North Clackamas School District welcomes board member
Libra Forde, who on Feb. 14 was sworn into the North Clackamas School Board, thinks her own educational experience encountering economic disparity as a student from a low-income family in New York City public schools will be especially relevant to her work on the board.
"I'm looking forward to offering that lens and that voice, not to say that it will be a dominant lens, but I do feel like I offer a different perspective," Forde said. "I think I represent a large portion of our school district and one that's often forgotten. So if nothing else, I want people to understand that part of my background because that's who I am."
Forde was appointed at the board's Jan. 24 meeting to serve in Position 3 through June. She replaces Trisha Claxton, who resigned in November.
Forde attended Brandeis University, where she served as president of the Black Student Union before earning her bachelor's degee in music theory and composition. Forde lived abroad in Italy after graduating, and after returning to the United States, pursued a career as an athletic trainer.
"It changed my perspective, it changed my life," Forde said of living abroad. "I come from pretty much nothing. I remember as a kid not having electricity to do my homework, so to see other perspectives and how other people lived, it changed my life."
Coming from a family where education was heavily stressed, when Forde became a parent herself and began to navigate the school system for her own children, she naturally jumped in with both feet. Ever since then, education has permeated her entire life, eventually becoming her career.
"My grandfather's famous saying was that you can do whatever you want, you can be a trashman, but you need to be educated so that you can change your mind," Forde said. "Education was really rooted in my upbringing."
After marrying a member of the military, which forced the family to move often, Forde chose to homeschool her two daughters for many years. Through that process, she became familiar with online curricula and the virtual communities of parents and families that often form around a particular curriculum. That eventually led her to serve on the board of directors for the Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA), a public charter school.
"That's where it all blossomed into a bigger picture of education," Forde said.
In 2007, Forde founded Utopian Academics for Military Children to help develop and implement hybrid education models for military children and also took a job with national online curriculum company K12. That same year, she completed her MBA at the University of Phoenix.
Forde spent eight years working in operations at K12 before taking her current position as COO at Self Enhancement Inc., in Portland in 2016. She also is an accomplished public speaker, having won Toastmasters International state competitions in both Hawaii and Oregon, and currently is pursuing a doctorate degree in management.
Forde currently serves on the board of several organizations, including at Clackamas Women's Services. She believes all of her experience in that arena will help make the transition to the NCSD board a smooth one.
"Also being a current parent in the school district supports my ability to pick up the pace because I'm living it everyday, so I feel good about that," Forde said. "I'm kind of on an expedited course of getting up to speed so we can move through to June."
Forde, who will have to run in the May election to continue serving on the board beyond the current term, said that she is not bringing any agenda to the position and has only one priority for the next four and a half months.
"For me, it is about observing, reading and listening first because I want to be a part of a process of making informed decisions," Forde said. "I do feel a little behind the power curve, not much, but a little bit. So I do feel like I need to do a lot of listening in order to catch up. But informed decisions are my absolute goal."