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North Marion, Gervais and Mount Angel school board candidates discuss districts' issues

In the Woodburn Independent's final installment highlighting candidates from throughout the region running for local school board director positions, this week focuses on those seeking to represent the districts of North Marion, Gervais and Mount Angel.

The North Marion School District features three uncontested races for the May 21 general election. Incumbent school board members Ricardo Verastegui and Crystal Rostocil seek to retain their seats after both being appointed to the board of directors a little more than one year ago to fill the remaining terms of departed board members Julie Miller and Patrick McArthur.

The third candidate, Jill Keppner, is also running unopposed to fill the seat of director Scott Mills, who did not file to retain hold his seat on the board.

The North Marion School District continues to break ground on new projects around its campus stemming from the $42.2 million bond that passed in 2017. The district opened with a renovation of its track and field facilities last year, has been working throughout the school year to expand parking next to its middle school building, and recently celebrated the beginning of new construction at the high school that will take place over the summer.

In Gervais, incumbent board members Lorraine Martin is running unopposed to retain her seat, while a three-way race between Maria Caballero, Lenthal Kaup and Carl Wolff will determine who will fill the seat of board member Debbie Sullivan, who did not file to retain her seat.

Those who are elected will work with incoming Superintendent Dandy Stevens, a former district employee from 1998-2003 who will take over as Gervais' lead administrator following the retirement of current Superintendent Matt Henry at the end of the school year.

Finally in Mount Angel, two board seats are open for election. In March, retired educator Donna Hues was selected to fill the remaining months of former board member Daniel Crowe's term, and is seeking to retain the seat for its full four-year term. She is being challenged by longtime community member John Conklin, a retired United States Army member and president of the Mount Angel Parents Club.

The other board position is an uncontested race featuring another retired educator, Teresa (Schaecher) Kinkaid, who is seeking to replace vice chair Raymond Frey, who did not file to retain his seat.

NORTH MARION SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 5 — 4-year term

Jill S. Keppner

I feel passionately about giving back to my schools and community as well as setting a good example for my children and teaching them the importance of getting involved and serving a greater good.

I am part of the auction committee, and helping to raise additional monies for our school's needs is a privilege I am honored to be a part of. North Marion is a strong, supportive and caring community that I am proud to be a member of.

Director, Position 7 — 4-year term

Crystal RostocilFILE PHOTO - Crystal Rostocil

Relevant Experience

I am currently a clinical trauma registrar at Salem Hospital, where I have worked for over 20 years. During that time I have held roles such as a certified nursing assistant, staffing and scheduling operation specialist, and the assistant staffing software implementation lead and instructor.

Outside of my employment, I have spent my life trying to live in selflessness, striving to volunteer when I can. I have been a Sunday school teacher, a program coordinator, a PAC lead, and community volunteer.

Why are you running?

I have a love and passion for our youth and community. I firmly believe the legacy of our generation will be the children we raise. We need to provide opportunities for them that will develop and prepare them to make future decisions. I believe we have an amazing set of teachers and instructional assistances and I would love to see our support for the school and its employees continue to grow.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district?

Budget, student achievement, and transparency with the community. Budgets are tight and inadequate funding to cover increasing costs and obligations directly affect the amount of dedicated funding that reaches the students. Student achievement is one of my core passions. The child's ability to know they can be successful because of the skills and tools they learn in school should be a paramount priority for every child in our district. Transparency with the community is another focus area for me. In the past, as a parent and community member, I felt the district lacked transparency on the struggles the district faces.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

Keep the students the main focus, establish attainable achievement goals for our students, and give parents the support needed to assist their children to be successful. I would also like to pull in more community volunteers. My last objective is financial transparency, specifically in regards to the use of the bond funds and district budgets to help ensure wise financial stewardship.

Why are you the best candidate?

I have love for our children and community, and I am vested physically and mentally in the success of our district. I am not afraid to speak up and have the hard conversations as needed. I believe that open and transparent communication is critical to build a relationship of trust with community members.

GERVAIS SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 1 — 4-year term

Lorraine MartinFILE PHOTO - Lorraine Martin

Relevant Experience

I have been a parent of children in school for almost 25 years, and have been active as a parent volunteer most of those years. The last two years I have served on the GSD Board, elected to finish a term vacated by a resignation. I graduated from Gervais High School myself, and have lived back in the district since 2001. So I believe I have a good understanding of what students and parents need and want from their schools.

Why are you running?

My oldest daughter graduated from GHS, and my two youngest children attend the elementary school now. I have also home-schooled, and had children transferred out of the district. I understand some of the reasons that families have transferred out in recent years. It is a special interest of mine to see the Gervais School District so improve the academic achievement of our students, and the opportunities we can offer our students, that families want to transfer into our schools.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

I would like to see the academic achievement of all our students continue to improve, especially reading. Reading success in the early years of school is a passion of mine. Community support and involvement, especially by parents, is vital, and I hope to have a part in making improvement there as well. Also, I would like to see us continue to make progress on maintenance and upgrades to our buildings, as it is a matter of good stewardship to take care of the facilities which the taxpayers provide for our students through their tax dollars.

Why are you the best candidate?

This one perhaps I will pass on because I am running unopposed, so it doesn't make much sense for me to address this topic. Perhaps in lieu of that, I would offer to share the fact that just in recent days a couple of neighbors have called me to ask questions about what is going on in the schools currently, and what are the issues currently in our district. I was so encouraged to see people taking seriously the civic duty that we all have to inform ourselves, and vote. Hats off to all those who will do likewise and support our next generation by casting an informed vote for the choice of their local school board.

Director, Position 5 — 4-year term

Maria CaballeroFILE PHOTO - Maria Caballero

Relevant Experience

I served on the GSD Board for 18 years, and eight years on the Oregon School Board.

Lifelong Gervais resident

Gervais graduate

A mom of three, who also are Gervais graduates

A grandmother of two who are currently Gervais students

Why are you running?

I like to stay involved in my community, and especially in the schools.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district?

The budget and dropping enrollment are the biggest issues facing the district.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

The CTE (Career Technical Education) Program needs to be revamped. The CTE program needs to offer more occupational experiences, like plumbing, construction, etc. The childcare and horticulture jobs are not all for everyone, and it might not always be enough to support a family after graduation. I want to make sure our school funding is spent on our students and their future.

Why are you the best candidate?

I have the passion for this community, and with my past experience, I have seen their eagerness for change. I want to be that person to help this community.

***

Lenthal KaupFILE PHOTO - Lenthal Kaup

Relevant Experience

Self-appointed board watchdog for over 30 years.

Why are you running?

To improve student education, starting at graded one through high school graduation, teaching the skills and knowledge for adult life. Next year's budget will be increased by over $2 million with no improvements in student education. Look at the interscholastic sports programs — no competitive teams.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district?

Ineffective and incompetent teachers. Over emphasis on four-year college education and keeping students in the formal education setting, while disregarding the lessons learned in real life.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

All students will be able to compete in unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and high-skilled work. They will be able to climb the ladder to more demanding positions, not thinking that the first job is the last job they will ever have.

MOUNT ANGEL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 1 — 4-year term

Donna HuesFILE PHOTO - Donna Hues

Relevant Experience

Mount Angel School Board — March 2019 to present

Over 30 years teaching experience:

Retired High School Teacher — Mount Angel School District, Salem-Keizer School District, Cascade School District, Salem Art Association, College Extension Classes — Montana

Site Council Member

"Who's Who Among America's Teachers" — nominated by students; 1992, 2000, 2004

Executive Board Member: Oregon Christian Writers

Why are you running?

During my teaching career, I appreciated having a former educator as an active member of the school board. When a temporary vacancy was posted for the Mount Angel School District, I applied and am honored to serve in that position presently. Having a former teacher's perspective is vital to all; administration, staff, students, and parents.

As an active member of Mount Angel, I feel I understand the community's uniqueness and the resident's desires for quality education for our future citizens.

Volunteering at the Mount Angel Oktoberfest for the past thirty years, and recently at the senior center, has provided opportunities to visit the people of Mount Angel and listen to their priorities for our schools.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district?

Funding is an ongoing issue for schools in Oregon. I attended a School Board Lobby Day at the Capital recently and continued to hear the same struggle from our legislators; how to fund schools adequately. As a district, we need to creatively brain-storm use of funds to meet the needs of our diverse population; whether that means college preparatory, technical skills, or life-skills. We need to serve all our students no matter how great the challenge.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

I would like to see a better connection between the school board and the citizens of Mount Angel. Whether that would mean round-table discussions listening to their dreams for their children, and how they envision those dreams being realized, or being present regularly at school activities, or some other format, as yet to be determined.

Why are you the best candidate?

I have been an educator for over 40 years, living in and actively being involved in the Mount Angel community for thirty years, and specifically as a teacher at Kennedy High School for 13 years. I have the perspective and experience required for the position.

Director, Position 4 — 4-year term

Teresa E. (Schaecher) KinkaidFILE PHOTO - Teresa E. (Schaecher) Kinkaid

Relevant Experience

I am a recently retired school teacher of 37 years, 25 of them in the Mount Angel School District, and I currently sub in the school district. All of my children attended and graduated from the Mount Angel School District. I have also lived in the Mount Angel Community most of my life and attended schools here too.

Why are you running?

As a retired teacher and a long-time community member, I feel a strong commitment and passion for our children and their education. I believe that our district and teachers are some of the best in our area and I want to help our schools to continue to be strong.

What are the biggest issues facing the school district?

I believe that one of the biggest issues facing our school district is building trust between administration, teachers and the community. This district is in a difficult place right now. Another one is stable and adequate funding for our schools, which is felt in most school districts. This causes larger class sizes, which is not ideal for students and teachers. We also have students who have gone through our grade school and middle school, but then often transfer to one of the larger schools in our area for high school.

What would you like to see accomplished if you are elected?

As a school board member I would like to work on rebuilding a trust between our administration, teachers and community. I would also like to help the district to continue to build on the CTE (Career and Technical Education Classes) for all of our schools as well as strengthening our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) classes. These are important areas for our students. Lastly, I believe we need to find ways to decrease the number of students who transfer our of our schools, even though they live in our district.

Why are you the best candidate?

I believe I am the best candidate because I have been in the trenches and have seen the changing landscape of education. Our school board needs an educator's perspective, and since I recently retired from teaching and I continue to sub in the district, I can bring that much needed point of view.

***

Additional school board candidates

The following candidates are running for election and did not respond to the Woodburn Independent before the print deadline.

NORTH MARION SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 2 — 4-year term

Ricardo Verastegui

GERVAIS SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 5 — 4-year term

Carl. C. Wolff

MOUNT ANGEL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Director, Position 1 — 4-year term

John Conklin

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