Q&A: Candidates for Tigard-Tualatin School Board
On May 18, voters in the Tigard-Tualatin School District will choose the newest three members of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board.
Incumbents Sharon Fox in Position 1, Karen Emerson in Position 3 and longtime Chair Maureen Wolf in Position 5 are not seeking new four-year terms.
Three candidates have filed for Position 1, two for Position 3 and one for Position 5. The Times reached out to all six candidates with a list of questions. Their full responses, lightly edited for grammar and clarity, are presented below.
Why did you decide to run for the position?
David Jaimes, Position 1: I feel that marginalized students of color in our district deserve representation within our school board. I also believe that our community deserves a director who will make equitable decisions for the benefit of all students. The TTSD mission is to educate every child, well it's time that we also have representation for every child.
Donna Kreitzberg, Position 1: Now that I am retiring from my business, and after seeing the interruption to students caused by COVID, I want to bring my business experience to the school board to help the schools recover and the students transition back to full time in-person education.
Amy Zuckerman, Position 1: TTSD needs a fresh voice to provide alternative perspectives on the education system.
Octavio Gonzalez, Position 3: I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in Southern California by migrant parents. As I pick up my children from school, I observe dynamics and hear conversations being translated by children for their parents and I am quickly reminded of my own childhood journey. I remember translating for my parents at the doctor's office and grocery store, and the stress of making ends meet. I know firsthand these struggles and how they affect family dynamics and education.
I am running for Tigard-Tualatin School Board position to lend a new voice, add much needed representation for our growing community, and to bridge the gap for our at-risk children. Having lived these challenges myself, I understand the struggles and can use my experiences to connect to the community.
Tristan Kira Irvin, Position 3: I have been in the arena of public service for many years. There are always issues and ideas that need work, and it is our responsibility to engage where and when we can. In the last 10 years, I have broadened my involvement in the community.
My breadth of service speaks to my commitment to our school district. As an educator, my passion lies in child and education-centered dialogue/policy/action. As a school board member, I will be dedicated to amplifying student voices and creating space for important but difficult conversations.
We have critical issues regarding anti-racism in our schools that need attention and awareness, as well as issues that affect our LGBTQIA2s+ students and students who identify as female, and I want to make certain those concerns are being addressed.
Marvin Lynn, Position 5: I've been a parent in the district for the last four years. I expect to continue being a parent in the district for at least another six years. I care about the district and its future.
My son, Kwabena, is a sophomore at the University of Oregon. He is on an academic scholarship and he also runs track for the university. He graduated near the top of his class from Tualatin and was a state champion in track.
My son, Naasei, is currently a sophomore at Tualatin High and has been recognized by the School Board for his leadership. He serves as a member of Tigard Tualatin Student Union and is an officer in the Associated Student Body at Tualatin. He also is a star player on the JV football team.
My son, Sidney, is attending middle school at St. Anthony's Catholic School and plans to attend Tualatin High School to take advantage of the rich academic and athletic opportunities.
I believe parents must be involved at all levels in schools. I care deeply about the overall direction of the district and look forward to being engaged at a high level. In the past, my professional responsibilities did not make it possible for me to serve. I am stepping back from the dean role this year to go back to a faculty role where I will be focused on research and teaching. As a result, I will have more time to devote to school district matters.
I'm excited to announce that I have already received 18 different endorsements that include the following:
• Bridget M. Brooks, MSW, City Councilor, City of Tualatin
• Margaret Doherty, former member of the Oregon House of Representatives
• Maureen Wolf, TTSD Board Member
• Ben Bowman, TTSD Board Member
• Mayor Ken Gibson, King City
• Councilor Kate Mohr, King City
• Council President Jaimie Fender of King City
• Mayor Jason Snider, the City of Tigard
• Rep. Dacia Grayber
• Rep. Courtney Neron
• Rep. Rachel Prusak
• Sen. Rob Wagner
• Stand for Children
• Tigard-Tualatin Student Union
• Washington County Democrats
How would you improve student education?
David Jaimes: I would improve student education by working with the curriculum director to ensure that our curriculum adoption process involves students and parents that have been routinely marginalized. We also need to improve our Talented and Gifted program. This program needs to be revamped and we need to listen to the parents that are advocating for changes in the program.
I would also advocate for budgets that are student centered, which means that we would hire and purchase only people and curriculum that would directly benefit students.
Donna Kreitzberg: I would improve student education by bringing in bosses and workers from local businesses to share with the students what skills are needed for different types of jobs, and which classes these folks liked best and which classes they feel best prepared them for success in their career. My goal would be to show the students the connection between what they are learning in the classroom and how they can use those skills and knowledge when they get a job. My hope is that students will relate to the speakers' experience and get excited about learning — realizing how learning will directly benefit them in their future lives and careers.
Amy Zuckerman: We have district administrators and teachers to provide their expertise. We need effective translation between the world of education and parents in our community. I can provide that bridge as a Tigard-Tualatin School District parent.
Octavio Gonzalez: Engagement is key to helping build a brighter future for our children. I will provide a much-needed boost in community representation and cultural perspective at the policy level. I believe in collaboration at every level to connect all families and the community together to build stronger relationships and understanding, especially to our most at-risk students. It's time to match the changing demographic of the district. It is critically important to have staff representation from different ethnicities to build an inclusive learning environment.
Given my personal background and childhood challenges, I will introduce our community with a bi-cultural perspective how best to reach our growing LatinX community, and to help bring awareness to available resources to all families for their children, and education.
Tristan Kira Irvin: I believe that we need to look at three prongs of education improvements. The first is to re-examine the current curriculum. We need to look through our Language Arts, Science and Social Studies resources through the lens of equity and anti-racism and then make necessary improvements. This effort will require acute awareness of how the current curriculum is experienced by students, and the collaboration of a range of educators and culturally responsive partners in order to get it right. Secondly, we need to look at the anti-racist work that has begun (thanks in large part to the Tigard Tualatin Student Union) and turn those policies into action that is felt, seen, and heard at the student-level. Finally, we need to acknowledge, invite, and amplify student voices. We need to listen to their experiences, ideas, and feedback as we discuss the issues that directly impact them.
Marvin Lynn: As a person with a strong background in the area of racial equity, I truly believe if we continue to strengthen our focus in this area, we will improve education for all. I would begin with a focus eliminating disparities in academic success between differently situated groups in the district. I would start with taking a closer look at the district's equity pillars and the strategic plan. I would want to ensure that we have clear and measurable goals that are clearly connecting to advancing student achievement across the board. I would look closely at curriculum, teaching, and policy.
First, I'd work to ensure that the curriculum is reflective of the experiences of all students and conforms to state and national guidelines. Next, I would work with the district to ensure that teachers had the support needed to differentiate instruction effectively for all learners while drawing on the best practices for developing practices that are culturally sustaining and inclusive. Third, I would help the district participate in an equity audit to determine how district and school policies are helping to advance the district's equity goals. Recommendations would be made to address equity concerns.
What should the board focus on when it comes to students adjusting back to in-person learning during the pandemic?
David Jaimes: The board should continue to partner with the Tigard-Tualatin Student Union and ensure that we eliminate the pay to play fees. In addition, we should continue to check in on the district work of ensuring that the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines are met and that they are working to follow OSHA, OHA and CDC guidelines. Social distancing will be very important to ensure that we can keep our students safe. Tigard-Tualatin has a great plan for social distancing, contact tracing, and responding to positive COVID cases.
Donna Kreitzberg: Some students may have faced significant hurdles while learning from home, such as lack of internet, lack of help with homework, lack of a quiet, safe environment, or lack of motivation. To remedy this, I think the board should recommend that the budget allocate some money to fund resources for "catch up time": To any student who has fallen behind, additional teacher time, during class or after school, will be provided to help the student get back on track and feel confident in their ability to succeed.
Amy Zuckerman: Each student in our community deserves a quality education. I will work to remove the obstacles in place, including working towards reducing classroom sizes to support both our educators and students.
Octavio Gonzalez: As families move back to in-person learning, there will be significant learning gaps for the children. There needs to be an emphasis on mental and emotional health support and resources for students and families. We need to explore where and how to funds these resources. Work must be done to facilitate academic equality and minimize the gaps in both student achievement and graduation rate caused by economic distress. Data indicates children of color were disproportionately affected by the switch to a distance learning curriculum caused by pandemic.
Tristan Kira Irvin: As a teacher and parent, I know what a nuanced, personal, and complicated topic this is. Ultimately, we all want the same thing — kids safely back in school. As a board, we need to focus on science, and guidelines given by the CDC and ODE. We must also take into serious consideration the concerns from the TTEA, parents, and community partners. At the same time, the board must see that schools are provided ample support which includes increased access to mental health professionals, counselors, special education resources, social workers, and culturally responsive partners. This year has been traumatic for many of our students, families, and teachers. If we want everyone safely back in schools, we need to prioritize mental health and social skills in tandem with academic learning.
Marvin Lynn: The board will need to work with the superintendent to ensure that the schools are prepared for the safe return of all students. We will have to ensure that district processes and guidelines align with Oregon Department of Education guidelines and follow best practices recommended by the CDC.
I believe that board members can advocate with the legislature, the governor's office and others to ensure that students and families have access to vaccines as they become available. The board will need to continue to work closely with unions to ensure that practices in schools are reflective of the agreements made.
What do you see as the major issues facing the Tigard-Tualatin School District?
David Jaimes: The major issues facing the Tigard-Tualatin School District are ensuring that students are kept safe; that students get caught up to grade level expectations; in addition, continue to ensure that they are working towards closing the educational opportunity gap that has widen with the inequities that have been magnified by this pandemic.
Donna Kreitzberg: The main issue facing the Tigard-Tualatin School District is to safely re-open the schools and allow students to return to in-person instruction from their teachers five days per week. The next issue is to ensure students achieve their full potential while in school and after graduation by focusing the curriculum on reading, writing, science and arithmetic, with opportunities to learn the trades, art and music. An equally important issue is to promote open discussion among students and teachers by allowing the students to voice their opinions without fear of being bullied and silenced.
Amy Zuckerman: The top issues facing TTSD are returning students to classrooms full-time, finding effective solutions to support teachers and addressing a disproportionate decline in enrollment, 7% in the last year.
Octavio Gonzalez: Returning to full-day school, full-time, as quickly and safely as possible. Summer school should be offered at all level to help ramp up kids prepares as they transition to full time in person education. The unfortunate reality is many of our children simply are not prepared to function independently until well after high school graduation. Many of the challenges our young adults face includes, the high cost of living in our community, tuition hikes, and fewer programs available.
I will prioritize preparing our graduates for young-adulthood, and the myriad of demands which accompany it. Such as partnering with local businesses for apprenticeship programs which could give students a taste of various careers/vocations and provide opportunities for exploration and career learning pathways. Explore the idea of money management and credit education classes — learning financial independence practices have a positive, long-lasting impact. And reimagine dual credit programs for a head start in college courses.
Tristan Kira Irvin: (The following:)
• Continuing its critical and necessary work with diversity, equity, and inclusion
• Supporting our LGBTQIA2s+ students
• Increasing funding for culturally-responsive partners/advocates, counselors, and
mental health professionals in schools
• Getting safely and effectively back to in-person learning
Marvin Lynn: (The following:)
1. Setting and achieving clear equity goals that positively impact all students,
2. Addressing the needs of underserved students while meeting the needs of well-resourced students and families, and
3. Maintaining a high morale among educators.
I would work with the district to evaluate and refine its equity goals. In addition, I would be a strong advocate for gifted and talented, dual enrollment and other programs designed to address the needs of academically talented students while ensuring that those opportunities are available to all students. I would also support efforts to increase compensation for teachers.
What skills or experiences have prepared you to serve in this role?
David Jaimes: I am a community member, TTSD parent, and educator who is passionate about our school district. In combination with my training and experience as an educator, my background in business and finance provides me with a unique perspective to utilize for fiscally responsible decision making.
Donna Kreitzberg: I have years of accounting, finance and legal business experience. I applied that knowledge to write a book about accounting and used that book to teach construction contractors who needed to meet their educational requirements for licensing with the State of Oregon. I have also written a book about the history and philosophies leading up to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. I have used my books, and the University of Chicago Junior Great Books, to teach afterschool classes to students.
I will bring my professional business and legal knowledge, coupled with my love of writing and teaching, to assist the school board in negotiating budget, employment and curriculum matters.
Amy Zuckerman: My 25+ years of professional Human Resources and customer support experience along with my history of community involvement including PTA and fundraising for my children's schools provide me with the knowledge and relationships critical to this watershed moment in TTSD schools.
Octavio Gonzalez: I am one of nine voting members on the Tigard-Tualatin School District Budget Committee and was a committee member for the "No Place for Hate" campaign at Bridgeport Elementary. Having owned my own business, I am a strong believer in fiduciary responsibility, wise planning, and realistic budgeting. Currently, I am an HOA Account Manager and oversee HOA communities consisting of 9,000+ individual homes, working with 39 community-elected Boards to build a community plan that has lasting effects on property value, and HOA fees. I am bilingual and bi-cultural and have the unique ability to bring communities together. I will use these strengths to lend a new voice to our growing community, connect our students with resources for quality education, bridge the gap for our at-risk children, and add much needed representation for our community. Experience is a very personal one. While my background, identity, and upbringing represent some, I can't claim to understand the life experiences of the myriad of group who have felt marginalized. Having lived these challenges myself, I understand the struggles and can use my experiences to connect to the community.
Tristan Kira Irvin: As a teacher, parent, and community member, I have witnessed and experienced many of the issues facing our students and teachers. My experience as the PSO president for Durham Elementary School, the current Board President for the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools, a Board Member for the City of Tigard Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, a Board Member for the Washington County Family Justice Center, and team leader for Packed With Pride have provided invaluable insight into our community. The work that has had the most impact on me, and has given me the most insight into our students and district, was serving on several committees for the Student Success Act including planning, budget, and Diversity/Equity/Inclusion. I will work to ensure that our district increases its awareness and shows in action the resolutions and policies that have been written in regards to our BIPOC* and LGBTQIA2s+ students.
*I use this term not as shorthand, but to make sure it encompasses our Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Chuukese, and Indigenous/Native families.
Marvin Lynn: I have an extensive background as an educator. I have served as an elementary school teacher, a full-time professor and administrator for the last 28 years. I have a deep understanding of curriculum, teaching, and educational policy. As an administrator, I have successfully managed budgets. Additionally, I have served on a number of important committees across the nation, state, and region. I have fostered strong relationships with state education leaders. Additionally, I am an expert on racial equity. I can help strengthen the district's focus in this important area and help to alleviate existing educational gaps between different groups of students.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.