The newest member of the Sherwood School Board settles into the job

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - TAKING A BREAK - New Sherwood School Board member Patrick Allen, sitting outside Sherwood's Symposium Coffee, takes time to reflect on the new position that he added to a résumé that already includes running a state department, refereeing basketball and supporting the school district's band boosters.Patrick Allen, who is the newest member of the Sherwood School Board, was already busy running “the biggest state agency you’ve never heard of” plus volunteering in several capacities, so why did he decide to take on another activity?

For his day job, Allen works in Salem as the director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services; his volunteer activities include serving on the Sherwood Planning Commission for 12 years, chairing it for the past five years, until he joined the School Board on July 1. In addition, he served on the Clackamas County Commission on Children and Families; he is active in the Sherwood School District’s band boosters; and he referees high school basketball.

Allen said he ran (unopposed) for the School Board last spring “because I learned a lot getting into government work that I wanted to share.”

He added, “One of the things I can bring to the table is that I run a large, complex organization, and while a school district is different from a state agency, there are similarities.”

Sherwood residents for the past 16 years, Patrick and his wife Joan have three children - Caitlin, 18, who is a freshman at Oregon State University; Sean, 15, a sophomore at Sherwood High School; and Megan, 14, an eighth-grader at Laurel Ridge Middle School.

“Sherwood is a good place to be a kid in school or be an education leader or be a teacher,” Allen said. “At first, as our kids went through school, I though we were lucky because they have hardly had a teacher who wasn’t stellar, but then we realized that is the norm.

“As we move into the Common Core world with the focus on educational standards, I want to make sure we don’t get into a world where we just focus on reading and math test scores. Education is also about art and metalwork and other areas where there aren’t standardized measures attached to them.

“Kids are figuring out what they want to do after high school, and Sherwood has done a great job of offering band, PE, arts and other programs. What my kids have benefitted from is a great education not due to luck but to hard choices, and I look at this as my opportunity to carry on that hard work.”

Allen believes that a key priority for schools is “to teach kids how to learn and be critical thinkers,” especially when compared to a century ago, when students were taught to memorize facts, “and there were fewer facts to learn.”

Allen added, “Now there is so much more to learn – our world has just expanded exponentially.”

The lifelong Oregonian was born and raised in Northeast Portland and graduated from Grant High School. Allen majored in economics at OSU and then worked in the banking industry for 10 years before starting public service.

“I worked on the Congressional staff for Mike Kopetski for three years in the early ‘90s,” Allen said of the Democrat who served in the Oregon House of Representatives 1985-88 and then defeated Denny Smith in 1990 to represent Oregon’s 5th Congressional District from 1991-95.

In 1994 Allen went to work for the state Economic Development Department for 10 years where he managed small-business support programs.

Next he moved to the Department of Consumer and Business Services, which is Oregon’s largest consumer protection and business regulatory agency. With 900 employees and a $400 million annual budget, it includes such programs as building codes, finance and corporate securities, insurance, occupational, and safety and health (OSHA), senior health insurance benefits and workers’ compensation.

Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed Allen to a position created to streamline business regulations in state agencies, which he did for four years before heading up the Building Codes Division for three years; almost two years ago, Allen was appointed to be the director of the entire department.

“We are involved in so many things – from healthcare reform to energy efficiency and global warming to mortgage foreclosure to workers’ compensation insurance and worker safety,” said Allen, adding that the secret to managing such a big department is “really good people” around him.

Allen wryly noted that one of the perks of being a School Board member is a free pass to all sports events in the Northwest Oregon Conference, but “as a referee for high school basketball around the region, I already go to a lot of games,” he said.

In the meantime, “it’s going to be a great school year, and I’m hopeful we won’t continue to see huge budget cuts,” Allen said.

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