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Differing perspectives strengthen school board

This year will be critical to determine how our district, and community, move forward.

Shortly after joining the Forest Grove School Board in April 2008, I realized that public education in this state, and country, is a nearly impossible proposition.

Districts must do the best they possibly can for each individual student, with inadequate (and often unpredictable) funding and the input of literally hundreds of stakeholders to take into consideration.

Prior to my appointment, in my role as a parent, I knew well the amazing work that our teachers and staff were doing at Dilley Elementary School and Tom McCall Upper Elementary School, but was not as familiar with what was happening at other schools.

As I came to understand the complexity of running a public school district, my respect and admiration for all of our staff increased exponentially.

The second thing that struck me is that, at least in Oregon, the only requirements for serving on a public school board are that you are a registered voter in the district, and that you are not employed by the district. Effectively, that means that a board member can join the complex work already in progress, without any prior knowledge of what is happening and why, or any understanding of education practices, laws, policies, vision, etc.

Each time a new member joins, he or she must be brought up to speed on the working of the district. Much of this burden falls on the superintendent and staff. The onus is really, however, on the new board member to dedicate the time, energy and effort in order to serve all our students and staff well.

The learning curve is very steep, but the value of this effort, and sacrifice, to the children in our community is tremendous.

As I begin my fourth year as a member of the Forest Grove School Board, I am still learning. The economic situation, leadership and staff changes, declining enrollment, increasing state and federal expectations, and the pain our community has endured together this past year, make the role of the board very different now than in 2008 - only three years ago.

I must admit that, aside from raising four children, this is the most difficult job I've had. I have considered it a privilege from Day One, but with the potential impacts from decisions the board makes together (no individual member has any authority), the responsibility is great. I believe that all of the individuals I've served with on the Forest Grove School Board have felt the weight of this responsibility and have taken it seriously. There is not one person I have seen who did not make the required effort, regardless of how it taxed their personal and work lives.

While I have not always agreed with my fellow board members, in approach, in principle, or in the best way to move forward, that is part of the value of having five perspectives - and five votes.

I look forward to serving as your school board chair this coming year. This year will be critical to determine how our district, and community, move forward.

- Alisa Hampton is a member of the Forest Grove School Board. Her term expires in 2012

Learn more

The next meeting of the Forest Grove School Board will be 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 12 at the district office, 1728 Main Street in Forest Grove.