Seiji Shiratori has been around the world, and he's seen how many other school districts and their boards operate.
Now, the Wilsonville resident is vying for a seat on the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board. Shiratori, 51, is running against David Jones and Kelly Sloop for position 5.
After graduating from Willamette University, Shiratori moved to Wilsonville in 1994 and worked in the state Legislature. He and his family eventually moved to Washington D.C. for graduate schools.
He got a job with the U.S. Department of State, which took him and his family to places all over the world, from Pakistan and Portugal to Senegal and Iraq. Shiratori said this gave his sons the opportunity to attend school in many places, including the other side of the country in Florida and Virginia.
He and his family moved back to Wilsonville in 2019.
"One main reason we chose Wilsonville, aside from our fondness for the area and its relative proximity to our jobs and my wife's family, is that West Linn-Wilsonville schools are quite good," Shiratori said.
Shiratori decided to run in the school board election for three main reasons.
The first was to preserve the quality education in the district.
"Our schools here are pretty good and we want to preserve that quality," he said.
His second reason for running had to do with the local economy.
"I think we can do a better job at making a connection with those folks who don't have children or whose children are adults," he said. He said an investment in children is an investment in the local economy. And that benefits everyone, not just those with school-aged children.
He said teachers and parents value the district, but it's important for others in the community to feel the same way. He told a story of living in a town in northern Virginia during the Great Recession. Home values shrank and never recovered, affecting the schools in the area.
Shiratori said it became a vicious cycle of disinvestment.
"I think we're in not a vicious cycle, but a virtuous cycle that we ought to maintain," Shiratori said.
Finally, Shiratori wants to promote diversity in the district if he is elected to the board.
On his website, Shiratori says West Linn and Wilsonville are multi-ethnic and multi-faith communities, and their elected officials should reflect that.
"I hear sometimes that you can't really be an American unless your forefathers came over on the right boat, speaking the right language … I just fundamentally disagree with that view," he said.
Shiratori said there are existing issues in the district he's looking forward to tackling, one of which is the Athey Creek Middle School bond project.
"That location would be where we put our vocational technical high school," he said.
The Arts and Technology High School will be relocated to the current Athey Creek Middle School site and expanded to include a secure entry administration suite. A new Athey Creek will be built on Dollar Street.
He said he's glad the district is creating a path to success for students who don't wish to pursue a college degree, but added the high school comes with risks. Specifically, Shiratori worried that the expanded option high school would divert students away from the rest of the education system to inflate graduation rates at other high schools. Shiratori wants to keep a watchful eye on that process.
He said moving Athey Creek to the Willamette neighborhood would cause changes to noise and traffic that the residents aren't used to.
"I want to be there to listen to those folks," he said. "We're not just replacing a school, but we're doing so in a way that's going to work for the community."
Other issues he'll want to prioritize are reopening schools and the presence of school resource officers.
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