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Experience, expertise make Barman, Wallin best choices for board

Serving on the Lake Oswego School Board does not require members to dress like the Easter bunny or hand out brightly colored eggs.

But as we watched Bob Barman wriggle into a rabbit costume at this year’s Hop at the Hunt in April, it occurred to us: There is almost nothing Barman wouldn’t do for the children of Lake Oswego.

For more than 30 years, Barman has been intimately involved not only in the school district but also in the community at large. From volunteering in classrooms and serving as a PTA president to co-chairing auctions and working on local option campaigns — “every year, every month, every day,” he says — he has displayed a deeply felt passion for making this town a better place to live.

It is a unique combination of experience and commitment that sets Barman apart in the race for Position 5 on the Lake Oswego School Board, and it is why we believe he should be elected to a second four-year term.

Granted, Barman can appear scattered at times, and he can be, well, a little long-winded. Yes, he has on occasion changed positions midstream. But Barman’s clear vision of inclusion and opportunity for every Lake Oswego student has never wavered. And there is no denying the list of accomplishments he has compiled from the day his sons entered first grade at Palisades Elementary through his first term on the board.

Barman has worked to ensure that students at both high schools had access to comparable learning opportunities. He led the effort to eliminate an outdated class-ranking system, and found a way to make sure that every student had access to Honors English and ACT prep classes. He pushed to create the district’s hugely popular Spanish immersion program for elementary students and to add foreign-language instruction in seventh grade.

Perhaps most impressively, Barman dedicated himself to ending the practice of busing students with disabilities to schools outside the district, insisting instead that they be allowed to attend class at their own schools in their own community.

“It’s about best practices for everyone and breaking down barriers for all,” Barman says. ““In every policy, in every fiber of my being, all means all.”

Barman says the district does well by its best scholars, but he believes more can be done to make sure every student has the tools to excel. He wants to implement a “Blueprint for Success” that gives every sixth-grader a roadmap to graduation and beyond. He continues to advocate for community college partnerships as a way to increase educational options and decrease college costs. And he has expressed interest in a student-led initiative to offer more vocational training.

“We need to do all we can,” he says, “especially at the elementary level, to make sure not one single student falls through the system.”

Barman acknowledges the existence of a north-south divide that often pits neighbors on one side of Oswego Lake against the other, but he contends that “education is the change. It is the equalizer.”

To that end, he has vowed to continue to seek out new ideas and new approaches, and to use his business and construction experience to create a fiscally responsible infrastructure plan “that updates and repairs our woefully out-of-date elementary and junior high schools, keeps our kids and educators safe and brings all of our schools into the 21st century.”

Barman’s opponent in the Position 5 race, business owner Ed Hutson, has also made equity an issue. “We owe it to our community to objectively evaluate all of our needs,” he says, “and further secure all Lake Oswego neighborhoods as sought-after destinations, regardless of the address.”

Hutson says he would leverage his business, leadership and construction management expertise to make that happen. His goal is to serve “the entire community,” he says, and we admire his determination to provide “a fresh perspective, an objective mind and a clean slate.”

But Hutson is relatively new to the district, and there is a steep learning curve to joining the school board — especially a board facing a myriad of tough issues. Business and nonprofit expertise notwithstanding, there is real value to connections and relationships forged over decades of interaction with students, parents, teachers and staff. Change for change’s sake just isn’t enough.

John Wallin, who is running unopposed for Position 1, understands that. He has been involved with Lake Oswego schools ever since he moved to the district in 2001, serving as vice president of the Schools Foundation and then as its communications committee chair. He also played a critical role in the Renew Our School Levy campaign, gaining important insights into the way the district runs and the role he can play in prioritizing needs and implementing programs.

Wallin’s campaign slogan is “building excellence together,” and we believe he and Barman will use their expertise and their experience in the district to do just that as members of the Lake Oswego School Board. They have our unconditional endorsement, and on May 19, they deserve your vote.

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