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School board candidates lay out their platforms

election -- Two vie for Position 4, hoping to replace chairwoman Susan Winterbourne, while incumbent Fred Marble is running without opposition

There are still three weeks left before completed ballots must be mailed in to the Washington County Elections Office - in fact, they'll be mailed out to registered voters this Friday, April 27 - but candidates for two open seats on the Forest Grove School Board are already on the stump.

The three men, Fred Marble, Matthew Knight and Ralph Brown, sat for interviews with News-Times reporters last week, answering questions about their backgrounds and motivations.

Applications due

By the time the election is over May 15, the Forest Grove board will have one new elected member. Additionally, Mike Steele's seat, Position 1, is vacant due to his resignation, which becomes effective the end of May. There are two years left in his term.

The board will appoint a replacement for Steele sometime next month. Applications are due to the district administration office, 1728 Main Street, by 5 p.m. this Friday, May 4.

Candidate interviews, with members of the board present, will be held the week of May 7, and will be open to the public.

Board members Dawn Pratt in Position 2 and Shawn Vilhauer in Position 3 both have two years remaining in their terms.

Fred Marble: 'It's necessary to retain local control'

Forest Grove High School has lost its fair share of Marbles.

Fred Marble can count at least 14 of them. His mother, his eight siblings and four sons are all graduates of Forest Grove High School.

He is, too.

But Fred is the Marble that the school district has found again: For the past six years, he's served on the school board.

Now, he's looking to serve another four-year term - and no one stepped forward to run against him in the May 15 election.

Marble said one of his biggest priorities would be to continue to lobby for funding at the state level though the Oregon School Boards Association. He is a member of the OSBA's board of directors.

He also stressed the importance of keeping the schools in compliance with No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal act that aimed to increase schools' accountability by requiring students to take standardized tests. If a school repeatedly fails to meet the standards, Marble said, its administration will be taken over by the state.

'It's very necessary to retain local control,' he said.

Another of his priorities is to figure out how the district is going to address its need for more classroom space - and how to pay for it. He suggested fees on residential development.

If he weren't on the school board, Marble said he would spend more time volunteering in local classrooms and at his church.

Matthew Knight: District growth 'is going to be here'

Matthew Knight views the world through the lens of his profession, a land developer.

He looks at the Forest Grove School District and sees the schools full to the brim. He looks at the city and sees the population rapidly growing. And he can't avoid the question: Where are all the new kids going to go?

'It's going to be here,' he said of growth, 'and it's going to be here soon - and we don't have a plan, I don't think.'

That's largely why he's running for Position 5 on the Forest Grove School Board in the May 15 election. That and because his 8-year-old daughter is a second-grader at Harvey Clarke Elementary School.

'It's hard to gripe about something unless you step up as a person and do something about it,' said Knight, 40.

The lifelong resident of Forest Grove has no experience on an elected body, and he's running against Ralph Brown, a retired teacher and former mayor of Cornelius.

One of them will replace board member Susan Winterbourne, who resigned effective June 30.

Knight said he can bring a business mind to the school board. He stopped short of offering specific plans for addressing future growth at the schools, often saying he didn't have enough information.

A single father, Knight regularly signs up as a field trip chaperone with his daughter's class. He said he would continue to volunteer at the classroom level if he weren't elected to the school board.

Ralph Brown: 'I want to be a positive spokesperson'

Ralph Brown is in the only contested race for the Forest Grove School Board, yet he made little effort during a joint interview with his opponent, Matthew Knight, to tout his experience in education and elective politics.

In fact, at one point, Brown put this hand on the shoulder of Knight and praised his decision to run for the school board as a way to further involve himself in the education of his 8-year-old daughter.

That was the same reason he started volunteering with the schools, Brown said.

'We're all working for the kids,' said Brown, 62, whose own two children are now grown and married.

Either he or Knight will replace board member Susan Winterbourne, who resigned effective June 30.

Brown's resume includes two stints as a Cornelius city councilor, two terms as Cornelius mayor and a brief tour of duty in the Oregon House of Representatives.

So, why run for the schoolboard?

'I think the district is doing a lot of things right, and I want to be a positive spokesperson,' he said.

He said he thinks the board could use more representation from Cornelius, as roughly a third of students in the Forest Grove School District live there.

And he said he would reach out to seniors who may not have a direct stake in the district but whose votes are important to its financial well-being.

If he weren't elected to the school board, Brown said he'd continue volunteering in classrooms and on committees.