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School board candidates weigh in on keeping district on track

The seven hopefuls discuss their goals and hopes for the district as the May 17 special election nears
by: Submitted photos Pictured at top, left to right: Cheri Zimmerman, Kasey Saito, Patricia Muller. Middle row: Mary Furrow, Kristen Keswick. Bottom: Rob Fernandez, Betty Reynolds.

Seven candidates will vie for three positions on the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board in the May 17 special election.

For Position 1, two of the three candidates, Kasey Saito and Patricia Muller, were profiled in last week's West Linn Tidings.

The third candidate for Position 1 is Cheri Zimmerman.

Two-year, position 1

* Cheri Zimmerman, a lifelong Oregonian, has lived in West Linn for the past five years and in Wilsonville for 17 years prior to that.

She and her husband have three children at Wilsonville High School.

'Our children face extreme challenges that we didn't experience when we were their age,' Zimmerman states in her voters' pamphlet statement. 'They need a superior educational foundation, focused encouragement and unfailing support.

'I think the board is doing a great job,' Zimmerman said. 'I'm an advocate for fiscal responsibility and transparency, ensuring accountability and integrity as we face difficult budgetary challenges.'

Zimmerman works as a software engineer and has a background as an industry standards auditor and a process improvement manager.

She has served her community as a Cub Scout den leader, assistant soccer coach and a member of the 'Vote!' campaign. She is a Sunday school teacher and heads a youth center improvement project.

'I have a long history of placing the highest value on the well being of children,' she said.

Zimmerman has a bachelor's degree from Oregon State University in computer science.

To reach Zimmerman, you can email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Four-year, position 2

The candidates for the four-year Position 2 are incumbent and board chair Mary Furrow and Kristen Keswick.

* Mary Furrow of Wilsonville has spent eight years on the WL-WV school board, and is currently the board chair.

'I am proud of many things we've done as a board, but in particular the passing of the school bond in 2008, which will maintain our schools and add two much-needed elementary schools,' Furrow said.

She feels that dealing with the budget challenges in 2003 and again this year have been the biggest challenges.

'This year's budget, while not finalized, has required a look at every non-mandated expense. It has been very time consuming, but I'm deeply proud of the work we've done. We'll be presenting the budget April 4, and I think we'll see cuts in administrative positions and decreases in supplies for sure.'

Furrow is president of Furrow Pump, Inc., and has a background as a psychiatric mental health nurse.

She has two sons, and her youngest is a senior at Wilsonville High School.

'What I am proudest of as a board has been our ability to blur the lines and make it a district of one instead of two communities,' Furrow said. 'We've made sure that summits and task forces have representatives from a wide range of people from both West Linn and Wilsonville.'

Furrow feels it is important for her to remain on the board in order to provide some 'solid footing for the new superintendent,' and to 'make sure the budget changes we make are the right ones.'

You can reach Furrow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

* Kristen Keswick has lived in Wilsonville for three and half years. She has twin boys in kindergarten at Boones Ferry Primary School.

'In my world, the future of my kids is most important to me,' Keswick said. 'This district has always had high standards, and it is important to provide a growing environment.'

Keswick has worked for Xerox in Wilsonville for 12 years and is currently a program manager.

'I develop products on site. I have to see production through every function from beginning to end. I get quotes, work with engineers, schedules, deliverables, budgets and personalities. These are skills that are transferrable to a position on the school board.'

Keswick served on the Boones Ferry Site Council and was recently involved in the science fair. She volunteers in her boys' kindergarten class and coaches youth sports.

'My husband and I found the addition of so many furlough days this year to be pretty upsetting,' she said. 'I figured I have a choice: to sit by and watch or contribute and make a difference.

'The incumbent has been on the job for eight years. The district needs a fresh perspective. It's time for innovative ideas.'

Keswick has her bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University and her master's degree in business from Portland State University.

Questions and comments for Keswick may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Four-year, position 4

For Position 4, also a four-year position, the candidates are Rob Fernandez, who was appointed in August 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Lori Beight, and Betty Reynolds.

* Rob Fernandez of Wilsonville was appointed to the school board on Sept. 28, 2010.

'I participated for five years on the West Linn-Wilsonville school board budget committee and for a year on the bond oversight committee,' Fernandez said. 'And I have three kids in the district.'

Fernandez has been a member of the school board through the selection process of the new school superintendent and through this year's difficult budgeting.

'This coming year will be a test for our community. The most important question that we face will be whether we as school administrators, staff and board members can elevate the debate for resources such that we make thoughtful decisions based on value, merit and improvement of the educational experience that we provide to our kids,' Fernandez said.

He continued, 'I believe that the answer to the question will be found by subordinating personal opinion and bias to intellectually honest deliberation based on the most accurate information available,' Fernandez said.

'If we are successful, we will emerge from this as a better, stronger district. I am willing and able to serve this purpose.'

Fernandez and his family have lived in Wilsonville since 1986.

'When we drove the U-Haul into town there was one stop light, one grocery store, one feed store, the post office and one tavern,' Fernandez said.

President of this own Wilsonville business, Carisbrook Technology Services, Fernandez provides technical support services to more than 750 veterinary hospitals around the world.

Fernandez has his bachelor's degree from Lewis and Clark College and his master's degree in business from the University of Pennsylvania.

You can reach Fernandez at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

* Betty Reynolds of West Linn, whose campaign slogan is 'Together, We Can Do Better,' is a grandmother to two children who attend Willamette Primary School.

She has lived in West Linn and Wilsonville for 17 years, and she is 'committed to preserving the quality of our schools in the face of declining revenues.'

An organization and management consultant by profession, Reynolds spends her volunteer hours on the board of directors for the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation.

'We are attempting to raise more than $300,000 in our spring campaign in order to hire back 11 teachers,' Reynolds said.

Reynolds' occupational background includes positions as the executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and deputy real estate commissioner for Oregon.

She has her Ph.D. from Portland State University in public administration and policy and feels her most important advantage is her experience.

'I have classroom, district and statewide perspectives,' Reynolds said. 'I volunteer in the classroom, and I've seen first hand how dedicated the teachers are and how hard they work.

'My goal as a board member is to reach out to the community. As a member of the foundation board, I've been working with PTAs, parents, administrators and business people. It is important to establish good communication from the ground up.'

If you'd like to know more about Reynolds, you can reach her by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..