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Zone 5 candidates discuss reasons for running

Semira Clark, Mark Greene and John James are running for the Zone 5 seat on the Estacada School Board. It’s a four-year term.

Semira Clark

“I’m just a parent, just a mom, just a working woman that sees something wrong and wants to do something about it,” Clark said of her candidacy.

She explained that her 6-year-old son is the reason behind her passion for running.

Clark’s son was born with a rare heart condition that left him with health and learning challenges.

Semira ClarkClark explained that programs such as the Head Start Program at Clackamas River Elementary had helped her son immeasurably.

“Without that program he wouldn’t be integrating into kindergarten. He would not have had the structure to go into kindergarten or the school-setting skills he would have needed,” she said.

In the face of extreme budget cuts, Clark wants to find a way to keep special needs, arts, physical education and music programs.

“I want to see not just my child but everybody’s child have access to these fundamental programs,” she said.

“I want to get my hands on the school budget. I’d sit down with the core group of people and see ‘where are we going wrong?’ If there’s no taxpayer money, how can we fix that? I want to think outside of the box,” Clark said.

Clark advocates fundraising and soliciting donations as a remedy to budget woes.

“I found through my political party (Republican) there’s a lot of people out there willing o donate to the right cause. As long as they’re not hounded but talked to. I think there’s a lot of private donation that hasn’t been approached yet,” Clark said.

Clark hopes to get the community involved in fundraising for the schools.

When it comes to the search for a new superintendent, Clark said, “I would be looking for someone who was very budget conscious and had our children’s best interests in mind.”

Clark works at Estacada Thriftway and has a greeting card business on the side.

Mark Greene

Mark Greene is the current chairman of the Estacada School Board.

He’s been a board member for 12 years.

“I am by far the longest standing person on the school board,” Greene said.

Mark GreeneIn the last few years he counts “navigating a tough budget time,” the number of Estacada students that move on to college and charter school programs among the school board’s biggest accomplishments.

“We’ve done a lot more with less as a district and I’ve been proud of that,” he said.

He also is proud of the vocational programs the district offers such as the auto mechanics program offered at Estacada High School.

“Strong vocational educational programs have been washed aside in other districts,” he noted.

Greene explained that the district hopes to have a nursing program next year.

Greene believes that “rebranding” the district in order to make it more attractive to students and increase enrollment is the best way to deal with severe budget cuts.

“If someone has a better idea, they haven’t spoke up,” he said.

As part of the rebranding effort Greene, along with his fellow board members, has been developing plans for several traditional/charter school “hybrid” programs to be housed at River Mill.

One such traditional/charter school hybrid is an Early Education Academy that would give kids the opportunity to learn a foreign language from kindergarten up.

Another is a vocational program that would offer internships through private businesses.

Still another would be a Special Needs Academy.

Despite acknowledging that “it will be a lot of work before next fall,” Greene thinks the programs could be operational in the coming school year. “Well, if I’m elected,” he said.

“All three are cost neutral. We’ll put staff estimates on the budget but we won’t hire staff until we see a student interest,” Greene said.

He went on to explain that “if these programs come to fruition people’s jobs can come back.”

If the programs are attractive enough to increase enrollment in the district, state funding also will increase, allowing for the possibility of hiring staff back.

“People are in the middle of all this,” Greene said. “I wouldn’t probably be running again if it weren’t for all this. Since I was instrumental in this I felt I owed it to the district to stay.”

He expects the board to vote on these three programs on Wednesday, May 8, and then “start building them.”

Greene was involved in the hiring of current Superintendent Howard Fetz.

“We went from the last superintendent to this superintendent without spending an extra cent. And eliminated some administrative positions, including the assistant superintendent position. You can see economically it made a lot of sense,” Greene said.

Fetz had been the assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent.

For Greene, superintendent candidates will have to be forward thinking, flexible and “probably from Oregon.”

“It’s got to be someone who can lead us into a new era,” he said.

Greene has lived in Estacada for 17 years.

He’s the director of business development for North Coast Electric. He’s been working for the company for 25 years.

Greene’s two daughters graduated from Estacada High School.

John James

Having lived in Estacada all his life, Coach John James is an Estacada “lifer.” He graduated from Estacada High School 20 years ago.

James has been coaching in Estacada for 19 years. He coaches high school football and basketball and youth football, basketball and baseball.

John James“The involvement level I’ve had in the schools with the teachers and kids in the schools coaching and stuff gives me the edge,” said James of his candidacy.

James said that he thinks that the current school board sometimes makes decisions based on older times.

“At times I don’t feel they’re really in touch with kids nowadays,” James explained. “I think it’s time for some change. It’s time to see some broader and new ideas on the ways we should be going. I think I keep up with the parents and the kids as well as the teachers.

“I think it would be best for the school board to have someone who doesn’t just take a business approach but has a vested interest in the district,” he added.

James said students have to be given reasons to stay interested in attending school, a direct reference to proposals by elementary school principals to cut P.E., music and band teaching positions.

“Some of these classes are what keep kids in school. To be honest, I don’t think those are viable cuts.”

Having not yet studied the budget, James did not yet wish to suggest other places where cuts could be made.

In terms of the search for a new superintendent, James said, “I’d want to look for new ideas, new blood. Someone from outside the district. With lots of experience running other districts or corporations. Someone willing to work with teachers for the best solutions for the district.”

James is a property appraiser for Multnomah County and runs his own business as a real estate appraiser.

James’ oldest son attends Estacada High School and his youngest son attends Clackamas River Elementary.

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