School boards are nonpartisan bodies responsible for much of what happens on the ground in public education.
They build schools, approve curriculum, approve the hiring of teachers, award diplomas, set rules for discipline, and oversee operations, plans and policies that shape the educational experiences of children.
The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board has two open seats, and four candidates on the May 21 ballot.I have gotten to know each candidate running for election. I can attest each is willing to volunteer time on behalf of our students, support our schools and represent our communities.
They each have different motivations for running, but come to the role well-intentioned. Each candidate offers a unique set of skills that, when leveraged properly, can improve education for our students.
Voters have characteristics and platforms they look for when supporting a candidate. When I ask myself what I need to know about a school board candidate, I ask:
— Who understands school budgets?
— Who understands that when you add positions or programs you have to eliminate others?
— Who understands our schools do not have unlimited resources?
— Who is shown to be a collaborative problem solver, who has meaningful connections with our community?
— Who evidences care for our school staff and their profession?
— Who can put the needs of our students above all other interests?
The inquiry may be different for you. Maybe you want to know whether the candidate is Democrat or Republican, progressive, liberal or conservative, who has endorsed the candidate, who has donated to a candidate's campaign, does the candidate live in West Linn, Wilsonville, or somewhere in between?
Whatever your questions, ask them! Get your questions answered and use reliable sources. All candidates have websites, social media pages and ORESTAR (campaign finance reporting site) accounts where you can quickly get information.
One trend that I find disappointing is the increased politicization of school board positions (across the state and in West Linn-Wilsonville). I have long held the mindset that this position needs to be nonpartisan, politically neutral, so those serving can have the sole objective of putting the best interests of our students first.
I have cherished that our district has been able to resist the pull of partisan board elections. I still cling to the ideal that school boards are the means by which ordinary citizens govern their own schools. There has been a noticeable shift away from this idea. I have seen less focus on what candidates can do for our schools and more speculation and accusations regarding "political" agendas.
This approach to candidate support helps no one, least of all our students. Further, these acts discourage well-meaning and qualified individuals from being willing to run for the board in the future.
Let's not allow the final weeks of these campaigns to be marked by political noise and too little attention spent on core issues. Let's set an example after which we would want our students to model their actions.
Let's focus on which candidates have the best answers to our questions, let's educate ourselves about the candidates, and let's exercise our right to vote.
Regan Molatore is a member of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board.