The Oregon School Boards Association is encouraging more people to run for office as a member of school and college boards. The "Get on Board" campaign is designed to increase awareness of school board elections before the March 16 filing deadline for the May 2017 school board elections.
The campaign comes in light of the Oregon School Boards Association's realization that Oregon's last school board election in May 2015 had the lowest number of candidates for Oregon school board seats in at least a decade — and that nearly three-quarters of the elections for school board seats only had one candidate. The Get on Board campaign is "designed to ensure that Oregonians from all walks of life consider investing their time and energy by serving on local school boards," a Jan. 26 press release reads.
Current Woodburn School Board member Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez was featured in the promotional materials for the campaign, highlighting the benefits he's gotten from serving on the board. "Every time you go to a meeting, you feel a big sense of accomplishment," Gutierrez-Gomez is quoted as saying. "You get to a consensus of how to move forward, and you know it's in the best interest of the kids."
Woodburn doesn't seem immune from the trend of uncontested school board elections. The Woodburn School Board hasn't seen a contested election since 2007, when two candidates ran for Position 1 and three candidates vied for Position 3.
Since 2001, there have been a total of 29 school board candidates vying for 26 total open seats, and 80.8 percent of the elections for those open seats had only one candidate.
Woodburn isn't the only district in the area to have largely uncontested elections. The North Marion School Board has had 31 seats up for election since 2001 and 39 candidates vying for those seats. About 61.3 percent of the elections for those open seats had only one candidate.
The Gervais School Board has had 34 candidates run for 21 open seats, and 38.1 percent of the elections for those open seats had only one candidate.
And the Mount Angel School Board has had 21 open seats and 27 candidates since 2001, and 71.4 percent of the elections for those open seats had one candidate.
But St. Paul School District has the least contested school board elections in the area. Its last contested election was in 2001, when two candidates ran for Position 5. That means that since 2001, 96.7 percent of the elections for school board positions have had only one candidate.
The Woodburn School District will have three open seats in the May 2017 election as the current terms for Gutierrez-Gomez, Gevin Gregory and Laura Isiordia come to a close.
The Oregon School Boards Association acknowledges that working on a school board doesn't come without challenges.
"Board service often requires long unpaid hours working alone, on committees and with members of your community. You'll struggle sometimes to find solutions to complex problems — and still the solutions won't please everyone," OSBA's Guide for Oregon Board Candidates reads. "However, you'll have the satisfaction of watching students receive their diplomas, knowing that you played a role in their achievement."
Local school boards establish budgets, ask voters to approve bond measures and local option levies, guide collective bargaining, and more.
OSBA is offering two free webinars in February that will answer prospective candidates' questions about the process and help prepare them to become school board members if they are elected.
The candidate filing period began on Feb. 4 and ends on March 16. Candidates can file with their county clerk in one of two ways: by submitting a petition containing the signatures of 25 registered voters or 10 percent of the registered voters in the district, whichever is less; or by submitting a declaration of candidacy with a $10 filing fee.
For more information and resources, visit the OSBA's Get on Board website.