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Piluso withdrew from race, leaving three-way contest for position 4, plus 3 other contested races

PMG FILE PHOTO - Don't forget to vote for school board in the May 18 election.

The five newly-elected members of the Gresham-Barlow School Board will face one of any school board's most important decisions — hiring a new superintendent.

Superintendent Katrise Perera announced her resignation in March effective June 30, and the board will have to supervise the search to replace her.

The seven-member, all-volunteer board has five of its seven positions up for grabs in the May 18 election. Four of those five are contested races.

Position 1 is for a two-year term ending June 30, 2023 and the rest are for four years ending June 30, 2025.

In one formerly four-way race, Carla Piluso decided to end her long and distinguished public service career and withdrew from the race for school board.

Piluso said she wanted to make way for younger candidates with new ideas and that the demands of public service were becoming tiring.

Veteran Gresham-Barlow director Matt O'Connell, who has been on the board since 2008, also decided not to run again.

We asked candidates just a few questions, including the number of school-related meetings they had attended in the last year, their favorite children's book and what one thing the district could do better.

One candidate, Jasia Mosley, objected to an Outlook question on the number of children each candidate has attending Gresham-Barlow schools.

Calling the question "harmful," Mosley said, "Having children, or using the fact that you have children, does not make you qualified in the slightest to be a school board member. This question is ageist and ableist. Young people without kids are qualified. Older people without kids are qualified. Not all people are able to have children. There are women who are physically unable to have children and having this question as a form of qualification is ableist and traumatizing for them."

The Outlook asked all the candidates to submit a short profile. Their answers are below.

Position 1, Zone 1COURTESY PHOTO - Holly Riegelmann

Holly Riegelmann

Age: 39

Occupation: Bookkeeper, Riegelmann's Appliance

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 4

Number of school meetings attended in the last year: Every board meeting since November and most board work sessions.

Favorite children's book: "I'll Love You Forever," by Robert Munsch

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"Engage and communicate with parents and the community in a transparent manner. In order to face the needs of each student and family head on, we need to be connecting consistently, listening and uncovering the barriers that stand between students and their success. Our most vulnerable students are taking the biggest hits in comprehensive distance learning. We will need collaboration and community partnership moving forward, as we seek to break these barriers and see students thrive."

Robyn StowersCOURTESY PHOTO - Robyn Stowers

Age: 36

Occupation: Policy advisor, Metro

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: Approximately 11,800 (all district kids)

Number of school meetings attended in the last year: 28

Favorite children's book: "A Rose for Pinkerton," by Steven Kellogg

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"Dismantling institutional racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. We must eliminate achievement and disciplinary gaps and provide equal opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We must create safe and welcoming learning environments that support our students' diverse identities.

"I stand in solidarity with: Black Lives Matter. Stop Asian Hate. LGBTQ Pride. No Kids in Cages. Indigenous Sovereignty."

Position 3, Zone 2

Cathy Vandehey KeathleyCOURTESY PHOTO - Cathy Vandehey Keathley

Age: 60

Occupation: Business manager 

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 3 graduated

Number of meetings attended in the last year: Watched 5-plus recorded meetings.

Favorite children's book: "When Pigasso Met Mootise," by Nina Laden

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"Because we are losing our superintendent, the most important job of the board will be to find a leader who will get our students safely back to school full-time while supporting the teachers and staff who provide their education. The board should be committed to finding someone who is an effective communicator and who has a clear vision as to how to remove all barriers to students getting the best education we can offer."

Position 4, At Large

Julie FredianiCOURTESY PHOTO - Julie Frediani

Age: 62

Occupation: Recently retired teacher, now substitute teacher

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 3 graduated

Number of meetings attended in the last year: 6

Favorite children's book: "The Other Side," by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"If I could change one thing it would be to limit class size. The district may say this is already a priority but it was not my reality! Teaching assistants have also been cut. This combination is not working for teachers or students. The trickle down effect from this one action would be immense. Examples would be greater individualized instruction and additional time to care about the social-emotional needs of our students."

Joe DemersCOURTESY PHOTO - Joe Demers

Age: 43

Occupation: Commercial driver

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools:: 2 current, 1 graduated

Number of meetings attended in the last year: No answer

Favorite children's book: "The Prince and the Pauper," by Mark Twain

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"Although it is not a must to be on the school board as a parent, I believe there is far more incentive for a parent to be on the school board or want to be on the school board to have the best representation for all children across the community. To best understand parents concerns for the protection of their children and the experience needed from a parent's perspective for their child to learn and grow in a healthy academic and social environment."

Jeff JonesCOURTESY PHOTO -  Jeff Jones

Age: 41

Occupation: Electrical contractor

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 2

Number of meetings attended in the last year: 2, also served on boundary committee last year

Favorite children's book: "I Love You, Stinky Face," by Lisa McCourt

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better?

"The one thing GBSD needs to do better is sharing with our community how they utilize funding for our schools. Ever ask the question how much money are we spending? How about the question of how much money we are saving? This is a very dynamic topic. The people of our district should be up to date when decisions are made that affect our schools, and not just the big ones."

Position 5, Zone 4

Blake PetersonCOURTESY PHOTO - Blake Peterson

Age: 36

Occupation: Management analyst, City of Gresham

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 6

Number of meetings attended in the last year: about 60

Favorite children's book: "A Mother for Choco," by Keiko Kasza

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better?

"The urgency of our mission, 'To inspire and empower each student,' has never been greater. The most severe effects of our COVID-19 response have fallen on under-represented students, particularly our English Language Learners.

"Our expanding dual language immersion programs and year-over-year improvements in proficiency assessments are promising upstream successes to celebrate and develop.

However, we must also identify and implement critical downstream solutions — together with affected families — to recover opportunity losses."

Jasia MosleyCOURTESY PHOTO - Jasia Mosely

Age: 19

Occupation: College student and community organizer

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: "I am 19 years old. Having children in the district does not deem you qualified for this position. This question is ageist and ableist. I have more than seven siblings in this district and I care about all of our students." 

Number of school meetings attended in the last year: 30-35

Favorite children's book: "A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeline L'Engle

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better? 

"The school district can improve on community engagement. Community dialogue with the board as a whole or any individual district member is not accessible. It's important that we are listening to the voices and concerns of those we serve. Community voices are our most valuable resource and we, as a district, need to utilize that. We also need to open up equitable avenues to reimagine student safety and center the voices of our vulnerable populations." 

Position 6, At Large

Mayra L. GómezCOURTESY PHOTO - Mayra Gomez

Age: 41

Occupation: Director of College & Career Readiness at West Linn Wilsonville School District

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 2

Number of school meetings attended in the last year: dozens

Favorite children's book: "Playing La Lotería/El Juego de la lotería," by R. Colato Laines and Rosita y Conchita by E. Gonzalez.

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better?

"We need to get better at making district information and meetings accessible to linguistically diverse families."

Adam Sorenson COURTESY PHOTO - Adam Sorenson

Age: 41 on April 19

Number of children attending Gresham-Barlow schools: 1 in fall of 2022

Number of school meetings attended in the last year: 13

Favorite children's book: "The Little Engine that Could," by Watty Piper

What is the one thing you think the school district could do better?

"I believe the district could do a better job providing taxpayers fiscal responsibility and transparency when asked to approve bond measures. Promises and claims for proposed school bonds need to be followed through on in a timely manner. We need to provide this while putting our students education as our top priority and providing our students with a five-day-a-week in-person education while meeting COVID guidelines."

Sidebar

Key May 18 election dates

- April 28: ballots will be mailed to voters.

- May 11: last day for voters to safely return ballots by mail.

- May 18: election day, ballots due by 8 p.m.


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