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Noemi Legaspi was approved to fill the seat vacated by Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez

COURTESY PHOTO - Newly appointed Woodburn School Board member Noemi Legaspi cites her two daughters - Liana (left) and Isabel - as a big part of her motivation to apply for the position and stay involved in the community.The Woodburn School Board is once again full after board members made a decision on Dec. 6 to appoint Noemi Legaspi to their ranks.

Legaspi will fill the seat vacated by Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez, who resigned in October. Legaspi's term will run through June 2019.

Legaspi was one of five applicants who interviewed for the open position at the board's public meeting on Dec. 4. An employee of the Woodburn School District from 2006 to 2012, Legaspi served as a counselor, helping students navigate college scholarship applications.

Legaspi currently works as an adjunct instructor and as an academic adviser at Pacific University's College of Education campus in downtown Woodburn, and spoke of the importance for mental health awareness among the student body and the community in her interview with the board.

COURTESY PHOTO - Woodburn School Board member Noemi Legaspi"I serve a lot of students and families in the community," Legaspi said. "I think in the district and the state, there is a need for mental health awareness."

She pointed out many members of Woodburn's student body come from other countries or have experienced childhood trauma in some way, and it's important for the district to acknowledge how that affects their ability to properly educate its students.

Legaspi suggested that the district needs to continue developing its relationship with students and their family members, building the community around its schools to create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages more interaction between parents and faculty.

"I see it as almost a big family where you don't just have students come into your classroom and schools, but being able to develop those relationships," Legaspi said. "I think that allows for more opportunities for the schools to develop. Parents can come to the teacher. They can share. They can ask questions and feel comfortable in the environment."

When asked to provide critical feedback on the district, Legaspi — a parent of a third-grader in Woodburn — said the district should improve its engagement with parents and seek their involvement as much as possible, creating a welcoming environment in the schools.

"When you walk into a school, you can gather the experience of what the environment is like," Legaspi said. "I think that's something that is important if you want the parents to be engaged in their students' academics."

After interviewing Legaspi along with applicants Chris Lassen, John Rivas, Christopher Weston Branger Munoz and Thor Waage on Dec. 4, the board made its decision two days later following three rounds of voting.

"We had an impressive pool of candidates," board member Anthony Medina said on Thursday. "It's not an easy decision."

Ultimately, though, Legaspi's perspective and experience moved her to the front of the pack.

"What an opportunity to have someone in the community who understands mental health concerns," Medina said. "That plus having worked for the school district and being a parent brings a great perspective."

Legaspi will have a few months to decide whether she will join board members Linda Reeves and Linda Johnston on the May 2019 ballot. Reeves also pointed out that the opportunity is there for the other four candidates to run at that time as well.

In an effort to give the other applicants another opportunity to serve the school district, the board appointed Waage and Lassen to the bond advisory committee and Rivas and Branger Munoz to the budget committee. The applicants had the opportunity to turn down the appointments, but all four accepted.

Legaspi's appointment returns the Woodburn School Board to a Hispanic majority. The Woodburn School Board became the state's first elected Hispanic majority board in May 2017 with the election of Gutierrez-Gomez, Laura Isiordia and Anthony Medina.

— Lindsay Keefer contributed to this story.

Phil Hawkins can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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