Q&A: Beaverton School Board candidates
Four seats on the Beaverton School Board are up for election on May 18, and all four are contested by two candidates.
In Zone 1 and Zone 5, incumbents are seeking re-election. Zone 2 and Zone 4 are open seats, with incumbents not seeking another four-year term.
A ninth candidate, Darcie Batcheler, told The Times after filing to run that she will not seek the position after all. All eight active candidates responded to questions from The Times, and their answers are presented below with only light editing for grammar.
Why did you decide to run for the position?
Susan Greenberg, Zone 1: When my kids were growing up, I became very active in our education system, volunteering in schools, being a leader in the Beaverton Stand for Children, and serving as President of the Montclair Elementary PTO. I ran for school board because I am dedicated to improving the education, we provide our students, increasing the resources available to them, and advancing equitable learning opportunities for our diverse populations.
I am running for re-election because we've made real progress, but I know there is much to do to ensure our students and schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our students, parents, teachers, and community have faced great challenges this year. I will work tirelessly to ensure that our schools have the resources needed for our children and teachers to return to school safely and to overcome any learning loss or setbacks caused by this pandemic.
Jeanette Schade, Zone 1: I want to give a voice to parents who have been frustrated about the direction that our schools are going. It seems that politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups have way too much power and influence over what goes on in the classroom. As a result, our children end up being deprived of the education that they truly deserve.
Karen Peréz-Da Silva, Zone 2: As a mom to two Barnes Elementary students, a lifelong educational leader, immigrant, multi-lingual doctor, raised in Oregon with more than 20 years of experience innovating, creating opportunities and supports for all students, I know my voice and experience on the school board would add value for our students during this critical time in education. Beaverton students deserve leaders who are in their corner. They deserve leaders who have experience working with budgets, curriculum, policy and policymakers to ensure student needs are put first.
Fuhua Xu, Zone 2: My family has lived in Beaverton School Zone 2 for over 20 years. I am proud of our outstanding community and would like to contribute by serving on the School Board.
Sunita Garg, Zone 4: Both of my sons graduated from Beaverton public schools, and I strongly believe in the public school system. I would like to devote my time and energy to help schools be able to provide high quality education for all students, and a safe environment for students and staff in the schools.
Saralyn Dougall, Zone 4: As a mother of five children raised in the Beaverton School District and having served with other families in our schools and community, I am very interested in the wellbeing of our children and families. We are in the midst of turbulent times and need feet on the ground that are working for the benefit of all. Families are struggling to keep their heads above water as the schools reopen, and these families want to have schools open full-time again.
LeeAnn Larsen, Zone 5: I have been on the Beaverton School Board for 12 years and have really enjoyed the work. I believe there is still a lot to do, and I have more to offer to this work. All five of my children graduated from the district, and I want to be part of ensuring excellent public education for our community.
Ugonna Enyinnaya, Zone 5: I decided to run in order to breach the diversity gap within our school district. There has been a steady growth and increase in diversity within our city, but you do not see that reflected in our school board. The racial and ethnic composition of the school board should match the composition of the students they represent so new voices can be heard. I am running to elevate those new voices and bring representation for our underrepresented communities.
How would you improve student education?
Susan Greenberg: One of the primary roles I serve on the school board is being a voice for our underserved students. My focus is on providing the resources needed to support at-risk children for success, ensuring we meet the needs of students of color, and advocating for the necessary social-emotional supports so all of our students have access to the help they need. From when I joined the board, I've seen enormous improvements: The district has gone from struggling just to deliver the basics (large class sizes, cuts in programs) to being able to make valuable additions, like adding more teachers and programs in Career Technical Education and college preparation. As a board member, I will continue to advocate for these types of improvements for our students and work to ensure our most vulnerable students receive the resources they need to succeed.
Jeanette Schade: As a 23-year educator, I have vast experience in what students need in the classroom, which starts with a safe and open learning environment. With the current push for critical race theory in Beaverton Schools and comprehensive sexuality education, it is creating unsafe learning environments for students and teachers to voice their opinions and concerns without being shut down. As a new school board member, I will work with the other board members and the community to find or develop and utilize curriculum that unifies when teaching ethnic studies, and I will also advocate for biologically sound sex education where parents have the choice to opt their children out. Lastly, building up the career and technical education program to be more robust will help to retain more students for graduation and allow them to graduate with a certificate in hand which will help them be immediately employable upon graduation.
Karen Peréz-Da Silva: I would improve student education by creating budgets and policies that prioritize the needs of Beaverton's 41,000 students during this time of COVID and beyond. We need to focus on the social-emotional needs of our students as we re-engage them into learning with accelerated learning opportunities now, during the summer and into next fall.
I would work to ensure the implementation of the Every Student Belongs rule from the Department of Education to ensure Beaverton's schools are welcoming and safe to students of all races, zip codes, religions and cultures.
I would include our community in decision making. When students and communities have a voice, leaders make better decisions and students have better outcomes. I would improve public access to decision-making, so families have a school board that doesn't just listen but connects.
Fuhua Xu: As a scientist, I believe it is most important for students to learn critical thinking, to uncover unbiased truth, and understand ethics.
Sunita Garg: Providing opportunities for students to gain leadership skills and engage with their communities (e.g. REAP is a great program which is available for students in grades 3 to 12 in BSD)
Getting parents and caregivers involved as much as possible (e.g. increasing accessibility to translation services at school events for parents for whom English is not their native language to increase the likelihood of their participation, and facilitating engagement with the community)
Pinpointing causes for failures and developing solutions accordingly (e.g. during the pandemic, there has been an association between internet connectivity and academic performance, and the District can help to make sure that parents know of the resources available to them and students)
Making myself accessible to students, parents, caregivers and staff to ensure that the concerns of all are heard and addressed.
Saralyn Dougall: Our schools need to refocus efforts on basic education and inclusion. It is imperative that leaders act with integrity and respect, both self-respect and respect for others.
LeeAnn Larsen: To improve student education, I would ensure our schools provide equity for every student. I would provide mental health supports so every student is ready and able to learn, and I would shift resources to programs and practices that provide the greatest evidence of effectiveness.
Ugonna Enyinnaya: My main priorities for running for Beaverton School Board is to ensure equitable educational experience for every student and to dismantle racial inequalities in our school system. I would commit to equity practices that will create an academic environment set up to make students succeed from the get-go by making sure every student has what they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. I would also support policies that will eliminate disproportionate disciplinary practices that keep students, especially students of color, out of school and replace them with alternative restorative measures that will not cause any disruptions to their learning experience.
What should the board focus on when it comes to students adjusting back to in-person learning during the pandemic?
Susan Greenberg: As we resume in-person learning, my top priority is student and staff health and safety. We must ensure proper safety protocols are adhered to in order to keep our students, teachers, and classified staff healthy and prevent further disruptions in learning. We must also provide our children and teachers the resources they need to overcome any learning loss or setbacks caused by this pandemic. This is especially the case with students needing additional support to recover from this period of distance learning, so they do not fall farther behind. Lastly, I want to make sure parents have the support they need during this transition period, and that they have the necessary communication and resources to be able to support their students.
Jeanette Schade: The board should focus on making sure students safely get back into the classroom full time where academic, mental, social, and emotional health thrive. After being locked out of school for 1.5 school years, there needs to be appropriate funding for counseling if students need it to help them adjust to being back in school.
Karen Peréz-Da Silva: When it comes to adjusting back to in-person learning during the pandemic, the board should concentrate on budgets that ensure learning spaces have the equipment and materials to be COVID-safe, prioritize re-engagement strategies that support the whole student, and support accelerated learning opportunities for innovating re-engagement, credit recovery and curriculum that addresses the social-emotional and mental health needs of our students.
Fuhua Xu: Safety and security for all students and school staff.
Sunita Garg: The safety of teachers and students should be the foremost focus. Beaverton School District follows the guidelines provided in RSSL — Ready Schools, Safe Learners — based on CDC guidance. It is available at https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Pages/RSSL-Guidance.aspx
In addition to the loss of classroom time, there has also been a considerable deficit in extracurricular activities and social interaction for students. Therefore, once it is safe to return to the classroom, it is important to prioritize access to after-school academic and extracurricular opportunities to help students overcome the substantial learning loss during this unprecedented time.
Saralyn Dougall: My intention is to support teachers, students and families. There has been uncertainty, but we can re-enter with perfect clarity of our goals and help all reach their fullest potential.
LeeAnn Larsen: The board should focus on making sure students and staff feel safe and our facilities provide a safe environment for learning. There should be an investment in academic interventions and supports to help students that demonstrate a learning gap and finally, a focus to ensure mental health teams are in place to support all learners.
Ugonna Enyinnaya: The board should be focused on creating a safe and healthy environment for students and teachers to return to and designing a strategic plan on how to help students catch up with learning loss. This should entail working collaboratively with the school to access resources that will allow for covid-19 safe classroom sizes, individualized learning and access to mental health and academic support for students who need it.
I have a 14-year-old son in the special education program. I have witnessed firsthand how much he has struggled trying to navigate through on-line learning and the learning loss he has experienced. There are also students who are dealing with social and emotional trauma, having lost friends or family members to the pandemic. Some have anxieties due to their parents losing their jobs and sources of livelihood. As they return to school, the needs of students are going to vary. The main focus should be on addressing the safety of students and teachers as well student's social, emotional and academic needs.
What do you see as the major issues facing the Beaverton School District?
Susan Greenberg: In addition to the most pressing issue of ensuring a smooth transition and recovery from this pandemic, student homelessness and school safety continue to be top-of-mind issues for Beaverton students and parents. Student homelessness is an unfortunate reality in our community that has big impacts on student learning. As a board member, I have advocated for more affordable housing and help for homeless youth; I look forward to working with our community partners to find new and innovative ways to reduce the number of students experiencing housing instability and homelessness in our district.
Another issue is student safety and ensuring that our schools are safe and inclusive environments for learning. The topic of school resource officers is something that the board has been reviewing, and I am committed to finding a solution for our schools that ensure students of all backgrounds feel safe, welcome, and able to learn.
Jeanette Schade: First, we must get our classrooms open for a full five days of instruction. Second, the Beaverton School District needs to really look at the divisive curriculum they have allowed to seep in through critical race theory. There is absolutely no place for this curriculum which appears good on the surface, but it actually divides and teaches racism to students. This curriculum needs to be expunged from Beaverton schools as it also goes against their own board policies AC and ACB. There are clear alternatives to what Beaverton SD has allowed, which will push for unity and understanding of each person's differences and stay within board policy. The last issue is the low graduation rates especially among our minority populations. We must find ways to increase these rates such as making the Career and Technical Education program much more robust.
Karen Peréz-Da Silva: In the immediate future, some of the major issues our schools face include supporting the social, emotional and mental health of our students as we re-engage them back into in-person learning, and provide accelerated learning opportunities starting now and continuing through the summer and into the fall. We must do all of this while ensuring the highest COVID safety standards within the continually updated national and state guidelines.
In the coming years, educational funding will be a major issue our school district faces. We as a community must advocate for complete funding of the Student Investment Act and of Measure 98, which fund career and technical education, life skills and high school graduation supports.
We will also need to evaluate both the renewal of the Beaverton School Levy, which pays for over 100 teachers, and the Beaverton School District Bond, which is essential for the much needed safety upgrades to our existing school buildings. The board will need all hands-on deck, including mine and yours to pass these funding sources for our children.
Fuhua Xu: With the current and former School Board members' hard work, Beaverton School District is the one of best school districts in the area. We will continue to help all students to receive outstanding education and achieve their goals successfully.
Sunita Garg: The current and foremost issue facing BSD is that safe transition from distance learning into in-person and hybrid settings takes place. There has been a drop in admission of about 1500 students in the past year. This drop came mostly from kindergartners and first graders. The District must address how to get these students enrolled back into the system and provide adequate resources to ensure that all students in Beaverton have access to a high-quality education.
Saralyn Dougall: Racism. The current national conversation has created divisiveness. This must stop.
LeeAnn Larsen: One of the major issues facing our district is equity. We need to make sure we have anti bias/anti-racist policies and practices implemented so all students feel safe and are provided the opportunity to succeed. In addition, we need to reduce the academic disparities that exist among our underserved and most vulnerable populations, and provide mental health supports in all our schools.
Ugonna Enyinnaya: There is an undeniable lack of diversity in the administrative work force. The school district has only 10% BIPOC staff and that number is too minimal given the diverse student population the school district serves. The district should strive to effectively educate its diverse student population by diversifying its workforce. Also, racial disparities in school disciplinary actions are still prevalent in the Beaverton School District. I think the district should start eliminating the exclusionary and punitive practices by replacing them with more restorative and inclusionary ones.
What skills or experiences have prepared you to serve in this role?
Susan Greenberg: My two terms on the Beaverton School Board give me the needed experience to tackle the immense challenges our schools are facing right now. As a board member, I've championed increased support for struggling students, worked to create more inclusive and safe school environments, and helped add programs for college prep, music, and math so students have more diverse learning opportunities.
In addition to my work on the school board, both of my children attended Beaverton School District schools and I have a long record of advocacy for improving our schools, including fighting for more funding for our schools as a Stand for Children leader and serving on the Beaverton Education Board, and years of volunteer leadership in our schools. I would be honored to have your vote again this May.
Jeanette Schade: I have over 23 years' experience in education. My master's degree is in teaching, and I've worked as a teacher's assistant, a substitute teacher and an English teacher at public, charter and alternative schools, with special education (SPED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) students and at a variety of grade levels. I also have three children, so I also have the perspective of having been a parent with students in school.
Karen Peréz-Da Silva: In getting here today, I have experienced immigrating to the U.S. as a child and growing-up in Oregon within a multilingual and multicultural family. I experienced elementary school as a student in special education, and then went on to study special education while earning a doctorate in education leadership to innovate educational spaces alongside my community. I have grown up in situational poverty, within a very loving family and community that supported me to thrive through educational opportunities.
In my free time, I also serve as the Vice President of the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators, a leader of the Barnes Elementary Madres Unidas and as a member of the Barnes PTB.
My lived experiences as a lifelong learner, mother, daughter and educational leader in Beaverton, Eugene and in Oregon along with my dedication to our students and community, make me uniquely positioned to be your next Beaverton School District Board member for Zone 2. I will hit the ground running during this critical time in our education with a thoughtful and experienced approach that always puts our students first.
Fuhua Xu: My education background and work experience (research scientist, instructor, tutor, board member) make me suitable for this role of supporting the students.
Sunita Garg: I believe my years of experience as an accountant and financial controller will allow me to critically analyze and provide feedback on BSD's budget. I believe that great school board members should attend and actively participate in school board meetings and engage with the local community. In addition, I plan to work closely with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to understand how the school district can best meet their needs. If elected, I look forward to working closely with fellow school board members on these goals.
Saralyn Dougall: Having two Beaverton School District graduates and one more this year, also having children still in the Beaverton schools both in high school and elementary school — I am the best candidate because I am fully immersed in the Beaverton school experience. I have served and will continue to serve my community, friends and family as I give voice to the concerns of the traditional American family.
LeeAnn Larsen: I work with a collaborative spirit and am a good listener and learner. I am committed to public education and have shown my leadership skills over the past 12 years as a board member in Beaverton and as an Oregon School Boards Association board member for seven years. My experience and expertise have prepared me to serve in this role.
Ugonna Enyinnaya: My legal training and experience instilled in me strong advocacy skills. If elected, I would advocate for our vulnerable community members and be a voice that will bring representation for our underserved and underrepresented communities.
Editor's note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this Q&A transposed candidate Jeanette Schade's responses to the third and fourth questions. The feature has been corrected. Candidate Fuhua Xu did not provide a photo upon request.
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