LOHS grad Wagner says he will run for School Board seat
Longtime local volunteer will seek one of three positions up for grabs on the May 16 ballot
Rob Wagner, a Lake Oswego High School graduate and longtime community volunteer, announced this week that he will run for a seat on the Lake Oswego School Board.
The first official day to file for one of the three opening board positions is Feb. 6, but Wagner said Monday that he is ready to get the word out.
"Everyone has told me that if you're passionate about the education of all the kids in our schools, then just run," said Wagner, a 44-year-old Lake Oswego resident whose children attend local public schools.
Three of the five School Board positions will be up for grabs on the May 16 ballot, along with a $187 million bond measure to address deferred maintenance in the Lake Oswego School District (See story, Page A7, or online later this week). Wagner said he is not sure which of the three four-year terms he will seek, because he doesn't know who else will be in the race. (The last day for candidates to file is March 16.)
But he said he felt compelled to run, regardless of the opposition.
"I do think that the energy around this last election and the tone of the campaign at the presidential level was definitely something where I thought that it's time to get involved to be able to model a more civil dialogue," said Wagner, whose volunteer efforts include serving on the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation board. "So I honestly think that that was something driving me, too."
School Board Chair Sarah Howell, who holds Position 2, told The Review this week that she does not have a set date for announcing her decision about a possible second term. School Board member John Wendland said he would announce his decision next week about whether he will run for a third term in Position 3. And School Board member Liz Hartman said she plans to announce whether she'll seek a second Position 4 term by the end of January.
Wagner has held a wide array of job titles, including positions leading major political campaigns in Salem. He also worked with Deborah Lopardo and Denise Frisbee as the campaign consultant on the Lake Oswego Schools Local Option Levy Renewal campaign in 2004.
Wagner currently works as the associate vice-president for advancement at Portland Community College, where he oversees community outreach and the nonprofit PCC Foundation. The Foundation awards scholarships to PCC students and supports educational programs at the school.
Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools offer dual-credit opportunities through PCC and other schools, but Wagner said that the schools could do "much more to leverage partnerships with local colleges and universities," and that now is the time for it.
"With the cost of higher education going through the roof, giving students and families access to college courses while in high school is a huge priority for me," Wagner said.
In addition to advocating for such partnerships, he is also a proponent of career-technical classes and science, technology, engineering and math education. The school bond on the ballot in May includes expanding STEM opportunities, and Wagner said he's interested in having the district head in that direction.
"When I was at Lake Oswego High, we had auto shop," Wagner said. "Today, we need to assess what career-related skills we can give to kids if they not only want to be a firefighter, but work in micro-electronics or launch their career as a mechanical engineer."
Wagner is no stranger to volunteer leadership positions. He has served on Forest Hills Elementary School's School Advisory Committee and the Lake Oswego School District's Program Committee, which worked to increase enrollment and met from 2005-06. He has also served on the City Club of Portland's Civics Education and Advocacy Committee, where he has been a member since 2011; the City of Lake Oswego Citizens Advisory Committee, from 2008-2011; and Oregon Volunteers (appointed by former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski), where he volunteered from 2004-2008.
In addition, he served on the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation board for two years. Foundation board president John Goerges — speaking as a friend and not as a spokesman for the Foundation — said he supports Wagner, describing him as "very intelligent and well-spoken."
"I think he'd be definitely invested in Lake Oswego schools, especially because his kids go here," he said. "I think he'd be a good advocate for all kids. And he graduated from Lake Oswego High School, so he has long-term experience with the culture of LO and the environment that we live in here."
Before attedning LOHS, Wagner went to Uplands Elementary and Lake Oswego Junior High. While a Laker, he was active in leadership and president of the Senior Class. He was involved in cross-country, basketball, track and drama, and graduated as co-valedictorian in 1991.
Wagner has a blended family with wife Laurie Cremona Wagner, a vice president with Germany-based SAP, which handles a large-scale digital systems integration for companies around the world. Together, the couple is raising Lake Oswego Junior High eighth-graders Mia and Zack, LOJ sixth-grader Carlo and Forest Hills fifth-grader Alex.
Wagner's interest in politics began as a college student. He received a bachelor's at Portland State University in political science and went on to earn a master's in public policy at The George Washington University. He said he values education because that's how he was taught by his parents.
His mom, Stephani Wagner, is an educator and one of the founders of the Friends of Tryon Creek; his father, Rick Wagner is a retired radiation oncologist who now teaches birding classes through the Portland Audubon Society at Tryon Creek State Natural Area.
Frisbee, now in her third term on the PCC School Board, said Wagner's parents are part of his longstanding connections in the LO community — they live in the Uplands Neighborhood. She said he also has "deep roots in public policy" and is committed to public service."
"He's always worked for something larger than just the paycheck, and he's a great dad and a great husband and family guy," Frisbee said, "and I think he's very committed to the community and would be a real asset to the community. I'm thrilled to hear he's running for the School Board."
For more information about School Board candidate Rob Wagner, visit www.RobWagnerForLO.com.