OUTLOOK ENDORSEMENTS: Voter choices important as Gresham-Barlow faces transition
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 supervise the search for her replacement.
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.
The following are the recommendations by The Outlook in each position.
POSITION 1, ZONE 1
CANDIDATES: Holly Riegelmann and Robyn Stowers (appointed in 2020)
Holly Riegelmann has been investing the time it takes to learn this volunteer position by attending Gresham-Barlow board meetings and work sessions. Furthermore, she has the cooperative spirit and insights of a parent that are important qualifications of a school board member.
In the short time since Stowers was appointed to the board, she's created a reputation for herself of being unnecessarily combative. As the board launches a search for a new superintendent, it can't afford distractions and in-fighting.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Elect Holly Riegelmann.
POSITION 3, ZONE 2
CANDIDATE: Cathy Vandehey Keathley
Cathy Vandehey Keathley is running unopposed and will be elected to the Gresham-Barlow Board.
POSITION 4, AT-LARGE
CANDIDATES: Julie Frediani, Jeff Jones, Joe Demers
This is perhaps the most bewildering race on the ballot for East Multnomah County school board positions.
To begin with, the incumbent in this race is Carla Piluso, who is widely respected and known as the first woman to serve as Gresham's Chief of Police. She later went on to serve as Gresham's representative in the Oregon House. She's also a respected member of the Gresham-Barlow School Board.
Piluso filed to run for reelection to the board, but decided later to suspend her active campaign. She's still on the ballot, but if elected she won't accept the job. Piluso has endorsed the campaign of Julie Frediani.
Frediani, who taught in the Gresham-Barlow School District before her retirement, enters this race with deep insights into the many needs of students, especially those of elementary school students.
You also have Jeff Jones, an involved dad with kids enrolled in the district. And he owns his own small business.
Lastly, you have Joe Demers. We'll resist the temptation of labeling Demers. But here are some insights that might help voters put Demers in proper focus. He recently posted an image of himself on social media emblazoned with these words, "Unmasked, Unvaccinated, Unmuzzled, Unafraid." In another post he referred to a drag queen event at Clackamas Town Center as "Flipping disgusting." In another instance, he shared an item off Breitbart.com (a far-right news and commentary website) critical of a school superintendent who defended reading a transgender book to first graders. Demers responded by simply saying, "Sick!"
If you base your vote solely on what you read of Demers in the Voters Pamphlet, you'll only read what he wants you to know before you cast your vote.
Here's the bottomline: There are two candidates who would make fine school board members. And there is a third who would create divisions, and who already has disqualified himself from representing the interests of any student who doesn't identify as heterosexual.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Take your pick of Julie Frediani or Jeff Jones. Just please, don't vote for Joe Demers.
POSITION 5, ZONE 4
CANDIDATES: Jasia Mosley and Blake Petersen (incumbent)
Continuity of leadership will be invaluable in the coming year as the Gresham-Barlow School District transitions back to full time, in-person schooling and as the board conducts its search for a new district superintendent.
Blake Petersen, who serves as board chair, was first elected in 2017. There have been no red flags raised with his leadership. There is no reason that he should not be allowed to take full advantage of the knowledge he's gained in his first term.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Reelect Blake Petersen
POSITION 6, AT-LARGE
CANDIDATES: Adam Sorenson & Mayra L. Gomez (incumbent)
Mayra Gomez is highly qualified to run as a school board candidate. She's employed as a director of College & Career Readiness at West Linn-Wilsonville School District. In the past she has served as a federal programs coordinator at Centennial School District; assistant principal at Reynolds High School; and was a teacher at Gresham High School.
And best of all, she's the vice chair of the Gresham-Barlow School Board.
It does not get better than that.
Her depth of knoweldge in education and of the needs for the Gresham-Barlow School District make her the obvious choice.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Reelect Mayra L. Gomez
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