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Forest Grove and Banks school districts will see contested races for school board this May.

Two open positions on the Forest Grove School Board this spring will see plenty of competition, according to Washington County's official candidate filings.

The board's Position 5 seat has two candidates vying for the spot: Narce Rodriguez and Michael Carter. The seat is currently held by longtime school board member Fred Marble, who has served on the board for the past 18 years and is not seeking re-election.

Rodriguez, who currently serves as the chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Pacific University, told the News-Times for an article earlier this month she is interested in seeking more funding for education as well as bringing a different perspective to the board with her position at Pacific.

Carter, her opponent, worked at Intel for 35 years and now works for Cabot Microelectronics. Carter graduated from Forest Grove High School and Pacific University. His children have also attended Forest Grove schools. Carter's wife, Melissa Carter, formerly served as principal of Joseph Gale Elementary School, and is currently filling the role intermittently. COURTESY PHOTO - Michael Carter

"I believe the FGSD has an opportunity to improve their outcomes for all students," Carter said in an email to the News-Times. "I believe it is important that a school board have a nice balance of members that can bring different skills and perspectives to the board to help guide and solve the school's challenges."

There are several areas Carter would like to focus on, should he be elected, he said, including looking at how the district supports students.

"Some students come to school not ready to learn and have some significant behavior issues that impact the teachers' ability to teach and students to learn," he said. "We must find a solution to this issue as a district."

Carter also plans to focus on improving student outcomes and looking into how that success is measured, he said.

The board's Position 4 seat has three candidates vying it, including incumbent Kate Grandusky who has served on the board since 2011.

"We have a new superintendent which the new board hired and he is just a wonderful, inspirational, humble, bright individual that is really reaching out to our community," Grandusky said. "I want to be a part of the next vision here."

Grandusky has worked actively to increase the budget for school libraries since her time on the board, she said. She'd like the district to hire a full-time librarian.

"Technology is good, but we need both," she said. Grandusky would also like to work on bringing back the Gales Creek Elementary School, which closed in 2011, she said.

Also running for Position 4 is Pacific University employee Chris Mejia, who has served on the district's budget and long-term planning committees. COURTESY PHOTO - Chris Mejia

Mejia said his initial exposure to the school board came from attending meetings with his daughter who previously served as a student representative.

"I really thought it was interesting and I was really the only one there most of the time," Mejia said. "The process is interesting and I guess by default, they started asking me to be a part of some different committees."

Mejia formerly worked in a number of positions for the Northwest Regional Education Service District, as well as a substitute education assistant in classrooms across the Forest Grove School District.

Reducing classroom sizes and increasing funding for education are amongst Mejia's main priorities, should he be elected to the board, he said. He would also like to focus on security and technology implementation at district schools, as well as college and career readiness, he said.

While Mejia said the current school board members have done a great job leading the district, he believes some new faces could bring new perspectives to the board.

"I felt compelled to throw my hat in the ring and see if I could bring some new ideas — maybe a little bit more of a diverse outlook," he said. "(With) some of the work I have done in the past .... I think that I can bring a perspective that hopefully is just from a different direction."

A third candidate will be looking to take Grandusky's seat on the board this spring: Chelsea Shotts, a behavior interventionist in the Newberg School District.COURTESY PHOTO - Chelsea Shotts

"In my work at the schools, I have seen just how tight budgeting is and I fully believe that there can be an equitable distribution of funds to ensure that all students and staff find success," Shotts said. "I think it's just a matter of finding those innovative ways to compensate that low funding."

While Shotts hasn't worked in Forest Grove schools, she believes her perspective will serve as an advantage.

"I will have a fresh and objective lens to look at the challenges that have been facing the district," Shotts said. "Obviously there is always going to be a learning curve but (I am dedicated) to ensuring that my community and all the communities in Oregon are able to find that success."

Should she be elected, Shotts said working to close the achievement gap between Latino students and white students would be a main priority.

"I believe all people do well if they can and it's up to us as a community to ensure the supports are there so everyone can find and achieve their personal measures of success," she said.

Two seats open in Banks School District

Of the two open seats on Banks School Board, only one will be a contested race this spring. James Harris, who currently holds Position 5, has filed for re-election, joining Will Moore in the race. Harris, owner of Cedar Mountain Construction, has served on the board since 2015. Moore, an executive coach for Vistage International, previously served eight years on the board, from 2007 to 2015.COURTESY PHOTO - James Harris

"Initially I decided to run for school board just to get more involved and have a clear understanding of how and why things are run," Harris said. "I was concerned that there was such a high turnover in the admin-level of the school district and I wanted to figure out why."

Harris said he decided to run for re-election this spring to continue executing the vision and plans of the current board.

"I like the vision of the current school board that we are working with and I'm really excited to see how the (career technical education) funds are being applied as that program is being expanded," Harris said, "and just watching the schools continue to get better."

Earlier this month, Moore told the News-Times he decided to pursue a return to the school board after noticing a lack of momentum with the current board.

"In my eight years there, the board was able to accomplish some really dramatic things," Moore said. "I have observed since my time on the board a concern that that momentum that we built is not necessarily perpetuating, and so I would like to get re-engaged and see what I can do to help further what we had started."

While there are three positions opening up on the Gaston School Board this spring, only two candidates filed for election by last week's deadline.

Christine Riley, who has served on the board since 2004, filed to retain her Position 1 seat on the board. Clinton Nelson, who has served on the board for two terms, will also hold Position 4 on the board. That leaves Position 5 vacant, which is currently held by TJ Johnson.

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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