Candidates hold their own in forum

Three candidates for positions on the school board met with school staff last week, giving an overview of their concerns and answering questions
At a forum held before school district staff last week, three candidates for two open positions on the school board introduced themselves and answered impromptu questions.
   The first to address the audience of mostly teachers was Bob Palmer, saying he has been a Prineville resident for a little over a year now, having moved to Redmond from San Diego in 1988.
   Palmer added that his service on a variety of boards and organizations would give him ample experience to be considered a good candidate for the school board, and he detailed a number of those organizations. Most of the affiliations are with organizations in Bend and Terrebonne and he served on the Central Oregon District Hospital Board where he was appointed finance chair. He has also coached Little League and said he has been involved with children's concerns since becoming a parent.
   Palmer indicated that he is currently involved with the NJROTC program at the high school and is an enthusiastic supporter of this program. "I have a passion for children," Palmer explained.
   His primary focus at the forum was on the expected population growth in this community and the need to find ways to deal with currently inadequate school buildings and classroom space for the expanding population. "I feel that Prineville is just entering a pretty good growth curve," he said indicating that this is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed immediately. "It's estimated that by 2010 Prineville would have grown by 42 percent."
   Palmer continued by saying that he thinks school board members should be more visible and should make an effort to see what the problems are, directly from staff.
   "I think if that communication is there, problems are going to get solved. What happens now is that you have people reporting to you, and you have to trust what they are saying, or their perceptions of what they are saying about a particular issue," he said. "Sometimes what they are relaying to you might be off center a little bit. We need to make an effort to see what's going on and introduce ourselves, find out what the problems and issues are on a teacher relationship level." He indicated that a personal approach might be uncomfortable for some board members, but in his perspective, it's essential for communication. "The bottom line is that if issues are brought up, things are going to get done."
   Another candidate Dee Wettstein has been a Prineville resident for more than eight years. Her background is as a teacher of 20 years in Marin County, California.
   As a retired teacher Wettstein spent the last several years volunteering in the school system, working directly with children and teachers.
   Her most recent association has been with the S.M.A.R.T. program serving as coordinator at Cecil Sly Elementary School since 1996.
   "I enjoy working with the S.M.A.R.T. program and will continue as a volunteer reader, but I think I need to shift gears. My main priority and concern is for the children and safety in the schools."
   Wettstein added that she thought it would be fun and exciting to work on the school board. She indicated that she feels the school board is running nicely now, and that it would be good to see that continue.
   Visibility of board members is also an important issue for Wettstein. "I think it's important to let everyone know that you're there, and to be acquainted. I would also like to see the superintendent more visible around the schools."
   As the discussion turned to population and inadequate classroom space, including the need for improvements in the existing buildings, Wettstein indicated that this is one of the most important issues right now, but budget and finances would have to be considered. She indicated that classroom sizes need to be kept at a reasonable level in order to make sure students receive adequate attention.
   The uncontested candidate Sherry Fassett, was born and raised in Bend, and says she lives in a better place now. This is Fassett's second attempt at running for the school board, and at this point runs unopposed for the position. Four years ago she ran against Jim Minturn who is retiring this year.
   "Basically I'm running for the school board because I've always been interested in education and lately been very active in the chamber education committee," she explained. Working as a nurse anesthetist at Pioneer Memorial Hospital she indicated that she has been in the nursing field for more than 30 years. During that time she also taught in a variety of capacities related to her profession.
   "The kids are our future. They are going to be running our country and taking care of me in my older years. I can't think of a better investment to make than time into our children. The other reason I am running for the school board is that I think it's a unique opportunity to support the kids to and support the people who take care of the kids."
   Fassett indicated that she sees the role of school board member is one of service to teachers and parents as well as students. "I do come in with the desire to help serve and a desire to listen to the professionals and to the parents," she said.