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There's one contested race among the five open seats, new board might mull a facilities bond

COURTESY PHOTO - Sumitra ChhetriFive of the seven school board seats are up for grabs in the Centennial School District, but only one of the May 21 election races is contested.

The newly-elected board may be looking to voters for money to upgrade school buildings. Centennial was unsuccessful in its last attempt to pass a bond to expand and improve facilities, so another try may be on the new board's agenda.

The Outlook asked the candidates to answer identical questions about the district and education, including queries about their favorite children's book, numbers of school-related meetings they have attended in the past six months and what they do for fun.

Candidates were given a limited length and the Outlook edited some answers for length and clarity.

COURTESY PHOTO - Ernest A. Butenschoen

Position 1, Zone 1

Ernest Butenschoen

A retired teacher, Butenschoen has been on the board since 2011. He is unopposed.

The Outlook: Why do you want to be on the Centennial School Board?

Butenschoen: I really enjoy being on the Centennial School Board because I want to make a difference and I love serving the Centennial community. I'm currently on the board of Food For Families food pantry. The Future Business Leaders of America students and advisers created this wonderful service project that has benefited many families throughout the area. My thanks and gratitude go out to the students, teachers and many volunteers who have embraced and now serve with this project. I'm also working with the district and the teachers collaboratively to create a strong and fair contract for both sides. 

The Outlook: What are the two most important things you think the district could do better?

Butenschoen: Two important things that the district can work to improve are continuing to help all students succeed district-wide through stronger attendance initiatives and parental support, as well as the district continuing to invite our parents/guardians to engage with us by attending meetings when important issues arise, e.g. school start times and bond development. 

The Outlook: What will be the most challenging part of serving on the school board?

Butenschoen: My biggest challenge as a school board member is to impact positive change with limited state funding. Our students and staff deserve better. 

The Outlook: What is your favorite children's book?

Butenschoen: "Are You My Mother?" by P.E. Eastman.

The Outlook: How many school-related meeting have you attended in the last six months?

Butenschoen: More than 20.

The Outlook: And what do you do for fun?

Butenschoen: I love to spend time with my wife going to the movies, eating out, taking a scenic drive, visiting our children and playing with our grandkids and traveling with my wife, brother and sister-in-law all over the country.

COURTESY PHOTO - Jess Hardin

Position 2, Zone 2

Jess Hardin

Hardin, an incumbent, is a produce buyer. He is unopposed.

The Outlook: Why do you want to be on the Centennial School Board?

Hardin: I love being an active part of the Centennial community. It has a small town feel but is still part of a larger city. I hope to bring some fresh energy and ideas to our community.

The Outlook: What are the two most important things you think the district could do better?

Hardin: First is facilities! We have some work to do there. We need to setup our students for the next 20-30 years with some BIG ideas. Our students and staff deserve better ... And second, work together as a district to establish ourselves as THE district of leaders in East County. Students, faculty and community residents, all need to work together. We need to celebrate our accomplishments and address our needs together.

The Outlook: What will be the most challenging part of serving on the school board?

Hardin: Making everyone happy. It starts with what is best for the students. That is priority No. 1

The Outlook: What is your favorite children's book?

Hardin: My daughter is reading the "Elephant & Piggie" books by Mo Willems. They always make me smile.

The Outlook: How many school-related meetings have you attended in the last six month?

Hardin: More than 20.

The Outlook: And what do you do for fun? Hardin: Announce the high school football games. GO EAGLES!! ... I get pretty excited!

Position 3, at large

Sumitra Chhetri

Chhetri is the community engagement program coordinator for the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and a graduate of Portland State University. She is running unopposed.

The Outlook: Why do you want to be on the Centennial School Board?

Sumitra Chhetri: I want to be a Centennial School Board member because of the power of public education and the positive impact it can have on an individual, a community and our state. Outer Southeast Portland and Gresham is my home for the last decade and I want to contribute to the communities I am connected to and call home. I know that schools are an integral part of our community. But learning and life success do not stop when the school bell rings. Over the years, I have fought for resources for education, health care, accessible transportation options and affordable housing at the local and state level — all of the things that can impact a student arriving at school focused and ready to learn. I will be an advocate for these students and families inside and out of the classroom as a board member.

The Outlook: What are the two most important things you think the district could do better?

Chhetri: First, strengthening the partnership with community-based organizations. Today, school districts are faced with budget cuts, and the need for grants (is) more than ever. Community partners in the area and the surrounding area can fill the gaps in programming and extracurricular activities that contribute to student success. Second, ensuring teachers and staff have the support and professional development they need to be successful.

The Outlook: What will be the most challenging part of serving on the school board?

Chhetri: I am young, come from an immigrant and refugee background and I bring hand-first student experience being an ESL student in high school. I see these experiences contributing to the uniqueness to the board I will be serving.

The Outlook: What is your favorite children's book?

Chhetri: "One Family" by George Shannon

The Outlook: How many school-related meetings have you attended in the last six months?

Chhetri: Three.

The Outlook: And what do you do for fun?

Chhetri: I like gardening, taking a walk, drawing and spending time with friends and family.

Pam Shields

Unopposed

A business instructor at Mt. Hood Community College, Shields has been on the Centennial School Board since 2011.

Shields did not provide information to The Outlook.

COURTESY PHOTO - Claudia Andrews

Position 7, at large

Claudia Andrews vs. Amanda Schroeder

Claudia Andrews, an incumbent, is retired and worked most recently for the Bonneville Power Administration.

Amanda Schroeder most recently worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Outlook: Why do you want to be on the Centennial School Board?

Andrews: I have always been a strong advocate for public education. During my tenure as a member of the Centennial School Board, my appreciation for public education has been renewed and fortified. I embrace the Centennial Destination 2023 strategy focused on the four pillars of: 1) student-focused teaching and learning; 2) healthy culture and environment; 3) effective systems and programs; and 4) community and partnerships all wrapped around the equity goals so that each and every learner receives the resources they need individually to thrive in our schools no matter what. I have enjoyed being a part of a compelling strategy and vision aimed at ensuring that every student achieves success.

COURTESY PHOTO - Amanda L Schroeder

Schroeder: I believe that public education is reflective of the viability and vitality of our community. Investing in our children now means a future of possibility for the children in the Centennial School District. In order to provide every child with the education they deserve, the board must have a vision, create structures to foster and improve funding stability, and be forward thinking, all while remaining accountable to parents. We must advocate for our students at every opportunity and create with them the community in which they not only survive, but thrive.

The Outlook: What are the two most important things you think the district could do better?

Andrews: First, helping low-income and homeless students achieve success. Many efforts in this area have proven very successful, however much work remains to be done. It is an ongoing issue with no easy solutions. Second, seeking adequate funding for operations and facilities. I campaigned for the last successful Centennial bond measure nearly 20 years ago. Our facilities face significant challenges, and each budget cycle results in difficult cuts rather than an ability to expand and enhance successful programs.

Schroeder: We need to be more thoughtful with our budget. If/when we are faced with cuts, I won't lose sight of the long term. For example, at the high school, Mr. Wells, the band teacher, will be retiring soon and it is rumored that he will not be replaced; Mr. Cloyd, the choir teacher, is not even full-time. We should consider both of these given studies have shown that schools with the highest graduation rates are also those with the most access to arts education.

The Outlook: What will be the most challenging part of serving on the school board?

Andrews: Seeking adequate funding for schools. To that end, I have participated in several meetings with legislators to ensure that they understand the unique challenges facing the Centennial District. I participated in the Oregon School Boards Association conference and their sponsored Lobby Day in Salem to express my concern about the funding crisis for our schools. Through the Multnomah County Education Service District I met with state legislators to describe the unique challenges facing the Centennial funding.

Schroeder: Stretching that tax dollar to its maximum without tearing it. That's how we will deliver the best public education possible.

The Outlook: What is your favorite children's book?

Andrews: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling.

Schroeder: For me, it was "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. For my children, the Ramona and Nancy Drew series, and of course, Harry Potter.

The Outlook: How many school-related meetings have you attended in the last six month?

Andrews: At least 22.

Schroeder: Just one, as for the past year I have been having reconstructive surgeries post breast cancer. I am now at the end of that journey and getting back to my normal schedule.

The Outlook: And what do you do for fun?

Andrews: Hike, bike, swim and read.

Schroeder: I love being with my family: playing board games, making lefse (flatbread) with my mom and daughter, sister and cousin.


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