning this election."
Harris, executive director of Eden Acres, an environmental nonprofit, said she had heard a lot of people talking about change, so wasn't surprised to see incumbents on the bottom. She said she'd consider running again.
Waterman suspects the presidential election sparked renewed interest in public office and school boards all over the country. "People are just more interested and trying to figure out ways they can get involved."
Ingram, a substitute teacher in the district, may have drawn on the same strong support base as her twin sister, Malynda Wenzl, a political newcomer who surprised the old guard when she ran for one of three seats available on the Forest Grove City Council two years ago. Wenzl not only won a seat, but came in far ahead of the two longtime incumbents who hung on to the other two. The family is well-known in town and both Wenzl and their mother teach at Neil Armstrong Middle School.
"None of the three of us is underqualified so the district will end up in good hands no matter what," said Waterman said she would continue serving the school district one way or another and offered Ingram this advice: "Read everything, take advantage of every training, and assume best intentions."
Ingram was unavailable to comment on early returns Tuesday night.