Ballots have gone out in the mail from the Washington County Elections Office, and soon registered voters will have the chance to choose new school board members in Banks and Forest Grove.

The special election is May 21. In Gaston, barring any attempts by would-be write-in candidates, voters will surely return two incumbents — Karen Fordyce and Roger Mesenbrink, who are running unopposed. Here are our picks for the contested seats in Banks and Forest Grove:


The Banks School District board election features an interesting matchup between a pair of friends. Will Moore and incumbent Raymond Mott are both vying for Position 2, and it’s clear to us that each has the 1,130-student district’s best interests at heart.

Mott says he’d finish off work on the district’s buildings that wasn’t paid for by a pared-down bond voters finally passed a year ago this month after four tries at the ballot box.

Moore, who has been on the board for eight years and is a champion of outcomes-based decision making, gets our nod to retain his seat, however.

Budget reductions have gut-punched Banks schools over the last five years, with cut days and teacher layoffs the norm since 2008. Yet Moore — who’s seeking his third term on the board — has maintained his optimism about education in town. “The hardships have strengthened relationships between the district and the staff,” he told the News-Times editorial board last week. “I couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments of our students.”

Maureen Okerstrom, a former teacher, is the lone candidate for the Position 4 seat vacated by Richard Bowden. We think her sunny disposition and obvious appreciation for the work new Superintendent Bob Huston is doing would make her a good board member.

Norie Dimeo-Ediger, who’s running again for Position 1, said she’d continue to push for more and better funding from the state for local schools. And, she’d tackle the issue of growing class sizes. We can’t argue with that.

Forest Grove

John Hayes is running unopposed to retain his Position 1 seat, and we’re happy he is. Since joining the board in January 2012 he’s been a hands-down leader, and his knowledge about everything from open enrollment (he’s in favor of school choice) to tough financial choices (while dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Pacific University he managed an eight-figure budget) is unsurpassed. Enough said.

Position 2, which opened up after Gil Jimenez died earlier this year, has been ably managed by Charless Waterman since April, and we give her the election nod over challenger Erin Fivecoat, who did not respond to our request for an interview.

Waterman, the mother of a middle school student in the district, has good ideas about the use of technology in education — “curricula all over the nation is going digital,” she observed — yet she says she “wouldn’t lay off a teacher to buy a student an iPad.” We like her candor.

It’s going to be tough to fill Alisa Hampton’s shoes in Position 3, but our endorsement goes to 23-year-old Sebastian Lawler, a Forest Grove High School alum who told us he wants to give back to the system that gave him an “exceptional education.” We’d like to see him have that opportunity.

One of his challengers, Jeff Cooper — who tossed his hat in the ring for the board at least one other time — is a former teacher with innovative ideas, and would be an asset on the technological front. But we can’t support someone on the board who sees every glass as half-empty and thinks “absolutely nothing” is drawing students to the Forest Grove School District, as he told our panel of editors last week.

And although the other hopeful, Lonnie Winkler, has some credibility as an on the district budget committee, we wonder if his formidable travel schedule would allow him the latitude to effectively serve.

Lawler, who serves on the city of Forest Grove’s Committee for Citizen Involvement, said he wonders whether the district is losing students because administrators are heading toward an all-immersion curriculum taught in English and Spanish — a fair question, we think. He also wants to challenge the notion that students should be made to take multiple standardized tests in one academic year.

Plus, Lawler seems to be a natural collaborator. “I’m all about balance,” he said. “I love to inspire people, and I’m part of a new generation that can add diversity to the board.”

We quite agree.

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