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Barman, Wallin look to LOSD's future

With the election behind them, Bob Barman and John Wallin weigh in on a faciltiies bond, new technology and Smarter Balanced exam results


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - In the afterglow of easy election victories, Bob Barman (left) and John Wallin both say theyre excited about helping the Lake Oswego School District move forward. Bob Barman and John Wallin say they’re ready to get to work after decisive election victories that propelled them onto the Lake Oswego School Board earlier this month.

Barman, the owner of several area gas stations, won re-election May 19 after defeating challenger Ed Hutson; Wallin, a technical writer who previously served as vice president of the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, ran unopposed for his seat.

When Wallin’s first term and Barman’s second term begin on July 1, they’ll face the daunting issues that dominated their campaigns, including a looming bond measure to address more than $24 million in deferred facilities maintenance and the need to upgrade technology across the district.

The debate over Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment testing also could heat up later this year, when the first round of test scores is released.

This week, The Review asked Barman and Wallin to weigh in on those issues, and to reflect on the lessons they learned during the campaign.

Wallin says he chose to run in January after talking to all of the current board members and to other community and school leaders. He says he spent a lot of time asking people about what they considered to be important issues for the board to tackle, but believes he could have worked harder to explain that he doesn’t have all the answers and still needs to hear from as many people as possible — and learn as much as he can — to be able to make good decisions while on the board.

“As the new guy,” Wallin says, “I have a lot to learn and process.”

“Grateful for everyone who stood behind” him during his bid for re-election, Barman said his campaign focused on how every student should have the same opportunities, whether they have a disability, are struggling financially, are an average student or a top student destined for an Ivy League school.

“I will stand up for every child,” he says.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bob Barman was re-elected to Position 5 on the Lake Oswego School Board. I will stand up for every child, he says.

What do you expect will be the most difficult issue for you personally to tackle?

Wallin: We will need to build a long-term plan. Superintendent (Heather) Beck will be driving the agenda, and I’m excited to see where she wants to go over the next five, 10, 20 years. I definitely have some big shoes to fill, replacing Patti Zebrowski, who always had a very thoughtful approach to every issue before the board. I respect all the existing board members very much, and while I know there have been a few contentious issues, I’d really like to work to get the board to agree unanimously as much as possible as we work towards some important decisions.

What are you looking forward to most now that you’re returning to the school board?

Barman: The next four years are going to be the most exciting time in LOSD history. I really look forward to working with the entire community on moving our district forward. I look at the opportunity to improve our facilities and revolutionize our classroom technology as an incredibly hopeful time for all our students. We are so lucky to live in a town that, in every fabric of our being, believes in education. I really feel inspired by the possibilities.

What do you think is the biggest mistake the board can make when it comes to planning and creating a facilities bond measure and then executing the projects it would make possible?

Wallin: Lack of transparency. We have to be completely open and honest at every stage of the process. I don’t have the inside view yet, but what I see so far is very encouraging. We have hired a new director of project management, Randy Miller, and he is systematically going over all our facilities to assess their current state. From there, we’ll start to set our priorities, both in terms of things we need to fix or replace and what we need to do to get our schools ready to provide a great 21st century education.

I want to make sure we communicate really well about what our district needs to do to compete with other school districts around the nation and the world. Then, we have to be willing to listen to what students, teachers, staff, parents and the community at large has on its priority list. Our goal should be an excited and engaged community at all levels.

Barman: I think among the biggest mistakes would be not strategically looking at our entire system over the long term. We should not ask taxpayers to invest if we can’t clearly articulate why these improvements need to be made and that infrastructure improvements will last 30-50 years. If we focus on short-term “political” investments, we will do great harm to our system and make it very difficult to ask future taxpayers to fix the damage caused by our short-term thinking. We need to be very forward-thinking with a focused, long-term vision.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - John Wallin ran unopposed for Position 1 on the Lake Oswego School Board. As the new guy, he says, I have a lot to learn and process.

How should the district approach improving technology in the schools?

Barman: Technology needs to be uniform and very current. Today, our children are living in a technology-driven world. We can’t rely on PTOs or PTAs to fund these basic classroom technology needs. I believe technology will be a game-changer for education, and we need to be at the forefront. This is one of the best investments we can make for all our children. We have incredible talent in this community to make this vision possible.

Wallin: I think our district has already quietly begun to make great strides in this area over the past year. We are upgrading our infrastructure, upgrading our hardware across the district, and next year, we are adding some programming and other computer-oriented classes.

I like the way Riverdale School District approached this by establishing a technology committee, adopting the National Educational Technology Standards and then rolling out technology across the district. Of course, we are a larger district and the process is more complex, but the idea of having a reference plan to guide us seems essential to ensure that we stay on track.

The plan should include not only curriculum and hardware and software, but also professional development and technology support for our teachers and staff. Technology needs to be a tool that is integrated into the curriculum, not another thing to do and teach.

Establishing a plan also takes the burden of buying and implementing technology off the plates of our PTOs and PTAs. They have done a great job at helping our schools stay afloat in times of fiscal crisis, but I think they would welcome a districtwide plan that would let them focus on other areas.

In terms of curriculum, I’d like to make sure the plan includes grade-level-appropriate learning of skills like computer programming. The term “coding” is popular these days, but that term doesn’t really reflect what students are learning, which is how to think about complex problems, how to model ideas in ways that computers can understand, and then program computers to complete the tasks. Even students who don’t have interest in programming can benefit from these kinds of skills.

The first Smarter Balanced Assessment scores will be released later this year. How can the board and district help prepare students and families for the likelihood that those scores will be lower than they’re used to seeing?

Wallin: We just have to set expectations appropriately. The main thing to remember is that we are starting over with a completely different scorecard than before.

Let’s say the old testing system, OAKS, was scored like a basketball game, where a good team might score 100 points. Now we are changing to the Smarter Balanced Assessments, and let’s say those are scored like a football game, where a good score might be 35 points. Those are not going to be the exact scores, of course, but the idea is the same: It’s a different scoring system.

So if our average score this year is 42 points, that might look bad by the old standard. But by the new standard, it looks pretty good. And even then, that’s just a one-year score; we need more scores to compare it to in order to show growth.

I think people will get used to the new scores soon enough, and I hope that the ability to compare directly with districts across the nation will give us good information about how we are doing. We may not have that data the first year, but in coming years, it will be a really valuable tool.

Barman: The great news in the new Smarter Balanced testing is that we are now going to see how well our students are doing compared with their peers nationwide, and we should not fear those results. Today, we can only compare our test results with other districts in Oregon. I believe the DNA in our community will embrace any change we need to make to keep our kids performing at the top. It won’t surprise me if we have room to grow. That is OK. Like most businesses, you can always get better, and we will.

What is one interesting thing about you that might surprise people to learn?

Wallin: I appeared on the “Tonight Show” a year ago, dancing the hustle in Times Square while answering questions about world politics.

Barman: When I was 29 and (my wife) Katy was 28, we quit our corporate jobs on a moment’s notice and purchased our first two gas stations. Katy and I pumped gas for 16 hours a day, every day, for six months. It will probably not surprise anyone that Katy was the better gas pumper. I was told I talked too much to my new customers. Katy wore coveralls with “Katy” embroidered on the pocket and I wore polyester pants with “Bob” emblazoned on my shirt. Those were the best of times. I loved every minute of building our business from the ground up with Katy. She is still a better gas pumper than I am!

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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