School Board candidates attend student-led forum
Candidates for the Lake Oswego School Board attended the second out of three scheduled public forums April 17 at Lake Oswego High School.
The forum was organized by the school's Political Action Seminar, a class that provides opportunities for students to participate in government processes. The class promotes active community-based experience wherein students can meet local and state officials and become more informed about current political issues.
School board candidates Kirsten Aird, Kelly Calabria and John Wallin discussed various topics important in this district, including student safety, equity and diversity, facilities and graduation rates.
Aird is running unopposed for Position 5, Calabria is running for Position 1 and Wallin is running as the incumbent for Position 1.
The forum was moderated by LOHS students Mark Mittelstaedt and Lucinda Smith, and was attended by both adults and students invested in the school board race.
The first question posed to the candidates was what they thought was the biggest issue facing the school district currently.
"In my opinion, it's ourselves. I think we get in our own way," Aird said. "We have a vision, but we need to work on how we work together as a community, listen to each other and exchange ideas. We need to wade through the negativity to get to where the real positive solutions are."
Calabria said she feels that the biggest issue in the LOSD currently is a disconnect between district officials and community members. "I think the number one issue is that we need to get back on track and in sync with our community and administration. I think there's been a disconnect, and I want to focus on restoring trust," Calabria said. "I have a proven track record of bringing people together and
coming up with creative solutions."
For Wallin, student health and safety are paramount. When he first joined the school board, he said he was focused on repairing the many aging facilities in the district. "We've made a lot of progress on that," he said. "Now that I'm running for reelection, I've seen that what our school district should focus on is student health and student safety. We need to make sure that we make everyone safe at our schools."
The candidates also discussed equity between the north and south sides of the city. Aird said she believes the division is more prevalent between parents, while students don't put as much weight on it. "Equal opportunities doesn't necessarily mean it's the same opportunities, " she said. "But we have to figure out how do we balance and support both of these amazing (high) schools. That starts with us."
Calabria agreed. "The tone of the district is something we can change as adults," she said. "We're all one district, but
we all have our own schools that have their own cultures.
It doesn't have to be the same."
Wallin identified the 2018 Athletics Task Force as a great example of adults working together across the district. "Leaders from north and south worked together to identify the needs of the district facilities," he said. "It wasn't about getting things for their own schools, but looking at district needs as a whole."
They also discussed the district's high graduation rate, as well as individualized supports for students who may be struggling. "We won't stop until we get to 100% (graduation rate)," said Wallin. "We're not talking about lowering standards, we're talking about providing what each student needs to be their very best."
Calabria said it's important to look out for kids who are not performing well. "We have a problem that if kids are struggling, that they need to hire tutors outside of class," she said. "That's an equity issue, because not everyone can afford to do that. The top achievers are not the only ones in our school district."
Aird said she believes that a October 2018 Special Needs Audit done by the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative Education Development Center, which the district commissioned to seek improvements in its treatment and programming for students with special needs, could be the solution if implemented on a widespread basis.
"It is a general education proposal. If it is done the way it is intended to be done, each and every student benefits," Aird said. "It meets the needs of those that have different and diverse learning strategies. I'm really interested in seeing this implemented."
The final forum for school board candidates will be held April 29 at 6 p.m. at the United Church of Christ (1111 Country Club Rd, Lake Oswego). It is hosted by Respond to Racism and LO for LOve.