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'Best office in the country,' School Board chair says, but he won't seek a third term

BOB BARMANI don't have an extensive-enough vocabulary and the Lake Oswego Review does not own enough ink for me to properly thank this community for allowing me the honor to serve two terms on your School Board. I will be leaving office July 1 with a deep sense of pride in the many accomplishments that our teachers, staff and administrators have delivered.

After the last diploma is handed out this June, we will have issued more than 5,000 diplomas during my eight years on the board. Each one of those graduates' lives were transformed by the "magic" that occurs every day in each of our schools.

Having the privilege to walk the halls and visit classrooms, you quickly realize the amazing teachers and staff that allow our children to learn the skills to make their own dreams come true. Making education their life's work takes a special person, and the LOSD has hundreds of very skilled professionals.

Most citizens are not aware of the incredible central office staff that helps make our schools run smoothly. Stuart Ketzler, our finance director, has dedicated his time to making sure the LOSD has a balanced budget and protects every penny. Without the skills of Melissa Cowan Siegel, we would have no computer network, period. Our director of personnel, Dr. Donna Atherton, is exceptional at hiring the best-qualified teachers, staff and administrators. These are just three illustrations of the talent within our district.

I think one of the proudest and most satisfying aspects of serving on the board is being a loud, raw and unrelenting voice for the disability community, and breaking academic barriers for all kids. Kristy Blizzard, Renee Kerr, Becky Owens, Paula Schiedler, Cindy Spear and Isabel Sturman are passionate moms who brought me under their wings and taught me the power of inclusion.

For example, Renee Kerr, who has three children — including Eli with Down syndrome — explained that when Turner, her oldest child, met a milestone, the family cheered. However, when Eli met a milestone, tears would stream down her and her husband's faces. These strong families have been some of the powerful voices that have led the effort to make Lake Oswego a truly inclusive and welcoming district for all students with differences and disabilities. No longer do families need to worry that the first placement will be outside our community. All children benefit by learning in an inclusive classroom with exceptional teachers.

Breaking barriers for the disability community is satisfying, and so is breaking down the "artificial" barrier that limited qualified kids from taking Honors English or advanced math classes because of some perceived and arbitrary barriers. Thanks to students like Charlie, Katy and Brooks, who stepped forward and asked to be allowed the opportunity to take these challenging courses, we were able to change policy. Charlie is now a middle school English teacher, Brooks is an outstanding college junior and Katy is a registered nurse. By removing barriers, you never know what kids can accomplish.

I loved championing the introduction of elementary Spanish immersion. I'm proud to have supported the bond to fix our schools. This fall, I can't wait to sit under the new canopy in the pouring rain at Lakeridge High, enjoying the game and staying dry with all the parents, grandparents and fans!

In closing, while I will be leaving the board on July 1, Katy and I will not be leaving the community or our schools. We will continue to support and encourage this great district and we look forward to hearing the stories of the next 5,000 graduates. Those stories are what make volunteering and being elected to the Lake Oswego School Board the best office in the country.

Bob Barman is chair of the Lake Oswego School Board.

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