Five school board candidates vie for two seats
The five candidates for two seats on the School District 509-J Board of Directors have at least three traits in common: they're all parents, they're all young, and they're all committed to the education of kids.
Two have filed for Position 4 on the board, incumbent Courtney Snead, of Madras, and Casandra Moses, of Warm Springs; and three have filed for Position 5 on the board, Carina Miller, of Warm Springs, and Taylor Lark and Kevin Richards, both of Madras.
First elected in 2015, Snead, 37, of Madras, has served on the 509-J School Board for the past four years, and is running for reelection.
Through her management consulting firm, Boring But Important, Snead is currently serving as the interim executive director for the Sisters Park and Recreation District.
"I'm running again because I'm committed to ensuring that our education system is serving our kids and families in a way that sets our communities up for success in the future," she said. "We're making really great progress on improving our outcomes and I want to continue to have a voice that impacts our school district in a positive way."
"I'm dedicated to serving our community and I feel that my background work experience and education give me a strong foundation to continue serving our community in this capacity," Snead added.
In 2011, Snead became the first director of the Madras campus of Central Oregon Community College.
In addition to serving as the Central Oregon representative to the Oregon School Board Association Legislative Police Committee, Snead was appointed by the governor to the Oregon Commission on Voluntary Action, and is also a mentor at the Madras High School Futures Center.
After graduating from Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona, in 1999, Snead attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's of public administration, as well as a Certificate of Public Management. She is currently working to earn a Doctorate of Education from Oregon State University, which she hopes to complete by the end of the year.
She and her husband, Nick, have two daughters, Ellen, 4, and Lucille, 2.
An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Moses is challenging Snead for Position 4. Moses, 36, grew up on the reservation, attended high school in Oregon City, and now lives in Warm Springs.
"As a parent of children within the 509-J School District, I am personally invested in this education system," said Moses, who considers primary and secondary school the most important years in a child's development. "It is during this time that children are shaped and molded into the people they grow up to be."
Because of the county's diverse population — 19% American Indian, 20% Latino, she said, "509-J serves multiple communities and in order to achieve an effective partnership, communities should be able to see themselves represented on the board that serves them. The school board functions as a bridge between the schools and the communities served by the school district. In order to be an effective bridge, I believe school board members should represent the communities they serve."
Because Moses' mother is Native American, and her father, from Mexico, she feels that she would be a visual representation of the school district's largest "populations of color."
"Any person who identifies with an underrepresented group in our country knows what it's like to never see yourself represented within the facets of our society," said Moses, who wants to unite and empower the various groups, celebrate cultures, and help shape the world.
"I understand the power of diversity and the rich learning that can be achieved and experienced by sharing and celebrating different cultures," she said. "Just within our two counties here in 509-J, there exists a microcosm of cultures and communities with so much to share. Knowing how to respectfully navigate the learning of different cultures is a very subtle and invaluable skill in today's global world and a skill that can be fostered right here in our school district."
After becoming a teen mother and dropping out of high school, she said that she was able to beat the odds and become the first generation of her family to become a college student.
Moses earned an associate's degree at Central Oregon Community College in 2014, a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies in 2018 from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and is currently enrolled there in a master's program of training and human resource development.
Currently, she is serving on the executive board for the Central Oregon Disability Support Network and 509-J School District Budget Committee and on the Election Committee for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Most recently, she was a behavioral specialist for the Central Oregon Opportunity Foundation, working with families and adults with disabilities.
She is married to Jered Moses, and has four children, Savannah, 20, Izeyah, 13, Murray, 9, and Jolee, 3.
Miller, 31, who has served on the Warm Springs Tribal Council for the past three years, is one of three vying for the seat currently held by Stan Sullivan, who is not seeking reelection.
"I am running for school board because I care about the quality of education and the long-term role it plays in our community," said Miller, who is the mother of a 6-month-old baby boy, Waluxpykee Walter Barkley. "My passion is working to expand on the educational opportunities the district has that will prepare students for whatever they pursue, to support more development of programs that can serve every individual student needs and provide social, emotional development and life skills."
"I want education to represent every community member and focus on strengthening relationships and understanding how we are similar and how we are different," she said.
Miller grew up in Warm Springs, and graduated from Madras High School in 2005, before attending the University of Oregon, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Ethnic Studies in 2011.
In Warm Springs, she worked as a Head Start teacher, and with children and families for Children's Protective Services, which gave her "firsthand experience about what people in our community are facing," she said. "Learning child development exposed me to different ways of molding an education that benefits different kinds of individuals."
"I grew up here and I am raising my family here; this is my home and I care deeply about its future," she continued. "I understand the return an inclusive, quality education can have on our local economy, development and natural resources that so many here value."
As a Tribal Council member, Miller said that she has had "multiple opportunities to work with a wide variety of communities on difficult topics. I am experienced, young, passionate and committed to working for our children, families and community.
She is currently the co-chairman of the Energy Committee for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and also a Columbia River Gorge commissioner.
Lark, 33, the founder and president of The Stover Group, which creates software to help skilled nursing facilities analyze data to improve their performance, moved to Madras more than eight years ago, with his wife, Alyssa Earnest Lark, who grew up in Madras.
With the oldest of their six children now in fourth grade, Lark has become more interested in schools and education, and decided to run for school board.
"To learn more about the processes that occur, I spoke often with my in-laws who raised seven children in Madras," he said. "My father-in-law, Steve Earnest, also served on the Jefferson County School Board for 28 years and was a great source of information."
Over the past two years, Lark has attended many school board meetings and engaged with community members who work in and out of the school district. "I decided it was time for me to offer my time and talents to the community to hopefully help our young children reach their potential in and out of the classroom," he said.
A graduate of Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California, Lark, who grew up in San Juan Capistrano, earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2010, from Brigham Young University.
In Madras, he has been a volunteer coach in various sports and is currently serving on the budget committee for the Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District.
"I feel that diversity on a school board brings great value to the community," said Lark, who wants more community members' voices to be heard. "I feel that I can extend the reach of the board to more community members and work so that a great portion of the community has a say in the policies adopted for our children."
"My focus would not be on one set of students, but all students," he said, asking, "How can we help every student improve from where they were previously? What analysis do we have from the classroom and standardized testing that would help us as a district find negative trends in a student's performance early? How do we help both the student that shows great promise and the student that struggles?"
With a unified effort between the district office and the teachers in the classroom, he believes the district can help ensure that each student progresses as well as possible.
"I think it's important that we also focus on the talented individuals currently tasked with educating our children and ensure that not only is there a safe environment for our children to learn, but also a safe environment for all of the district's employees," Lark said. "Educators should feel empowered to help students learn and should have clear goals and be given the tools they need to accomplish those goals."
The Larks' six children are Ada, 10, Stephen, 8, Jimmy, 6, Ivie, 4, Simmons, 2, and Emerson, 6 months.
Richards, 37, who grew up in Madras, and his wife, Natalie, chose to leave their former careers six years ago to return to Madras to raise their family. He is also seeking Position 5 on the 509-J School Board.
"It's important to us to see the community thrive," he said. "To that end, the schools are such an important nucleus in our rural town and I want to take advantage of the opportunity to serve youth and their families who have chosen to make Jefferson County their home."
Richards is co-owner of Fox Hollow Ranch, with his parents, Martin and Nancy Richards.
"On a personal level, I feel that I have an immense stake in the well-being of our school system. Like every parent, I want the best for my kids. But as a farmer and business owner, I am here for the long haul," said Richards, who is proud of the education he received from 509-J and what it has helped him achieve.
"I am confident that it is possible for my kids — and my kids' kids — to get a first-class education in the unique, diverse setting our rural community offers," he said. "I hope by serving on the board, I can contribute to that being a reality, so that other families share my confidence and appreciation for our schools."
Richards was born in Sandy, but his family moved to Madras in 1988. In high school, he worked on the family farm and was active in sports, Future Farmers of America and 4-H, before graduating from MHS in 2000.
From 2000-2001, he served as the Oregon FFA state officer, and then attended Oregon State University, while also working for the National FFA as a conference trainer and manager. He graduated in 2005, with a Bachelor of Science in Economics, and then attended Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., working as a graduate teaching assistant in public finance and price theory. In 2008, he graduated with Master of Economics and Master of Public Policy degrees.
While in graduate school, he worked as a fundraiser for Teach For America Washington, D.C., for the Whitehouse Council of Economic Advisors, and for the U.S. Department of State Ag Trade and Biotechnology Office.
Following his graduation, Richards worked from 2008-2011 as an analyst and project manager for an international economics consulting firm, Castalia Advisors, which specializes in infrastructure development and public finance. The firm was based in Washington, D.C., but he worked primarily in the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand.
As he prepared to return to his family's farm, Richards worked as the director of regulatory affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C., for two years. In 2013, he moved back to Madras and began full-time farming.
Richards has been a board member for the Jefferson County Farm Bureau Board since 2013, and also belongs to Oregonians for Food and Shelter, the leading modern agriculture policy and advocacy organization in Oregon, as a board member, and since, 2016, a member of the executive committee.
"I believe I'm the right candidate for the school board for two reasons," he said. "First, I have a unique set of public and private sector experience that would be a valuable contribution to the board. I have a breadth of relevant experience in policy and public finance, combined with private sector experience as an economic consultant, business owner and employer. Additionally, I have local and statewide board experience."
Secondly, Richards believes he has a good feel for the pulse of the community. "Having grown up locally, I have deep ties within Jefferson County," he said. "I am a product of 509-J and I have attended classes in nearly every school building in the district."
Richards has long been active in local, state and national Career Technical Education organizations, which he considers "an important need for our community and increasingly, a strength within our schools."
"As an active member of the farming community, I have daily exposure to the agriculture labor force and some of the challenges rural and migrant families face," he said. "Those populations are such an important part of the fiber of our community and I would see it as part of my role to represent their interests on the school board."
Richards and his wife have three sons, Owen, 7, Royce, 4, and Connor, 1, and are expecting twins in the summer.
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