Q&A: Sherwood School Board candidates
The Sherwood School District has three seats on its board of directors up for election on May 18.
Two incumbents, in Position 2 and Position 4, have filed for re-election. Both have drawn opponents, with a three-way race for Position 2 and a two-way race for Position 4. Three candidates filed for an open seat, Position 3, but Vince Habeck told The Times he will not be "actively running."
All other candidates responded to questions from The Times. Those responses are presented below, with only light editing for grammar and style.
Why did you decide to run for the position?
Eric Campbell, Position 2: In uncertain times, I believe my experience as a board member for the last nine years will help our district navigate the ambiguities introduced by the pandemic. My in-depth understanding of our budget forecasting will be valuable as we evaluate enrollment fluctuations and state funding adjustments during the legislative session.
In Sherwood, our long-term approach to budgeting has allowed us to avoid dramatic cuts while forcing us to only make the strategic, purposeful investments that maximize student outcomes. Due to the pandemic, we were compelled to try several new strategies and technologies to meet the needs of students (e.g. online campus, flexible schedules). I believe some of these approaches align with our existing, proven methodologies and could potentially enhance the outcomes for many students.
Janice Hayes, Position 2: I am an educator at heart. My years as a teacher and administrator in South Carolina, Georgia and Oregon have given me a broad understanding of the many challenges educational systems face today. I know education and understand the need to coordinate all aspects of an educational system to produce the best experience for students.
Over the last decade I have worked as a financial advisor. My professional life revolves around financial services and has developed within me a profound respect for fiscal responsibility. I am comfortable in the world of money and budgetary responsibility.
As a parent whose children have benefited from the Sherwood educational system, I feel it is time for me to give back. My history, education and experience make me uniquely qualified to lead our community in the next chapter of education in Sherwood. I will be proud to serve as a member of the Sherwood School Board.
Krista Thorne, Position 2: I am a working mom of two kids and I have personally experienced the stress and turmoil that has resulted from the decisions of our current board. Our kids have fallen behind. They need our advocacy. We need to reopen our schools full-time for those that want it and resume extra-curricular activities.
We need a curriculum that supports our kids to compete with students who have been in classrooms this past school year by reinforcing grade-level skills. In recent years Oregon has been among the lowest in graduation rates. We must get our kids back on track.
Our school board must engage proactively and regularly with parents and seek input so that we can work together to provide the resources needed to set up our children for success. Parents should have a say in what goes on in our schools and should be allowed to advocate for their kids.
James Grothe, Position 3: I have spent the last seven years volunteering my time to help in various roles for the district. I felt this was a good time to step up and put that experience to work by running for the board. I do have some concerns about the district's references to politics and addressing social issues. Political and social agendas should have absolutely no place in our schools, right or left. I want to say that I have great respect and appreciation for our board and all of their hard work. They have faced some huge challenges over the past several years. I think they want the best for our kids, and I would gladly work with any of them towards that end, but I also feel we need to have a greater diversity of opinion and more board members with children still in the district.
Abby Hawkins, Position 3: I have always had a heart for working with children and have dedicated many hours to organizations that improve their wellbeing, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sherwood 4 Kids Sake and the Sherwood Education Foundation. I am passionate about all students receiving a fair and balanced education and would like to bring a fresh voice to the Sherwood School Board. I have children in both elementary and middle school and will be a part of this district for many years to come. I am hopeful I can use my listening skills, ability to mediate, and empathic communication to this board while making meaningful improvements for students and families in this community. A vote for me is a vote for your student. I promise to be a voice for them on our school board.
Patrick Allen, Position 4: Sherwood is a great place in no small part because we have great schools. We have one of the highest graduation rates in the state, we have award-winning arts programs, we have state-of-the-art career and technical education, and we have parents and teachers who care. We've been through a lot this past year. We know that distance learning didn't work for many of our kids and families. But we also learned that school before the pandemic also didn't work for some of our kids and families. As we come back to our buildings, I want to continue on the school board to help ensure that 'getting back to normal" doesn't necessarily mean "going back to the way we always did it." We have a great opportunity to re-imagine what successful and rewarding education looks like for all our kids, and I'd like to be a part of making that happen.
Duncan Nyong'oro, Position 4: I decided to run because I want to be a voice for all kids in our community. As a person of color raising biracial children in our community, I feel it is important to ensure all kids are receiving equal education and opportunities.
My opponent, Pat Allen, spends his time focused on Kate Brown's agenda as her handpicked director of the Oregon Health Authority. I think there is potential conflict of interest on the school board since Pat's first allegiance is to his superior, Kate Brown, not our kids. This become more obvious since Pat Allen and Kate Brown are responsible for Oregon being the second to last state in the nation to return kids to school. We need a regular parent on the school board, not someone with a political agenda.
How would you improve student education?
Eric Campbell: During my nine years on the board, the district has made focused, purposeful investments to produce some of the highest student achievement outcomes and high school graduation rates in the state. In the last 15 years, we have seen the introduction of smartphones, cloud computing, machine learning, and 5G. Information and technology are no longer changing; it is accelerating. We need to continue to emphasize critical thinking over memorization in all subjects.
I'm also a strong believer that a high-quality education is more than test scores. We need to make it easier for students to pursue outstanding opportunities in our non-core subject areas such as the arts (e.g. music, visual, literature), sports, shop, and technology. We also need to continue the extremely important mental health work that we initiated to help kids deal with stress and anxiety.
Janice Hayes: For the last 16 years, my family has been blessed to live in Sherwood. My children have benefitted immensely from the education they have received in the Sherwood School District. However, like any community in America, we have students who fall between the cracks. These include children in the gray area: less gifted than the majority of the population but not identified as special needs. It includes students who struggle to cope with challenges unique to their own life circumstance. Some students simply have greater life struggles then others. If we could bring greater focus to this population, it could make a huge difference. We need to do what we can to make all children successful. As a previous educator, I may not have been able to save every child. As a board member, I would work to keep the needs of these groups in focus.
Krista Thorne: As a board member for the Sherwood School District, my priorities will be:
• Restore full-time in person instruction for those who want it as well as extracurricular activities.
• A strong focus on providing the support needed to catch up our kids who have fallen behind.
• Keeping politics out of our school board and schools.
• Keep academics free of politically driven topics that are not educational.
• Keeping our schools safe by retaining and adding school resource officers.
James Grothe: Being a board member should be about listening, providing guidance, approving budgets and setting the overarching direction for the district rather than getting into the weeds with lots of changes. With that said, I think we need to be looking at ways to bring up the education level/experience for ALL students. When was the last time we looked at the TAG program or something similar to find ways we can push and challenge our best and brightest? I know there are kids who are falling behind that need help too. Are we looking at schools/districts/states who are consistently ranked high for education in our country? What can we learn from them? How do we help support high school students who may not be interested in higher education and need to be prepared for the workforce? I want to be part of a board looking for continual improvement of our schools.
Abby Hawkins: If I am being completely honest, I do not have an agenda coming into this election. I am not running because I have a list of changes I already want to make. My children have been served very well by this school district and we have had very few complaints. However, I know that is not the case for all students and families. Every district has room to grow and make positive changes. If elected, I would love to hear from students and parents to learn about their experiences and challenges. I would also like to observe students in the classroom, as well as during their social interactions throughout the building. I believe I could learn a lot by listening to this community which would help me improve student education.
Patrick Allen: We need to make sure our schools offer what all kids need. We've already invested a lot in career education in Sherwood, creating real opportunities for students after graduation. We need to take advantage of the new spaces we've created thanks to the voter approved bond measure to expand those programs into younger grades. We've launched a dual language immersion Spanish/English program at Hawks View, a proven tool to improve the academic performance of all students. The program is smaller than I'd like, and we need to expand it. We need to continue our focus on attendance and connectedness to school. Studies show being there really matters, and that shows up in our graduation rates. And we need to continue to expand our class offerings, building on our best-in-the-state record of providing dual-credit courses.
Duncan Nyong'oro: I would start by getting our schools back to fundamental education. I would like to see less politics in our schools and focus more on what matters most, our children and their education. Children should go to school to learn how to think, not what to think.
What should the board focus on when it comes to students adjusting back to in-person learning during the pandemic?
Eric Campbell: The one thing that we learned from this pandemic is that is it unpredictable. All plans have to be flexible because our understanding of this virus is constantly evolving. As a board member, I continuously listened to experts and all viewpoints within our community so we could safely re-open our schools together. As a result, Sherwood was one of the first Metro districts to re-open while maximizing in-person learning time.
As our students return to in-person learning, I believe that we need to continue the essential work that we started with addressing the mental health needs of all kids. We also need to work on solutions that address the potential "learning lost" that some kids encountered during the pandemic.
Janice Hayes: During the year of Covid, I have listened to parents discuss the many struggles their children are experiencing. I have directly witnessed students suffering emotionally and psychologically. If we are to be successful addressing students' academic needs, we must first acknowledge and address their emotional needs. Throughout the pandemic, I have made a conscientious effort to reach out to children in our community through events and activities to give them the opportunity to view "normal" again. As a board member, I will diligently ensure that the new face of in person learning preserve and retain the face of "normal" that has historically provided the bedrock foundation that allows students to focus on moving forward in their development and education. Normal activities include social, athletic, artistic, musical, and other extracurricular events.
Krista Thorne: Our kids need to be in classrooms. Our school district has had over a year to plan for reopening our schools. The CDC, the W.H.O., and countless experts have said multiple times that based on a scientific research our kids should be in classrooms and that is was safe to do so.
Oregon daycares, private schools and colleges are open full-time, but our school board continues to shut out our children. Meanwhile, mental health emergency department visits have increased significantly among our youth.
For those families who want it, we should continue to offer distance learning and find ways to improve that experience. Bottom line is our kids need action, not excuses.
James Grothe: First, I want to see every child back in the classroom this fall. Second, I believe the greatest challenge our children and teachers will face, in the next year, is the massive discrepancy in what has been learned over the past year and how far behind students have gotten. Some students have held their own during these challenging times, while many others have had significant deficiencies in their learning for a whole variety of reasons. The board will need to help provide the support and guidance to get kids back on track as quickly as possible. Lastly, I feel the board will also need to make sure there is support to handle the mental health challenges our students have and will face in the next year. There is a lot going on for students outside of basic academics and I don't want to see anyone slip between the cracks.
Abby Hawkins: I think the board should focus on bringing back a sense of normalcy to students and families. I understand this new normal may look different; however, our students need to return to regular instruction and social/emotional interactions. There are many states across the country that have successfully been in person since last fall who can serve as a guiding example and help us maintain student and staff safety.
Additionally, schools need to focus on assessing where students are at academically and finding opportunities to reteach concepts that were missed through distance learning. I know my children have some gaps in their learning, primarily in math. Math skills build on each other and need to be understood to have future success in math. This will be a challenging task for teachers. We need to help make sure there are supports in place to help aid in this process.
Patrick Allen: A couple things. While some kids have thrived in a distance learning environment, many have fallen behind. We need to focus on using new resources to provide really robust summer learning opportunities, far richer and more rigorous than our traditional "Summer Academy." Kids are resilient, and can bounce back from a lot of challenges, but it's up to us to provide the learning opportunities they need to make that happen. Second, we need to focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of our kids. They've been through a lot this year. Fortunately, we have new investments for behavioral health staff to help kids adjust, reacclimate themselves, and address that trauma, either recent, or ongoing. For some, school is a place where kids are able to call out for help and get connected to resources or treatment.
Duncan Nyong'oro: Focus on the kids, plain and simple. All kids deserve to be back to full-time in-person learning. Recess, lunch and after-school activities need to be available to the kids as well.
What do you see as the major issues facing the Sherwood School District?
Eric Campbell: As a 20+ year Sherwood resident, I'm ecstatic that, "school overcrowding" is (finally) not on the list for the first time in this century. I've very proud to say that our bond projects were delivered on-time and on-budget. With that said, the pandemic has created some issues and opportunities. The first issue is the budget impact. As an experienced board member and engineer, I strongly believe that I minimize the ambiguities introduced by enrollment fluctuations, increased pandemic costs, school funding formula adjustments, and uncertainty of a legislative session.
On the plus side, we also need to reflect on some of the pandemic-related changes that could have significant benefits for students (e.g. cloud campus, flexible schedules). I also believe that we need to examine the college/career pathways so our students can have a smoother post-graduation transition.
Janice Hayes: During my years as a teacher, and later as an administrator, I learned that the restart of every school year brought a fresh set of challenges. The restart our district faces now will be like no other. Nearly overlooked by the constant whiplash of news, starts, stops and anxiety caused by the pandemic is the fact that virtually every student, teacher, staff member and administrator in our district will be operating from a new location. Kids have been out of school for an entire year. Nothing is as it was before. We will face many challenges. No one is immune from the challenges brought by a restart such as this. Students, staff, faculty and administrators: all will be tested by the unique times about to come. The board must recognize the significance of the challenges ahead and be prepared to respond imaginatively and decisively. New challenges require new solutions.
Krista Thorne: Oregon is second to last in reopening our schools, and Sherwood is certainly not leading the pack in Oregon. We must educate our kids again.
Many parents do not have the time or resources to educate their kids at home or help them through distance learning. If we do not resolve this crisis our kids will suffer the consequences their entire lifetimes.
Our next step must be to focus on catching up our kids who have fallen behind. We need to focus on the core functions of our schools, including curriculum that reinforces the essentials that have been neglected.
We also need a school board that is transparent and informs parents proactively of what is going on in education. All parents should have a voice. Our parents should know what is happening before it happens so that their voices can be heard.
James Grothe: The pandemic is the obvious answer, but I have another concern. I am fearful that we risk further dividing our community when, over the past year, emails have gone out from the district with references to voting a certain way, comments about white supremacy in schools and resolutions about racism. Given the tension this creates and the fact that so many kids are out of school right now, is this the best focus? There is a long-term "Strategic Plan", but what exactly are the short-term goals of the board? Where are things headed this next year? Perhaps the district should consider a communications director to help coordinate and get key information out to the community and be available for emergencies. When there is a lot of conflict, confusion and disagreement going on, we need to see the board focused on clearly communicating and showing us the way forward.
Abby Hawkins: Sadly, I think the biggest issue facing the Sherwood School Board right now is the giant divide in our community. I have watched the virtual board meetings and paid close attention to the conversation happening amongst community members. At the end of the day, I believe we all care a lot about students, and we need to find a way to unify our community with our common goals rather than focus on the ideas and opinions that make us different. My goal will be to hear both perspectives and help us find a way to achieve that common ground.
Secondly, I think the board must learn to communicate better with the community. They are not used to being under a microscope to the degree they were this year. Community members watching do not always understand all the inner workings of the board. Improvement in this area would encourage cohesion.
Patrick Allen: First, in Sherwood, it's always about growth and enrollment. This year, that's compounded by unpredictability in our enrollment. Some kids have transferred into the district, others have transferred out. Some have found distance learning works for them and want to continue. This makes it hard to forecast our enrollment, which has a direct impact on things like budgets, and staffing. Second is student mental health. We were facing a crisis in Oregon, around student mental health. We've had increasing experiences with "room clears." Staff have told me that kids physically acting out has increased dramatically. And that was before the pandemic. We've made great strides in Sherwood, with things like creating "Green Rooms" in our elementary schools, and building up our behavioral health staff, but we need to take new state investments and do even more to drive to meet our kids' mental health needs.
Duncan Nyong'oro: The lack of full-time in person learning is a major issue, and I refuse to stand by and watch our kids suffer any longer. We need to be their voice, loud and clear. Our kids deserve five full days of school. Our kids deserve to play sports and have their loved ones cheer them on from the sidelines. No more shutting kids out of schools and sports and no more excessive restrictions on sports and spectators.
What skills or experiences have prepared you to serve in this role?
Eric Campbell: In addition to my nine years on the School Board, I believe my experiences as a first-generation college graduate, a long-time volunteer in our community, an engineer in the high-tech industry, and a college advisory board member have given me a unique view of our education system. When I paid my way through college by working construction jobs, I learned the value of hard work and saw the plethora of living-wage jobs that do not require a college degree. When I volunteered in the classroom, organized robotics tournaments, served as CubMaster (Scouts), and supported various STEM/CTE projects within the district, I saw the commitment from parents, teachers, and community members to work together for the greater good of all kids. As an engineer, I understand the impact of new technologies and the elegance of creative solutions made possible by a well-rounded education.
Janice Hayes: My skills and experiences have prepared me well for a position on the Sherwood School Board.
My educational background includes:
• Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Clemson University.
• Master of Arts degree in School Administration from Furman University.
• Certification as Specialist in Education from the University of South Carolina.
My work experiences include:
• Seven years teaching in school districts in Georgia and South Carolina.
• Five years in school administration in South Carolina.
• Four years in both teaching and administrative roles in the Sherwood and Beaverton school districts in Oregon.
For the last 11 years, I have been a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones.
Krista Thorne: As a working mom of kids in the Sherwood School District, I have a vested interest in helping to make Sherwood schools the best place for our kids.
I understand the value of a proactive connection through consistent engagement with the community. The input from parents is essential when determining the support our kids need. All parents should have a voice when it comes to what goes on in our schools, and I will prioritize the board having a proactive approach with the community versus a reactive approach. This is especially important when it comes to new curriculum requirements from the State and safety in our schools.
I value the input of fellow parents and I'm never afraid to have the tough conversations that are needed to find that common ground and do what is best for our kids and our community. Our kids must come first.
James Grothe: In 2014, I served on the Edy Ridge Site Council to begin my volunteer work within the district. Later that year, I served on the Boundary Committee in what was a very contentious time with significant overcrowding going on. In 2016, I led the campaign for our school bond, as chairman. This was our opportunity to build a new high school and improve our school infrastructure and curriculum. After the campaign concluded, I was part of the Bond Oversight Committee to help ensure projects stayed within budget. I have also spent the past nine years coaching soccer in Sherwood, both for Sherwood Soccer and Westside Timbers. I currently manage the Youth Development Program for Westside Timbers. I served on the Sherwood Soccer board and a 500-home HOA. I am also a business owner. I hope to put all of this experience and leadership to work on our School Board.
Abby Hawkins: I have two separate skill sets that have prepared me for a role on the board. First, I have a background as a mental health therapist and school counselor. My understanding of child development can help guide my thought process when discussing appropriate curriculum choices. I am also trained to listen and can hear perspectives other than my own to help make decisions that impact our students.
Furthermore, I have managed the finances for our business for the last decade. I can evaluate a budget, often seeing ways to rearrange spending more efficiently. I have realized that my natural organization and ability to multitask effectively suits the needs of an office environment quite well. The school board must make business decisions, and I can do that while keeping students' needs my utmost priority.
Patrick Allen: Our three kids grew up in and graduated from Sherwood schools. We've been active volunteers every step of the way, from in their elementary classrooms, to moving the chains at football games, to being "band parents," to fundraising. We've experienced great teachers and had the occasional frustration of ones that weren't so great. I've been a volunteer in Sherwood virtually since the day we moved here 23 years ago, serving on the Planning Commission, Urban Renewal Policy Advisory Committee and the Robin Hood Festival, to name a few. I've learned how to listen to the community, voices that are loud and ones that are soft. I've learned how to work with people I sometimes disagree with, because we're all here for what's best for our kids and our community. In the end, the work of this board is about ensuring we do what's best for kids first and always.
Duncan Nyong'oro: As an auditor, I am looking forward to reviewing and gathering the data necessary to make informed decisions to improve all aspects of the district and make sure resources are being used efficiently. A big part of my work is collaborating and working with others to identify problems and find solutions to those problems. Also, being a parent myself and wanting what is best for our kids, I am motivated to be the change they need. We need parents on the board to fill these roles, those who have children currently attending Sherwood schools.
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