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Potential exists to market our district and attract young families

Lake Oswego School Board members must have a solid understanding of fiscal challenges and opportunities. As a marketing professional who has regularly attended school board meetings for the last five years, I am up to the task. Sarah Howell

When my family chose to go to one income six years ago, we went through the difficult process of cutting expenses and saving. We sought expert advice and found solutions that led to financial stability. Our school district must undergo the same process. The board is charged with balancing the budget every year with funding largely determined in Salem — no easy task.

Following the advice of our administrators, district leaders built the reserve fund to $9 million this year. We will need this cushion as we look ahead to address deferred maintenance in our facilities, face rising PERS costs due to statewide mandates outside our control and wait for the economic recovery to accelerate.

State leaders recently proposed a school budget that may offer our community some stability. The legislative budget proposes a 2013-15 K-12 state allocation of $6.55 billion. What will finally emerge from negotiations among our legislators remains to be seen, but a workable blueprint does seem within reach. The school board has no official input in these decisions, but, as I have done, all citizens should contact their state representatives urging dollars for K-12, as well as PERS reform that’s legal and fair to retirees.

From the class of 2013 to today’s kindergartners who will graduate in 2025, we must prepare students to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy. We must use technology to increase efficiency and to prepare our students to be tomorrow’s leaders. As your school board member, I will advocate for increased funding from Salem. But I’ll also make sure our schools are more productive. Gains in achievement must outpace the growth of budgets.

As a marketing professional at OHSU, I see potential to market our district and attract young families to our area. One differentiator is the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation. The Foundation raises approximately $1.5 million to $2.5 million each year to support teachers in our district. As a third-year member of the foundation board and chair of the marketing committee, I appreciate the generosity of our volunteers and donors. If you have not given to the foundation, please consider doing so today at LOSFoundation.org.

Open enrollment offers the opportunity for students to transfer into our community. Each new arrival brings about $6,500 in funding. This year LOSD will offer this opportunity to up to 150 students — but only if families choose to transfer in. Our district needs a marketing strategy to capitalize on open enrollment each year.

Last year, while Lake Oswego’s conservative approach to open enrollment netted four new students, neighboring districts attracted as many as 100 students. They did this by offering the opportunity to a wider geographic boundary, and by offering programs that parents believe are worth the commute.

It will be interesting to see how our district competes for these students and the enrollment dollars they bring.

I welcome your ideas on how we can have a brighter financial future in Lake Oswego School District. Please visit my website and stay in touch (SarahForLOSD.com, facebook.com/SarahForLOSD). I hope that I can count on your vote in the May election.

Sarah Howell, Lake Oswego, is a candidate for Lake Oswego School Board Position 2.



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