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Woodburn may have the first school board in Oregon with an elected Latino majority

COURTESY ANTHONY MEDINA - Anthony Medina, along with Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez and Laura Isiordia, won a seat on the Woodburn School Board, making it the first majority-Latino school board in Woodburn history.In the Woodburn School Board's first contested race in 10 years, Anthony Medina edged ahead of Matthew Lesh to win the Position 3 seat with a margin of 85 votes.

According to preliminary Marion County Elections data, Medina, a policy and budget analyst for the State of Oregon Chief Financial Office, received 52.24 percent of the 1,893 votes cast, while Lesh, a geologist and senior project manager in the environmental consulting field, received 47.76 percent.

Medina's victory, along with the uncontested wins by Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez and Laura Isiordia for Positions 2 and 5, respectively, give the Woodburn School Board its first-ever majority-Latino body.

Considering that 79.8 percent of students in the district identify as Latino, Medina says it's about time the board reflected that.

"A majority is what should be expected," Medina said.

And, while the Gervais School Board has had a majority-Latino board for about a year following the appointments of Henry Bustamante, and later Wes Leiva, Woodburn now has the first elected majority Latino school board, according to Accion Politica PCUNista, the political organizing arm of PCUN.

The Oregon School Boards Association doesn't refute that assertion. "We can't say for a certainty, but it is our belief that there has not been a Latino majority school board in Oregon," wrote Alex Pulaski, OSBA's communications director, in an email before the election.

The Gervais School Board had a Latino majority for just over a year. Henry Bustamante was appointed to the board in April 2016, increasing the number of Latino members on the five-seat board to three. In October 2016, Wes Leiva was appointed to replace Jose de Jesus Ayala, which maintained the majority-Latino board.

"It is my understanding that … as far as elected school boards, this is the first one," said Jaime Arredondo, director of Accion Politica PCUNista. "This is a historic win for our community."

Indeed, the Gervais School Board no longer has a Latino majority following last week's election. Wes Leiva did not run for a Gervais School Board seat, instead running unopposed for Position 5 of the Woodburn Fire District Board of Directors. And Henry Bustamante ran against incumbent Maria Caballero and won, making him the only Latino board member remaining.

Accion Politica PCUNista endorsed Medina in the race, and more than 50 volunteers canvassed for weeks in support of both Medina and Levi Herrera-Lopez, who ran for the Salem-Keizer School Board, knocking on about 7,600 doors.

"In a race that was won with only 83 votes, you have to have a strong ground team," Arredondo said. (Preliminary results the day after the election had a margin of 83 votes).

Arredondo said Medina's win is a victory not just for the Latino community in Woodburn, but for every Woodburn resident.

"Understanding the experience of the community is very important. Anthony has been in the shoes of many community members, not just Latinos," Arredondo said. "Anthony grew up in the community. He's got a little girl who's going into kindergarten. He's invested in this community, it's a long-term thing."

Medina, who has a master's degree from Stanford University in education policy, said he's looking forward to hitting the ground running.

"It feels really good to finally have the results in and move forward with the district," Medina said.

And while Lesh said he was disappointed not to have the opportunity to serve on the board, he congratulated Medina on his win.

"Mr. Medina should be really proud of his accomplishments to date," Lesh said. "He has an opportunity to provide a fresh perspective to the school board."

Julia Comnes covers all things Woodburn. She can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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