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Crowded field of candidates running for Scappoose School Board ramp up campaign efforts

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - A series of campaign signs for school board newcomers Kevin Freimuth, Steve Kreins and Nikki Tetz appear in the yard of a Scappoose resident. Despite the proximity, the trio say they are not running in a block, but are supportive of one another in their campaigns for positions on the Scappoose School Board.UPDATED: The race for three open seats on the Scappoose School District board of directors is beginning to take shape as the election season gets going.

Four of the board's seven seats are up for re-election in late May, with only one position uncontested.

Candidates vying for the three open positions represent a variety of backgrounds, expertise, values and experience —traits that are defining the candidates' campaign strategies.

Endorsement signs for Nikki Tetz, Kevin Freimuth, and Steve Kreins, all newcomers, have been noticeably placed near one another in Scappoose residents' yards and street corners, but the candidates say they are not running together as a slate, or running on

the same platform, although they have some traits in common.

"We all know each other, and have overlapping views of what we'd like to see in the district," Kreins said.

Some of those traits include the campaign messaging of accountability, transparency, integrity and making teachers and students a top priority, Kreins explained.

"We all bring different things to the table from our background. They (Freimuth and Tetz) worked in financial and I'm heavily involved in safety," Kreins said. "We all stand for pretty much the same thing, which is why you probably see signs together."

Freimuth explained that he and Tetz have been friends for close to 25 years, and has also known Kreins for close to 20 years. Freimuth said he considered running for the school board several years ago and had discussed it with Tetz. Freimuth said he also discussed running for school board with Kreins about six months ago.

"We're all friends and we all know each other and support each other," Freimuth said.

Tetz noted that having community members ask about the placement of yard signs has been positive because it allows her to converse with people about the voting process, how board members are selected and what they do.

"It has been a good conversation with the community about how the school board runs," Tetz said.

"There's signs around town that are singular too," Freimuth added.

The three candidates said they have all received cash donations as well as in-kind donations, some of which have included the donation of yard signs, which bear similar design features.

The trio are hosting a "Meet the Candidates Happy Hour" from 4 to 6 p.m. on April 26 at The Pub, which is housed at Scappoose Bagel in Scappoose.

Earlier this week, the event was promoted by Parents' Rights in Education, through social media.

Parents' Rights in Education is a nonprofit, self-described as nonpartisan, that has taken firm stances on issues like getting rid of comprehensive sexuality education and promoting an "opt-in" for courses pertaining to sexual education and other controversial issues in health education.

The advocacy nonprofit has also taken a stance against school-based health centers, including one that was proposed for the Scappoose School District in 2016, which, in addition to a wide range of other health services provided to students, can provide access to reproductive health services. Parents' Rights in Education representatives recently attended a Scappoose School Board meeting in January where the board considered banning banning the book "George" by Alex Gino, which focuses on a transgender student, that was included in the 2018-19 Oregon Battle of the Books competition.

"Well we think it's important for people to take an interest in their local school board," said Suzanne Gallagher, Parents' Rights in Education's executive director, about promoting the forum. "We did attend the school board meeting where the votes took place for 'George' ... it was interesting to witness the dynamics and how shocked and energized the residents became when they witnessed that meeting."

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - A series of campaign signs for incumbent school board members Michelle Graham, Jim Hoag and Will Kessi appear in the yard of a Scappoose resident. Incumbents running for the school board

The three newcomers are facing off against a trio of veteran school board members: Jim Hoag, Will Kessi and Michelle Graham. Hoag has been on the school board since 1982, while Graham and Kessi have served since 2007.

Notably, this week a number of yard signs promoting the reelection of the current board members have also begun appearing in proximity to one another.

Kessi said the location of the signs is not a campaign strategy, but said all three of the incumbents are supportive of one another. In a sense, they represent a group of people who can be uniformly identified as current school board members, he added.

"We're all incumbents and we get along. People can assume what they want. We have different ideas. The signs are there because they're great spots," Kessi said.

He went on to add that while each board member has different viewpoints, "we all have experience, we all want to do what's right for kids from that standpoint."

"If you look back at our record and see, we're not antagonistic to each other," Kessi said.

Another candidate forum will be held next week at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, at the Scappoose Middle School. All candidates have been invited to the forum, which is being moderated by Marty Rowe of KOHI radio.

As of press time, only Kessi, Graham and Hoag have confirmed appearances at the forum.

Additionally, the Scappoose Education Association and the Scappoose Federation of Classified Employees are co-hosting a "Coffee with the Canididates" event from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28 at Scappoose High School in the cafeteria.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate when Will Kessi was elected to the school board. He has served for 12 years and was elected in 2007. The Spotlight regrets the error.


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