Pierce and Colett campaign for remaining two years of School Board term

The Beaverton Valley Times asked local School Board candidates to complete a survey to help the community to learn more about them and their education perspectives.

The candidates responses have been edited for length and style. We hope this information helps you cast your vote in the May 21 election.

Zone 7

Incumbent: Linda Degman

Age: 47by: TIMES PHOTO - Linda Degman

Family: Married with seven children.

Job and education background: Director of the Bond Program for Portland Community College. Earned a master's in public administration and bachelor's in social sciences from Portland State University.

Neighborhood she lives in: Cedar Hills, next to Barnes Elementary

Length of time living within the school district: 19 years

School involvement and community service experience: Beaverton School Board member; BSD Budget Committee; Local School Committee-Meadow Park; Boosters-Sunset High School; PTO-Ridgewood Elementary, Barnes Elementary and Meadow Park Middle schools; classroom volunteer-Ridgewood, Barnes and Meadow Park; Junior Achievement-Meadow Park; Girl Scout-co-leader; Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District-fields committee; Habitat for Humanity volunteer and Sunset Presbyterian volunteer.

What skills, knowledge and experiences do you bring to the School Board? I am currently on the Beaverton School Board and Budget Committee so I have experience and knowledge about the role of the board, budget process, experience working collaboratively with other board members, and understand the priorities and direction of our schools. In my position at PCC, I manage a $450 million budget, so I have extensive budget experience. I also understand there are tradeoffs for decisions as there is not enough money to do all that we want.

Direct hands-on experience with what is going on in the schools since I currently have a son at Sunset High School.

I have a needed connection between higher education and K-12 and can push for stronger partnerships to make sure all of our children’s needs are considered. Another aspect is my work in capital construction as BSD is going to need to invest further in our facilities, and due to the growth in our area, build more schools. I bring the knowledge to the board in this area that no one else has.

As well, I bring my collaboration, facilitation, listening and engagement skills, and understand the value of communication.

Why are you running? A quality education can change a child’s life, it is the equalizer. I have always been involved in our schools and education is my passion. I’m at a place in my life where I believe I have more to give back. My years in the schools, my education and my professional experiences provides a well-rounded set of capabilities that is a positive asset to the board. I strongly believe and have modeled for our children that we need to do more than just live in our community, we need to be involved in our community.

How should the school district prioritize spending? First and foremost we need to reduce class sizes, and that means priority needs to be on teachers in the classroom. With a son in high school and a daughter starting kindergarten in the fall, I feel and see first hand how this affects our children.

What school issue have you tackled at a school building or district level? Have you worked to resolve or address a concern within the Beaverton School District? My involvement has mainly been at PTO/Booster level. I was in charge of the after graduation party for Sunset High School twice, in 2007 and 2010. This requires pulling together a couple hundred volunteers, fundraising, planning, budgeting and communication. Until recently, these events have always been held at Sunset, and during the two years I was leading these efforts, some parents wanted to take the event off site. It would have been easier, however, more costly. It also did not provide the kids their last goodbye to the school and their classmates in a fun environment at their school. I championed keeping the event at the school and stepped up to lead the group to make it happen. There were so many graduates that thank me and other committee members for keeping it at the school, as this was part of Sunset’s history and allowed them to have a great last experience at their school. We also wanted to keep costs down and provided scholorships so that anyone who wanted to attend was able to.

Whats one issue the School Board tackled that you wish had turned out differently? What went wrong? This is not something that the School Board tackled exactly but we were part of the high-level discussion and that is the whole transfer situation last year. As a board we should have asked for a detailed explanation on how that transfer process was going to work. While it is not the board’s job to run the operations of the district, we can ask questions, request information and be knowledgeable. This is an area that very much took all of us by surprise as far as the way the transfers worked and how the teachers would be moved around. This was truly a learning moment for me.

What is an initiative you feel turned out well, and what made it work? The community conversations that have taken place with the different groups, parents, educators, staff, students, community, Spanish speaking parents and businesses has been a path in the right direction. They were frank conversations asking for input on the district and how we move forward. We need to continue to engage these groups as they are key to leading the district to a better place and provides an opportunity for involvement and engagement.

The school district faces a number of looming issues. What should it deal with now, and how? Which should be priorities for later? The main issue is class size. All the board members are out there working as much as they can on the levy so that we can bring back 150 teachers to help in this area. The high class sizes precipate kids not receiving the help they need from their teachers and that means our kids may be falling behind, which may lead to some not being on target to graduate. This is a huge issue. I would also like to talk about career technical/vocational opportunities for our students and linkage/partnerships with PCC. This gives our students another pathway after high school. Clearly we need to work on bringing music back up to an acceptable level within our schools and that will take time. We need a plan for this so we can have forward movement.

What should voters know about you? I have stepped up to be on the Beaverton School Board because I care about all of our students in the district. With my own children in the schools, I am very invested and committed to my work on the board and in the schools. In 2011, I went through almost a year of cancer, and when I got through that, I knew my time needed to be spent on giving back to our community and giving time to things that will truly make a difference in people’s lives — and education is and can be life changing.

Also, I am currently and will continue to be the voice in our district for those who feel they do not have a voice. I am concerned that our most vulnerable students may fall through the cracks. We have a large group of at-risk students who deserve the opportunities education provides, and as a district, we need to continue to work together with our community to provide support.

How do you plan to encourage citizen involvement/engagement within the district? Currently, I am one of the School Board members on the board community engagement committee working with two other board members and our communications person from the district. Community involvement/engagement is part of my role at PCC as well, and we have done some phenomenal work in this area, and I can bring that skill set to the School Board. Our community needs to know how they can help with student success within our schools — it takes more than just the parents stepping up. My plan would be to work with our communication director, board members, district staff and others to look at what we have done so far and build on that. The board needs to be more engaged in this area, it feels like it lies more on the district, and we should be working collaboratively on moving community engagement/involvement to the next level.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? Win or lose I will continue to be involved in the Beaverton School District schools. I am not looking to move up into other political seats, and I am not singularly focused on one program. With a son in high school and a daughter that will be starting kindergarten in the fall, I will be present for many, many years to come.

I also have many attributes, skills, abilities and knowledge that I can bring (as outlined in the first question) that my opponents do not have, such as organizational understanding, negotiations and collaboration when working with BEA and OSEA, real-life large budget experience, knowing the rules and laws that govern a public institution, and what the role of the board is versus is not.

Lastly, I have the experience of being on the board for the last 15 months. There is a learning curve with this type of position, and I have been through that and can be more effective.

What is your leadership style and how will you work with the superintendent, other members of the board and district staff? I am collaborative and think that working together always keeping in mind what is best for our 39,000 students in our district. This is not about us but about what is best for the whole education of our students. To me, knowledge is power, I like to ask lots of questions so I understand all sides of an program/issue/topic before I comment or make a decision.

Challenger: Tom Colett

Age: 30by: TIMES PHOTO - Tom Colett

Family: My fiancée is a teacher in the Beaverton School District.

Job and education background: Provider of legal support services and education advocate. I attended Oregon public schools K-12; Portland State University, earning a bachelor's in English (Magna Cum Laude); and a master’s degree candidate of Bard College (MFA 2013).

Neighborhood you live in: Highland Neighborhood

Length of time living within the school district: 6.5 years

School involvement and community service experience: Co-founder, Beaverton Friends of Music; and classroom volunteer at Fir Grove and Cooper Mountain elementary schools.

What skills, knowledge and experiences do you bring to the School Board? For the past year, I have been organizing parents, students and community members, listening to their concerns and facilitating opportunities for their voices to be heard by the School Board and Budget Committee. People who have worked with me know I am passionate about education and making sure students have the opportunities they deserve. I have read through thousands of pages of educational policies and articles in order to become familiar with current and emerging education issues. I have also been researching the school district budget to get a deep understanding of the financial state of the district. I have worked hard in my educational and work career, and my current campaign has been a good test of performance under pressure. I am committed to continuing to learn and grow as a board member.

Why are you running? I am running because I received a world-class education in the Oregon Public School System, and I want to ensure the next generation receives the same opportunities. As a high school student, I watched my mother take on the difficult job of being a School Board member during a time of budget reductions, and, having learned from her example, believe it is important to serve the community, especially in times of crisis.

How should the school district prioritize spending? Last year, the Beaverton School District lost 350 positions due to budget cuts. With class sizes of 40, 50 and 60 at the high school level and kindergarten classes in the 30s, I am committed to focusing resources into the classroom to lower class sizes and effect better academic outcomes. I also believe every student deserves a complete education, which means protecting important classes such as PE, the arts, foreign languages, vocational education and music.

What school issue have you tackled at a school building or district level? Have you worked to resolve or address a concern within the Beaverton School District? In the wake of large cuts to school music programs, I co-founded the Beaverton Friends of Music, a district-wide coalition of parents, students, teachers and community members. Since then, I have been active meeting one-on-one with School Board and Budget Committee members, talking to elected leaders about the upcoming budget for K-12 education, and involving the community in events to protect arts education in Beaverton schools. I have also done extensive research on the issue of Collaboration/Late-Start (a current initiative), speaking with administrators and board members about my findings and attending community input sessions related to collaboration’s implementation.

What’s one issue the School Board tackled that you wish had turned out differently? What went wrong? Teacher transfers and layoffs. I believe the board could have done more to ensure fewer teachers were lost in last year’s budget. By preventing some of the layoffs, we could have reduced class size and the number of transferred teachers. I also believe the board could have done more to find pathways for transferred teachers to return to the subject areas they had previously taught.

What is an initiative you feel turned out well and what made it work? Community School, which helps at-risk students graduate, is an excellent program that serves many of the district’s most vulnerable youth. I am also a big fan of dual-immersion programs which offer a high-level language learning experience and are popular with both parents and students.

The school district faces a number of looming issues. What should it deal with now, and how? Which should be priorities for later? I believe the district should focus on reducing class size and fixing the teacher transfers by working to rehire lost teaching positions and returning teachers to the subjects they have the most experience teaching. Also, as Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation, we must work to add days to the school calendar, so our students receive more instructional time. Both of these objectives can be achieved through a budget that focuses resources into the classroom. With a longer calendar and lower class sizes, we can then focus on implementing professional development programs like collaboration.

What should voters know about you? I believe in active board leadership. This means being involved in our communities by frequently visiting and volunteering at schools, researching current education initiatives, and asking difficult (but fair-minded) questions to ensure district policies and budgets result in strong outcomes for Beaverton students.

How do you plan to encourage citizen involvement/engagement within the district? Strong community involvement comes from trust. Community members must trust that their elected board will not only listen to community concerns, but also act on them. Too often, community input has been sought and then dismissed, resulting in parent communities disengaging from the district. The best way to increase community input is to create opportunities for the community to freely express its concerns and then to seek pathways for these concerns to be concretely addressed.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I am a proven leader who has been organizing parents and community members so they can be strong advocates for student needs. I have also established a reputation with local lawmakers as a knowledgable and hardworking public education advocate. Mark Hass, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and state Reps. Tobias Read, Chris Harker and Mitch Greenlick have endorsed me because they know I am a strong advocate for students and better state funding of education.

What is your leadership style and how will you work with the superintendent, other members of the board and district staff? I believe in a collaborative leadership style that takes into account the input of multiple stakeholders: students, parents, administrators, teachers and community members. Working on a board of seven individuals, I am committed to building consensus, while asking difficult questions and demanding well considered policies and budgets that are focused on student achievement. I have become well acquainted with many members of the board and staff through advocacy meetings and public forums, and I am endorsed by current School Board directors Mary VanderWeele and Sarah Smith and Budget Committee member Anne Bryan.

Challenger: Huma Pierce

Age: 42by: TIMES PHOTO - Huma Pierce

Family: Married to Christopher Pierce and have one child.

Job and education background: Chiropractic physician and mother. Education — Portland State University Certificate in Lean Management, Business Administration and Management; Emerge Oregon Certificate; New York Chiropractic College, doctor of chiropractic; and University of Toronto, bachelor's in biology. Military experience — Reserve Officer Naval Academy, ‘Venture’ Canada, Surface Naval Warfare Officer.

Neighborhood she lives in: Central Beaverton

Length of time living within the school district: 2 years (11 years for my office).

School involvement and community service experience: For over 11 years (since 2001), I have welcomed students from Beaverton's Health Careers program into my office to intern with our doctors and staff. A number of these students were hired by my clinic when they completed high school. Some of these Beaverton School District graduates have since gone on to receive their bachelor's degrees in science and attend graduate school for chiropractic and Oriental medicine. Beaverton's Health Careers program is a successful real-world example of how connecting Beaverton's students with Beaverton's professionals can result in both higher education and job placement success.

What skills, knowledge and experiences do you bring to the School Board? First is that as a parent, I care deeply about the education we are providing for all Beaverton children. I’ve been a volunteer for the schools for a decade and active in our community with programs like the Beaverton Citizen’s Academy, the Children’s Relief Nursery, the Northwest Health Foundation and the Friends of the Oregon Commission on Women. I also will bring the experience of owning my own

business, which means I know how to manage a budget and make sure your revenue matches your expenditures. Finally, I’ve served as a military officer, which prepared me to deal with anything thrown at me, and how to work with all kinds of people.

Why are you running? I’ve been involved in Beaverton schools for a decade as part of the Health Careers program – speaking to students about opportunities in the health profession and letting kids see the work we do at my clinic. And since the downturn in 2009, I’ve seen a real change in those children. As class sizes have grown and parents are working longer to support their families, it’s had an impact: an impact on the questions kids ask, their curiosity and their ability to participate in the program. And seeing that reminds me of the difference education made in my own life in opening me to the possibility of serving as a naval officer or starting my own business. I’m running for the School Board because we need to put our children first again and make sure we aren’t closing the doors of opportunity in their futures.

How should the school district prioritize spending? By focusing on the children first and realizing that a holistic education is important. We dare not spend millions more on testing, data analysis, new proficiency grading systems, frustrating student progress tracking programs, and teacher evaluations, which do nothing to help support curriculum development, and student success; while we have not yet provided every teacher and every student with basic resources and opportunities. We must move towards a well-supported environment that reduces class sizes and improves teacher prep time and faculty support.

What school issue have you tackled at a school building or district level? Have you worked to resolve or address a concern within the Beaverton School District? Within the Health Careers program I taught anatomy, business and the importance of civic engagement with the community. The school issue tackled by me actively guest lecturing at Beaverton High School was teacher prep time. By allowing community members to guest lecture this effectively allocated time to the host teacher for prep and exposed our children to real-world health practitioners. In many cases, children actually figure out what they want to study post high school and are able to plan fiscally for this.

What’s one issue the School Board tackled that you wish had turned out differently? The initiative to rename Southridge High School’s field to a fallen student’s memorial field. This issue was handled in a calloused way in my opinion. It took months for the board to come to a vote. The board should have acted more swiftly to reduce the anguish and suffering of the community, instead it dragged it out way too long. Solutions like a memorial for fallen soldiers could have been floated earlier and in a more sensitive way. I am a veteran and could have brought that commonality to the conversation.

What is an initiative you feel turned out well, and what made it work? The work around intervention teachers was fantastic. Education is the ultimate equalizer and BSD implemented a trackable system that benefits the most vulnerable of our children. Teachers are supported as are students.

The school district faces a number of looming issues. What should it deal with now, and how? We all know that if we can’t get class sizes down, keep teachers on the job and offer a full range of subjects — not just STEM but STEAM and PE — we aren’t going to turn around our schools. That is priority one.

Which should be priorities for later? If a child doesn’t have a real-world education, like being able to balance a checkbook or to using the Internet beyond social media, I feel like we have failed as a community in investing in their futures, our futures. This means shop, tech, outdoor school and home economics. The district has a visible communication problem and resolving this with simple, positive visibility in the district by School Board members is a key method to changing that problem. Also, the BSD website needs to be much more user friendly.

What should voters know about you? I’ve put the children of our community first for a decade, well before I had my own child. I volunteered and continue to do so with the district’s Health Careers program. My current assistant came to our office from this program and is now going to chiropractic college after learning about the field through this program. That is ultimately the purpose of the program; to show kids that they can do it. They can be successful and happy, giving back to their community. I’ve shown students from all of our high schools in the Health Careers program how to run a successful business while balancing a family and community volunteerism. I support reducing class sizes and returning teachers to the classroom.

What I want to do:

• Funding to reduce class sizes — hiring back teachers who are bilingual — so we can naturally start exposing our kids to languages early, return STEM to STEAM, and vocational programs.

• Bring support from across the community — by engaging businesses like mine and showing businesses that supporting our kids is an investment in their own futures.

• Prepare kids for the future by implementing more programs like the Health Careers program, Junior Achievement and Biz Town.

How do you plan to encourage citizen involvement/engagement within the district? Exactly in the way that I was recruited into the Health Careers program over 10 years ago. By thinking out of the box and creating internships in other vocations outside of health such as auto mechanics or tech-related vocations. Teaching business community members the value of the internships — going to chamber events, networking and engaging the community outreach committee in a business-minded way.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? If we are going to turn around our schools, we need new ideas and a fresh perspective on the School Board, and I think I will certainly bring that. I speak four languages fluently, I’m a business owner and I am a well traveled world citizen. I am visible in the community as a good networker, and I bring a diversity that is currently not represented on the board.

What is your leadership style and how will you work with the superintendent, other members of the board and district staff? I am a doctor and as such tend to listen first, processing large amounts of information fairly quickly. I am an ex-naval officer, I am trained to guide experts in their field towards a common goal. I am a mother. I gently remind and direct with love in my heart, keeping the focus on what will benefit our children first.

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