West Linn nurse seeks school board position 4
West Linn-Wilsonville school board candidate Jordan Ferris says her background in nursing could help her take the school district from great to outstanding.
"I think that the current board does a wonderful job, but I think that being a nurse, having an education background, and having the ability to really look at the district and assess the district as a whole and also assess it in its individual pieces, school by school, is something I do every day as a nurse," said Ferris, a registered nurse working for the Oregon Nurses Association and as an adjunct faculty member at Linfield College's School of Nursing. "I break down a whole body into individual systems. I see how everything works together."
This nurse's perspective, according to Ferris, can help the board approach some of its biggest challenges in new ways.
"I recently completed my master's in science and nursing in executive leadership. I have a skill set (as a) health care professional that doesn't exist on the board," Ferris said. "It's a very different perspective. It's a holistic, upstream thinking process approach."
If elected, Ferris would like to use this big-picture approach to tackle several key issues she feels strongly about. Smaller counselor caseloads and smaller classroom sizes topped her list of desires for the district.
"The mental health and health needs of our students is what I'm really passionate about and what I'd really like to impact," Ferris said. "We need more counselors."
With more counseling staff, each counselor could have smaller caseloads and more time and attention for each student. Right now, counselor caseloads in the district vary greatly, with the average West Linn-Wilsonville counselor carrying 440 students. Currently, counselors at two WL-WV schools have caseloads exceeding 600 students.
Ferris acknowledged that many classrooms in the district have student counts below the state average of 25, but she said some classes in the high schools have more than 30 students. Knowing that it is harder for kids to succeed in larger classes, Ferris would like to hire more teachers to keep these class sizes small.
Ferris has noticed that "student achievement and attendance in some of our disadvantaged groups," is not where it should be. With the changes she'd like to make in the district, Ferris hopes to fix that.
More teachers and more counselors could help solve these problems for the district, but they are expensive solutions. Ferris believes her nursing background and creative thinking could help the board solve these types of budget issues.
"My work with the Oregon Nurses Association requires me to be very creative in a lot of instances where the nurses I'm working with are given this much money and they need to make sure that goes as far as possible," Ferris said.
Ferris also plans to use her connections with state legislators to find funding for the district.
"I know sustainable funding is not necessarily something that's established at a school board level, but through my work with the Oregon Nurses Association, through my work as a nursing advocate in the community, I have established a lot of relationships in Salem, with Rachel Prusak, with Rob Wagner, with Courtney Neron, with the people who are going to be making decisions at a state level for our district," she said.
Ferris has been connected to the district for the past 12 years. Her daughter attended Bolton Primary for the past two years and, before that, her husband worked 10 years in IT for WL-WV.
The chance to make a positive impact on the community has motivated Ferris to run for the board.
"2016 was the turning point in a lot of people's lives about wanting to get involved in ground level, low-level politics, and after being involved with Rachel Prusak's campaign, it wasn't enough for me to be a passive voter anymore," she said. "School board seemed attainable, and it seemed really relevant since I have a daughter in the district."
From the board meetings and other district events she's attended along with one-on-one meetings with four out of five of the current board members, Ferris thinks she could fit in well on the WL-WV school board. If elected, this would not be the first board Ferris has served on. She also was a member of the board for her roller derby team and currently sits on the board of the Oregon Center for Nursing.
"There's a lot of really diverse people and perspectives on both of those boards, and yet you make it work," she said. "At the end of the day, it's not so much about the individual personalities on the board. It's about the district and the students."
Ferris is running for board Position 4 and so far has one opponent, Christy Thompson. Current board member Chelsea King Martin is seeking re-election to her own seat, Position 2 and is currently unopposed. Board positions 2 and 4 are the only seats open in the 2019 spring election. Candidate filing closes March 21.