The inherent contradictions of this year's West Linn-Wilsonville School Board race are perhaps reflective of the broader challenges we have all faced this past year.
While community interest is high — at least if you are judging by lawn signs and letters to the editor — only a few filed to run for three open positions, and none of them were incumbents. After a year of dealing with an unprecedented pandemic that forced schools to essentially reshape themselves on the fly, it's hard to blame these three board members — Regan Molatore, Dylan Hydes and Ginger Fitch — for wanting to move on. Similarly, given the complexities of today's environment, we can understand why residents would be hesitant to run for office.
It isn't easy to be a school board member in 2021, and we give credit to each of the candidates as well as the outgoing members for stepping up to serve their communities. As the May 18 special election approaches, we believe Louis Taylor, Kirsten Wyatt and Seiji Shiratori are the best choices to lead the district forward.
Taylor, who is running unopposed for position 1, is a promising candidate who has prioritized communication and engagement — particularly when it comes to underserved communities. As the owner of several local businesses with nearly two decades of experience living in the area, Taylor will be a fresh and needed voice on the board.
Wyatt, a former assistant city manager in West Linn and the current chair of the West Linn-Wilsonville School District Budget Committee, was also running essentially unopposed (the other person who filed for position 3, Craig Tiffany, opted against running a campaign) until Heidi Klein began a write-in campaign about a month before the election. And while we have heard from a number of residents who will indeed vote for Klein, we believe Wyatt is an excellent candidate who deserves the position. Her local government experience is unmatched in this race, and we were also impressed with her vision for creating a more open, inclusive and transparent school district.
The most contested race, for position 5, features three candidates who each bring their own strengths to the table.
David D. Jones, the founder of Creatures of the Night and a former executive board director of the Rogers Park Community Council in Chicago, impressed us with a genuinely open-minded approach. He said his priority would be to listen, and that is a worthy goal for any elected official.
Kelly Sloop, a pharmacist and West Linn native, brings an admirable passion on the issue of reopening schools for in-person learning. After running as a Republican in a highly partisan race for District 37 representative last November (she lost to incumbent Democrat Rachel Prusak), Sloop has said that she learned she's not a "politician" and thus preferred a non-partisan position on the school board. We credit her for following through on that and not resorting to negative campaign tactics.
In the end, though, we are most confident in Shiratori — a former U.S. diplomat who also has experience at the state Legislature. We appreciate his ideas about making sure everyone values education, even those who don't have children or have seen them graduate already. Like the other candidates we're endorsing, Shiratori also has a strong and informed voice when it comes to matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe Shiratori will bring a calm and informed perspective to the board if he is elected.
The candidates in these three races have more in common than you may be led to believe. They have each committed to prioritizing a safe return to classrooms on a full-time basis. They all hope for a more inclusive district that works to make families feel heard and represented. And they cared deeply enough about their communities that they decided to volunteer the considerable time it takes to be an effective school board member.
For that, we thank them. And whether you agree or disagree with our endorsements, please make your voice heard May 18.
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