One is a career educator, the other is an engineer.
Mark Everett, a retiring Banks School District administrator, is challenging Lonnie Winkler, who's been on the Forest Grove School Board for four years.
Winkler, who has two children in the district, admits the learning curve on the board has been steep. "I don't know all the acronyms," he said during a candidates' forum last week, referring to the dizzying array of abbreviations board members must learn — from IDEA to STEM to PSAT to FERPA — and absorb their meanings.
No doubt Everett, a former Forest Grove science teacher whose two grown children followed him into the field, knows those educational terms backward and forward. And, his three decades of experience in the classroom and at the administrative level give him keen insight into the workings of a contemporary district.
But Winkler, a tech-savvy manager at a military ID company, has convinced us there's an advantage to his lack of inner-circle acumen: "I have to ask questions about everything." Along with his business and engineer mentality, that brings a fresh perspective to the board and has helped turn Winkler into a well-rounded board member who deserves another term.
His respect for data, for instance, helped change his mind about at least one issue: whether contraceptives should be dispensed to students at the district's School Based Health Center. "I thought it was government overreach," Winkler said. But after seeing statistics on teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) — and how effective contraceptives were in stopping them — he got on board with the idea.
That shows us he's open-minded enough to consider all sides of a topic before voting, which is paramount to making good policy.
As a member of the district's Budget Committee before he was elected to the board in 2013, Winkler has also learned his way around the $20 million financial blueprint for spending taxpayer dollars on local public education — something we think is critical to effectiveness on the board.
He has also been active in efforts to lobby state lawmakers for adequate and stable funding, attending coffees with Rep. Susan McLain and pushing to halt unfunded educational mandates — or at least raise the profile of that problem — many of which come from the federal level. "They're killing the state," he said.
If Forest Grove winds up with a budget shortfall later this spring after the Legislature comes up with a final number for K-12 education, Winkler said — wisely — that he would seek input from building principals before deciding what programs to cut.
Everett, himself a principal at Banks High, would bring a wealth of experience to the panel in terms of understanding the points of view of teachers, classified employees and administrators. And he certainly has a good grip on the array of concerns facing parents and students.
Yet he was the lone candidate at the forum who said he was not in favor of offering contraceptives to students through the SBHC. We're not sure why Everett opposes them, but in light of their ability to fight STD and teen pregnancies — not to mention the complex dynamics of many modern families — we think his attitude is a mistake.
Ultimately, though, we didn't think Everett made the case for why he would be a better board member than Winkler. He said he's hoping to win the Position 3 seat to extend his career (which will come to an end in June), and if elected, looked forward to "doing what's right for kids." But there are already two educators on the board — John Hayes and Kate Grandusky — and all four challengers in the May 16 election are educators as well. Everett failed to offer a compelling reason for tipping that balance further.
Winkler, on the other hand, impressed us with his ability to think on his feet and come up with coherent, innovative approaches to everything from budgetary blues to the balancing of technology vs. staff — and with his deep understanding that things are sometimes more complex than they appear.
At one time, for example, Winkler thought the district could have used funds spent on new Smartboards to bring back school librarians instead. But that was before he understood the Smartboards had been paid for through a specific grant.
And we're with him on his cautious approach to technology: "Just because the new, shiny thing comes out does not mean it will help our district."
We urge voters to return Lonnie Winkler to the Forest Grove School Board.