Races for Scappoose School Board highly contested
With the May 21 election less than two weeks away, the final push to engage with voters is underway.
In the race for to fill school board spots in the Scappoose School District, four positions are up for re-election, and the race to fill three of those roles has been highly contested as longtime board members face a new wave of challengers.
Voters are encouraged to mail ballots before Thursday, May 16, or drop them off at a ballot box. Ballots must be received before 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21.
Scappoose School Board
The race for the three contested positions on the school board has drawn attention from numerous organizations, community members, and even current school board members.
In Zone 1, incumbent Jim Hoag is running against Nikki Tetz.
Hoag, one of the longest serving school board members, has held his position since 1982. During a public forum in late April, Hoag noted how his years of experience on the school board and commitment to represent all members of the community make him a good choice for the board. Hoag also noted that his wife is a former school teacher, so he's familiar with the challenges educators face.
Tetz, who works in finance services, has two students in the school district, and has been involved in parent teacher organizations and leads a Girl Scout troop. Tetz has said she wants to be part of a new generation of parents and community members getting involved in the school board.
In Zone 6, incumbent Michelle Graham is running against Kevin Freimuth.
Graham has served on the school board since 2007 and worked as a nurse with Providence Health Services and had three children graduate from the school district. She advocates for making decisions on the school board that are best for all students in the district.
Freimuth, who works in business intelligence and service analytics, has two children at Grant Watts and two children who are not yet school age. Freimuth said he hopes to encourage greater parental involvement in the school district through his leadership on the board.
In Zone 7, incumbent Will Kessi is running against Steve Kreins.
Kessi, who has served on the school board since 2007, owns a local construction company. Kessi said he listens to all sides before making decisions, which makes him a fair member on the board. Additionally, at a time when the district is experiencing numerous administrative changes in the superintendent role and principal positions at two elementary schools, he said stability and experience are critical.
Kreins works for Union Pacific Railroad, and is the executive director for the nonprofit Oregon Operation Lifesaver, which promotes safety around rail lines. Kreins has two students in the district and is running on a platform of advocating for more parental involvement and greater transparency on the school board.
Branda Jurasek, who currently holds a board appointed role for Zone 2, is running uncontested for a full term on the school board. She was appointed last fall to fill a vacancy left by Angela Schillereff.
In the weeks leading up to the election, residents and community members have questioned whether or not the challengers were running on a slate due to the seeming proximity of promotional yard signs, but Kreins, Freimuth, and Tetz have denied those claims despite similarities in campaign marketing and that campaign supporters routinely promote the three candidates together.
Freimuth noted they were friends and had all spoken to one another about running for elected roles before the 2019 race where four seats on the board were up for reelection. Freimuth, Kreins, Tetz have been seen campaigning on the side of Highway 30 together. Via social media, current school board member Tim Brooks, who is not running for re-election, has noted his support for some of the challengers.
Notably, yard signs for Graham, Hoag and Kessi, have also appeared in proximity to one another throughout Scappoose. Political social media profiles for the three incumbents all feature somewhat similar graphics and short minute-long video clips with similar descriptions.
Four of the candidates — Freimuth, Hoag, Kreins and Tetz — have filed certificates of limited contributions and expenditures with the state. According to Oregon campaign finance law, candidates who expect to receive or spend more than the $750 reporting threshold, but less than $3,500, can file the certificate. Using the certificate, candidates must still record contributions and expenditures, including the monetary amount and donor, but those details are not publicly disclosed unless the total exceeds $3,500 in a calendar year.
Graham, Hoag and Kessi have all noted that their campaign has been self-funded, which is reflected in
state campaign finance records.
Freimuth, Kreins and Tetz have reported receiving in-kind donations and support for their campaigns. All three said their yard signs had been donated, and Freimuth and Kreins confirmed they were donated by the same individual. Tetz would not disclose the name of the donor. Freimuth, Kreins and Tetz have also paid for advertisements in the Spotlight newspaper.
St. Helens School District
The St. Helens School District has three board positions up for re-election and all candidates are running uncontested.
Melody Killens, in Position 2, has served from 1993 to 2005 and was re-elected in 2015 until present. Bill Amos, in Position 3, was elected in 2015 after serving being appointed to the board previously.
Ryan Scholl, who was appointed in September as a provisional board member for Position 5, filling a vacancy left by Jeff Howell, is running uncontested for an elected spot on the board. Scholl also served on the school district's budget committee, has two students in the district, and works as a probation officer.