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School boards Jimenez succumbs


Colleagues react to death, which followed long illness

Gil Jimenez, a member of the Forest Grove School Board since last January, died early Tuesday morning, the News-Times has learned.

Jimenez, who had been ailing in recent months and underwent treatments for his illness, passed away at 12:30 a.m. He had been in the intensive care unit of a Portland hospital since Thursday, his wife Geri Jimenez said in an email to the school district.

"The past few days have been difficult for us, but he left us peacefully a few hours ago," she wrote.

Details about Jimenez's illness and his prognosis were few because of privacy requests. However, a few administrators were aware of his condition, and he had told colleagues on the board he was being treated for cancer.

Due to health concerns, he had been absent from a number of regular school board meetings dating back to last summer, including the most recent two on Jan. 28 and Feb. 11.

"He has been greatly missed during his time of medical need," longtime board member Fred Marble said Tuesday in response to news of Jimenez's passing. "He brought with him great insights and was a calming influence" on the board.

Communication a priority

Jimenez joined the local panel as an appointee in during a time of intense turmoil on the school board, stepping in after voters recalled former members Anna Tavera-Weller and Terry Howell in in the wake of severe budget cuts that forced some unpopular decisions, including the closure of Gales Creek Elementary School.

Jimenez and John Hayes, a retired Pacific University dean, joined Marble, Alisa Hampton and Kate Grandusky on the panel three months later.

Not long after moving to Oregon from Arizona in 2010, Jimenez made the jump to public service. As one of eight hopefuls for the two board appointments last year, he promised to work toward "open communication and transparency" and greater opportunity for Hispanic students — and kept that pledge once he was sworn in.

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis said Jimenez made "great contributions" to the board with his leadership and experience. "He had great compassion and a strong desire to serve students," she added. "I feel fortunate to have known Gil."

Grandusky said she was "saddened and stunned" by the news.

"Even through his illness this past year, he was committed to helping the superintendent and the board in any way he could," she noted. "Gil was passionate about helping the next generation of students have opportunities to fill their dreams."

Three seats open

The death of Jimenez will further alter the future makeup of the Forest Grove board. He told the News-Times just last month he hoped to run for his Position 2 seat, which is open in the May 21 special election.

Also available are Hampton's Position 3 seat — she is not running again — and Hayes' Position 1 seat, for which he has filed as a candidate with the Washington County Elections Office.

While Jimenez was known in Forest Grove for his work on the school board, in Portland he was valued for his business experience.

The retired international banker was a member of the Portland State University Foundation board of trustees. He joined the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber two years ago, where he made an immediate impact by helping to craft a new strategic plan for the nonprofit organization, according to Gale Castillo, the group's president.

"Having overseen banking operations in Mexico and having lived in England, he brought a global perspective to economic development and business," Castillo said. "You had a real jewel out there. We're so sad to lose him."

Geri Jimenez noted in her email to the district that the family is planning a private funeral Mass and burial in Portland sometime in the coming weeks, followed by a public memorial Mass and reception in Scottsdale, Ariz.