Voters have made a lot of changes to the Forest Grove School Board lately, and they're being asked to make a few more later this month.
Voters elected several new school board members two years ago in a sweep that ousted several incumbents and longtime board members. That decision, along with a new superintendent following the resignation of Yvonne Curtis last year, has the school board moving in a bold new direction.
While we were sad to see some of those longtime school board members go, we're largely happy with the direction this board has been taking in the past two years. We think voters should be, too, and there are a few key decisions voters can make this spring that will help ensure that momentum continues.
First, voters should re-elect Kate Grandusky to the school board. On the board since 2011, the Gales Creek resident would be the elder-statesman of the board if re-elected, with plenty of experience and institutional knowledge the board can lean on when it makes its decisions. During this transitional period as the new school board members settle into their roles, Grandusky has been able to provide stability for the board and the community. As a former board chair, Grandusky — a retired teacher who taught in both Forest Grove and Hillsboro schools — often provides good insight at board meetings and offers a unique perspective for the board. Her tenacity and focus on issues that are important to this community is something we admire in her, even when we disagree with her positions.
Grandusky is racing against two other candidates: Chris Mejia, a Pacific University employee, Forest Grove School District substitute and former employee with the Northwest Regional Education Service District, and Chelsea Shotts, a behavior interventionist in the Newberg School District.
It's great to see so many educators involved in a school board race, and Mejia and Shotts have a strong understanding of many of the district's issues. If they were running against another candidate we'd have a tough decision on our hands. Shotts, in particular, comes with several great ideas and a clear passion for education. We would highly encourage them both to run for school board seats again in the future, and believe they would do an outstanding job advocating for Forest Grove students.
But the choice here is clear, Kate Grandusky has the proven track record and tenacity. She's the best choice for the position.
The second decision voters will have to make will be to replace longtime school board member Fred Marble, who is not seeking re-election after 22 years on the Forest Grove School Board.
Two candidates are looking to fill Marble's shoes: Pacific University professor Narce Rodriguez and Michael Carter, a longtime community member and husband of Melissa Carter, the former principal at Joseph Gale Elementary School. She is currently back at the school on an interim basis.
Carter has a long history with Forest Grove. He grew up here and graduated from Forest Grove High before going on to a career at Intel and Cabot Microelectronics. But it is Rodriguez who impressed us the most for this position.
She currently serves as the chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Pacific University. Her work to ensure that all students are heard and respected at Pacific would also be key in Forest Grove, a school district that is growing more and more diverse every day.
Rodriguez told us she wants to look at the district through an equity lens "to make sure that all children within the schools are receiving the best education possible, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or disability."
Districts across Washington County have talked for years about increasing representation in schools to better reflect the students they teach. With a large Latino population in the Forest Grove School District, hiring more native Spanish-speaking teachers has been an ongoing effort. That representation should go beyond the classroom. Not only is her work in equity important, she would be the only Latina member of the school board, if elected. That's an important distinction for the hundreds of Latino families living in Forest Grove. And having someone from the Latino community shaping the future of our students can be inspiring to young people who want to grow up and make a difference in their communities, too.
Rodriguez has lots of great ideas. She wants to address mental health needs across the district and close the achievement gap. She wants to acknowledge what makes us different, and celebrate it. She wants to include more stakeholders at the table when making decisions, and work to ensure that everyone, no matter their heritage or their economic status, is able to learn and grow and succeed.
"We need a vision for the district that unites all of our wonderful schools," she told us. "If we are to provide every student with the attention they deserve, we need to ensure that where they live within the district doesn't adversely impact their opportunity for success."
Voters should re-elect Kate Grandusky and elect Narce Rodriguez to the board on May 21.
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