One contested race on school board
First is a word that comes up often with Newberg resident Ines Peña.
She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, then the first to graduate from college when she earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and political science from Linfield College.
So it didn't faze her much when she decided to run for a seat on the Newberg School District board of directors despite not having ever run for political office.
"I was a little hesitant because I am young and not as experienced as others, but at the same time I believe that we should be the change we wish to see in the world," Peña said. "What better way to do it than just throw myself in there?"
When Peña filed for the election, she was the only candidate from Zone 4, but incumbent and current board chairman Todd Thomas did decide to run again and the two make up the only contested race in next week's election.
Incumbents Ron Mock and vice chairman Bob Woodward are running unopposed for their positions representing Zone 1 and Zone 5, respectively.
Thomas has served on the board for eight years and will face opposition for the position for only the second time, so he wasn't greatly surprised to learn about Peña. More than anything, he was encouraged to see another community member show interest in public service.
"I'm always looking for people who can serve on committees or even express an interest in future board work as others move or leave the board," Thomas said "There just isn't a lot of interest. We're having a little bit of turnover in our budget committees, so we're trying to canvas and find people that would serve us well."
Thomas said he's been fascinated over the past eight years to learn all the inner workings of the school district and also proud of some of the gains the district has made in graduation rates and the investment it has made in bringing technology into the classroom.
One of the major goals moving forward will be the strengthening and expansion of transition programs geared around students entering both middle and high school.
"I've really gained an appreciation for how important that is and when you start seeing some of the data that shows where kids struggle, at what stage we seem to lose kids, that also confirms the need for having really strong transition programs," Thomas said. "I think we're beginning to see more and more of that in our district."
Peña understands that because she is challenging an incumbent, she is an underdog, but feels that as a Latina she would bring a different perspective to the board. Regardless of the outcome, this is just the beginning for her.
"I'm still invested in the community and the kids going through the system," Peña said.
Even if Thomas is re-elected, the board is set to see some change come July, as Polly Peterson will vacate her seat after moving out of Zone 2, which covers a wide rural area from the Dundee hills to Chehalem Mountain and includes portions of the Dundee, Ewing Young, Chehalem Valley, Antonia Crater, Mabel Rush and Mountain View attendance areas.
"She'll be missed without a doubt," Thomas said. "She's bright and intuitive and understands education."
Peterson was allowed to serve out the rest of the school year, but the school board is recruiting candidates to serve out the rest of her term, which runs through June 2019.