Oregon City's school board is acting quickly to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Siobhán O'Connor Gwozdz, who said she no longer will be able to give the elected volunteer position the attention it deserves.
Gwozdz said her day job as an independent IT consultant is really "hotting up" in terms of how busy it's making her, and she'd like to see another civic-minded member of the community take her place as soon as possible.
While on the board, she was a strong voice for "real" public engagement, adequate school funding and living wages for OCSD's employees and contractors.
Gwozdz ran unopposed for a four-year term in 2015 and would have completed that term in June. A highlight while she was in office was district voters in November approving a $158 million plan to replace Gardiner Middle School and renovate Ogden Middle School, plus addressing safety and security concerns at the district's other 10 schools.
"As the district gears up for implementation of bond projects and the roll out of strategic educational programs, it is vital to have a fully engaged and supportive board," Gwozdz said. "While I would very much love to continue to serve, I cannot in good faith continue in the position at this critical time given my changed circumstances on the work front. I truly believe that bringing on a new member now rather than later will better position the board for success going forward."
With officials signaling significant budgetary increases for education, Gwozdz believes that OCSD is well positioned for success.
"I urge the board to strategically focus on resourcing and empowering district staff to be innovative and creative as they continue to deliver excellent educational services to Oregon City's families," she wrote in a Jan. 10 resignation letter.
Gwozdz says a strong public education system is the cornerstone of democracy and the foundation of a thriving economy, so she urged the board to become a more vital, energized local institution.
"There is no brainstorming, no real debate, limited productive collaboration and public input is rarely appreciated," she wrote in her resignation letter.
Gwozdz sees hope for OCSD in overcoming inertia to adopt and explore new ideas through a more open, transparent and supportive environment that encourages public participation.
Gwozdz also was critical of two fellow board members who submitted "a very misleading and divisive letter to our local newspaper" encouraging parents to opt their children out of the OCSD sex-education program.
"Having board colleagues who repeatedly fail to support the district in the implementation of much needed educational programs is very counter-productive, demotivating and damaging to our collective mission of providing ALL Oregon City students with the best possible education," Gwozdz wrote.
Applications for appointment to Gwozdz's seat will be accepted until Friday, Jan. 25, at ocsd62.org. A school board committee will interview candidates between the week of Jan. 28 and Feb. 7. Applicants must be residents of the Oregon City School District, which includes the city and nearby unincorporated areas of Beavercreek, Redland and Jennings Lodge.
Appointment to the position will be made by a vote of the six remaining board members at the Feb. 11 school board meeting. The appointee will serve out the remainder of Gwozdz's term through June 30 and may run for election to a full term.
An election will be held in May for a four-year term, expiring June 30, 2023. Four positions on the OC school board, including Gwozdz's former seat, will be on the May ballot.
Gwozdz said the school board should be composed of individuals who truly reflect the community.
"Our demographics have changed considerably, but board composition does not reflect (those changes) as yet," she said.
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