Opinion: Oregon City School Board seeks to find common values
Someone asked me the other day what are my reasons for running for reelection to the Oregon City School Board. It has been a tough year.
The fundamental principle that has guided me as chair of the Oregon City School Board this past year is my belief that public education is a pillar of our democracy. It is foundational to our way of life. That's why I keep my child in the public school system.
We currently are living through a high-risk and complicated time, and good people are at odds with one another. There is a lot at stake.
My father was a career foreign service officer. When we were children and heading overseas for the first time, he said we would encounter people from different cultures whose traditions would be foreign to us. Withhold judgment, he said, until you truly understand their point of view. Once you understand that, you will find your common values.
Reasonable people with good intentions can disagree on matters of importance. A different viewpoint doesn't mean the other person is unreasonable. We need the skills to hear the different voices of our pluralistic society. Now, more than ever, we need someone on the board with the skills required for civil discussion and debate. I bring those skills.
I am retired from a career in behavioral health crisis management, where I advocated for accessible and respectful treatment for people with dealing with mental health and addiction. Now I am the executive director of a free medical clinic for low-income and uninsured adults in our community. Our clinic has been one of very few free clinics to have kept its doors open to patients during the pandemic. We have balanced telehealth with in-person care and essential service with staff safety and risk-mitigation.
As much of an accomplishment as this was, it does not compare to the complexity of managing a school district responsible for the health, safety and educational needs of 7,380 students and 969 staff during a global pandemic. All this while state regulatory metrics rapidly change as the understanding of the virus continues to evolve.
Being on the school board requires the ability to listen respectfully to parents and community members with differing viewpoints. It requires the ability to hear these voices and also weigh issues of educational access, financial stewardship, employee safety, public health risk, student mental health and the basic needs of struggling families.
We need a school board up to the task of today's challenges. I have the experience and skills necessary to meet these challenges. I ask for your support to allow me to continue to advocate for our kids and a brighter future for our community.
Martha Spiers is a clinical social worker and current chair of the Oregon City School Board.
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