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Five to run in May School Board elections

Five people will fight for two open seats in this year's Tigard-Tualatin School Board elections.

Thursday's filing deadline for the May 17 election saw three challengers against the board's two incumbent board members Manuel Trujillo and chairwoman Jill Zurschmeide.

School Board elections are decided by position, but are not limited to geographic location.

Position 2

After being appointed to the board in February 2010, Trujillo will be running for his first full term on the board. Trujillo was appointed after the resignation of Tigard-Tualatin principal and board member Art Rutkin.

Rutkin died in October of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - a cancer of the white blood cells.

Trujillo, who lives in Tualatin and works as an interpreter for Portland General Electric, has been praised by many, on and off the board, for bringing a big-business viewpoint to the board, as well as giving a voice to the more than 20 percent Hispanic population in the district.

That big business background is shared by his opponent, Kaiser Permanente regional security manager Robert Smith, who is running against him for Position 2.

Smith has also served on the state Private Security Private Investigators Policy Committee, and worked as a police chief in West Virginia.

Smith advocates for more individual power at the school level, rather than the district level, and said that the district needs to change the way it budgets.

'We need to budget like families do,' he said. 'We can't look from year to year, and we need a little more long-term budget preparation and planning. That way if things get better we are in better shape, and if it gets worse it's not as bad.'

Position 4

Vying for Position 4 is incumbent Jill Zurschmeide who is seeking her second term on the School Board. She has served as the board chairwoman since 2009. She first came to the board in 2007.

The self-employed Tualatin editor said that she would like to finish the work she started when she was first elected.

'I think now would be a bad time for me to leave the board,' she said. 'There is so much going on and we are such a young board. Only Barry Albertson is on his second term. To lose that experience I think would be bad for the board.'

Zurschmeide said that utilizing more technology, online classes and including proficiency-based education are on the forefront of education over the next few years.

'That's a really exciting and neat challenge,' Zurschmeide said.

Hoping to unseat her are two Tigard candidates, Gordon Fiddes, a board member of the M.I.T.C.H. Charter School and Southwest Preschool director Terri Burnette.

Fiddes ran for the Oregon House of Representatives as a Republican against Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, last year.

A proponent of charter schools, Fiddes said that Tigard-Tualatin could learn a lot from their model of working with fewer dollars to produce results.

'The thing is that charter schools are doing it with a whole lot less money. That brings about an analysis that needs to happen. How are they able to do it with less?' Fiddes said. 'They are able to produce at least as good an education as traditional public school with less money. M.I.T.C.H. has maintained an exceptional rating and I think a lot can be learned from them.'

Fiddes also supports allowing parents and students to choose which school they attend instead of the traditional model of school boundaries.

'Parents should have more choices available to them so they can obtain the best education for their children,' Fiddes wrote on his website. 'When students receive a fulfilling education, they are more likely to stay in high school to graduate.'

The third candidate for Position 4, Tigard resident Terri Burnette has held several positions in the district including working for four years as a reading specialist.

Burnette, a lifelong Tigard resident, said that she has seen the relationship between the school district and teachers union corrode over the last several years, and hopes to turn that around.

'I'd like (the teachers union) and parents to see that the people in charge of the district are doing the best they can and doing the best for the people,' she said. 'The financial issue is probably the biggest out there and that makes the tension even bigger.'

All the candidates have said they favor the upcoming $20 million May bond measure which would replace the roofs at Tualatin High School and Hazelbrook Middle School, as well as purchase textbooks and new technology for the schools.

'We need it,' Burnette said. 'I hope it passes.'