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Hayes, Jimenez win spots on school board

Applicant brokers a last-ditch deal between Grandusky, Marble

It took a surprise intervention to get the job accomplished, but the Forest Grove School Board gained two new appointees Monday night.

Soon-to-retire Pacific University liberal arts dean John Hayes was an easy pick to fill one of two seats on the board, vacated when voters recalled former members Terry Howell and Anna Tavera-Weller in November.

Remaining board members Alisa Hampton, Fred Marble and Kate Grandusky quickly arrived at three 'yes' votes to slot Hayes in Position 1.

But Marble and Grandusky tussled over applicants Jennifer Norman and Gil Jimenez as Hampton, the board chair, tried to wrangle a mandatory unanimous decision on a choice for Position 2.

Marble wanted the business experience and 'strong link' to the Latino community offered by Jimenez, a retired banking executive, while Grandusky favored the youth and 'freshness' of Norman, a mother and school district volunteer.

Marble even put forth a motion to suspend the appointment process until next month, after Hayes is sworn in, to improve the odds of getting that elusive third vote.

But Hampton wasn't having it. 'I want to remind all of us why we're here,' she said to her colleagues. 'If the bottom line is we need to select someone else to have a full board for our sake, the district's sake and the students' sake, let's look again at where we can compromise.

'I really don't think we'll be doing our job if we put this off any longer.'

Rank order

After interviewing all the applicants, each board member put them in rank order. Hayes, Jimenez, financial advisor Jim Corbeau, veterinarian John Minor and Norman made the top five. The remaining three were Brad Coffey, Karen O'Donnell and Jeff Cooper.

Hampton praised the entire slate of applicants.

'We have some amazing candidates. I'd hate to walk away without appointing someone,' Hampton said after the board settled on Hayes as its first choice.

But after four votes on three different candidates (Marble nominated Jimenez twice, financial advisor Jim Corbeau once and veterinarian John Minor once) went 2-1 with Grandusky blocking, Norman showed her hand. She slipped Hampton a note on the dais, encouraging the board to appoint Jimenez and pass her up this time.

'I strongly feel that Gil and John would be the best additions,' Norman said. 'They have a similar perspective to the one I would have brought.'

Norman, a volunteer in Echo Shaw Elementary School's Start Making A Reader Today and two-way immersionprograms, pledged to continue her involvement.

Appointment 'humbling'

Hayes, who'll retire from Pacific in June, said he planned 'not to get much sleep' while juggling responsibilities on the board, at the university and at home between February and July.

'It hasn't quite sunk in yet that I was appointed,' Hayes said. 'It's humbling, really.'

He said he's excited about supporting the district's STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative and intends 'to work hard on partnerships' as a new board member. Beyond that, Hayes is bracing for another tough budget cycle this spring.

'Clearly the budget for next year will require huge amounts of effort,' he said.

Appointment 'humbling'

Jimenez, who moved to Forest Grove from Arizona in 2010, said he would bring to the table 'broad experience' in strategic planning, finance, human resources and an ability to connect with the district's Hispanic families.

He pledged to work with Superintendent Yvonne Curtis and her staff 'to focus on this growing segment of our community and student body.'

'One of my biggest concerns is what keeps Hispanic graduation rates so much lower than those of their peers,' said Jimenez. 'Most Hispanic families in this country are poor, and poverty correlates with attending underperforming schools that place little emphasis on postsecondary education.'

Hayes and Jimenez will be sworn in during the board's next regular meeting on Feb. 13.