Funding is key issue at event

A forum on the school board election last week at Lake Oswego High School drew about 100 people — mostly future voters.

“It looks like our wildest expectations were exceeded,” said Andy Porter, forum facilitator and president of Lake Oswego Education Association.Delaney

The event, held in the school library, was a partnership of the association and the school’s political action seminar students. Porter got things started after students provided several extra chairs to the large gathering.

He explained to attendees that there are three opening school board seats, two of which are contested, and then he invited the five candidates, one of whom is an incumbent, to introduce themselves. Candidates had a chance to preview a questionnaire and had prepared written responses, which they submitted to organizers in advance. Constituents, who can vote on each of the open positions, will choose the new school board during the May 21 special election.

“Kids can learn about what’s going on in our community so they’ll know something when they have a voice in the district,” said Elizabeth Willet, a Lake Oswego High sophomore.Hartman

Willet said attending the forum garnered her extra credit in her beginning constitutional law class. Porter said more than one class offered a grade boost. Many in the crowd hunched over spiral notebooks, rapidly filling the college-ruled paper with notes.

“Thanks to extra credit,” said John Wendland, incumbent for Position 3, during his introductory statement. “As chair of the school board, I’m doubling it.”

Wendland said with two school board members exiting, having a four-year term under his belt is an asset.

The school board has a plan “to take the budget gap and close it,” he said.

The board intends to decrease spending by $1 million next year with an additional $1 million decrease each year for the next two years. Reserves will help the school district soldier through difficult times, Wendland said.Howell

“It’s always: Do more with less,” he said.

Karen Delaney, a parent and former New York City Campaign Finance Board attorney, is challenging Wendland for his seat. Delaney said the real issue of the evening is “how to make the future of this district as good as the past.”

The school board needs better cost and quality controls for capital spending projects and should explore new revenue sources while being more efficient with its spending, she said.

Delaney said the school board needs more ways to interface with the community, possibly adding an online bulletin board a busy parent could use in the wee hours.

“We need to make the process as rich and as inclusive as possible,” she said.

Candidate Kevin Robertson, facing off with Sarah Howell for Position 2, could not attend because he was with his daughter, a freshman at Lake Oswego High. She was hospitalized for a serious medical condition but is expected to recover. Robertson’s friend, Kerry Griffin, spoke in his stead.Robertson

Howell said she is praying for Robertson and his family. Howell and Robertson are on the board of the Lake Oswego School District Foundation, a nonprofit that supports schools.

Howell said she is the only candidate who will have children in elementary school in the coming years.

“I think I’ll offer a needed voice and a fresh perspective,” she said.

As a marketing professional, she said she would boost efforts to attract new students, saying one student brings in an additional $6,500 per year.

“This funding will help support and enhance existing programs,” she said in her written responses.

Howell and Robertson both said the school board must continue advocating for funding improvements before the state Legislature.

“We need to be a presence in Salem and fight for increased funding for education and for limits on testing and state mandates that take time away from teaching our kids,” Robertson said in his written responses.Wendland

All candidates pointed to the search for a superintendent to replace Bill Korach, who retires next year, as a priority.

Liz Hartman, who is running unopposed for Position 4, is one of the vice presidents of the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation’s executive board.

“This is an excellent school district — it will continue to be an excellent school district,” Hartman said.

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For more information on the five candidates, visit their Facebook pages.

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