Newberg School Board chairman Todd Thomas announced last week that district parent Brandy Penner will be appointed to replace outgoing board member Polly Peterson at the board's next meeting July 11.
Peterson, who was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015, had to resign her position after she moved out of Zone 2, which represents the far western portion of the district that is analogous to the boundary for Ewing Young Elementary School.
"I just want to say thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of this for six years," Peterson said at the June 27 meeting, her last. "It's an interesting experience to put yourself out there."
Penner, who will have three children at Ewing Young this coming fall when her youngest enrolls in kindergarten, was the only applicant for the position, but Thomas said she is strong candidate nonetheless.
"She had a great application," Penner said. "The interview — there were about four or five us that interviewed her two weeks prior — went really well. She's deeply involved, deeply passionate, but understands the broad view that the board has to have. She doesn't have an agenda. She feels like a very good fit."
A native of Vancouver, Wash., Penner and her husband, Miles, moved to Newberg from Portland about a year ago. She has been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years but has a background in social work and received her bachelor's degree from Washington State University.
"I've worked with some struggling populations," Penner said. "I guess what I'm bringing to the board in that sense is I'm cognizant of the fact that 46 percent of the district comes from low-income families and maybe there are things going on at home that we don't know all about, so we need to be aware of those kids, especially."
Penner has been active in her children's schools, including through parent-teacher groups, for the past four years and is a big fan of the staff at Ewing Young.
"I love that they're learning how to be citizens of the world and that seemed to be a big emphasis out here," Penner said. "I just wanted to support that and see it grow. I feel like there are so many things going right and I just want to make sure that continues and that it gets better and better. It's really exciting to be a part of that."
Penner said that she quickly developed an appreciation for the size of the district compared to Portland Public Schools and thinks that will help her make the transition from school-level volunteer work to the much broader and "zoomed-out" policy work she will undertake as a member of the board.
She along with re-elected members Thomas, Ron Mock and Bob Woodruff, will be sworn in at the upcoming meeting.
"Being on that larger platform, I think I'm going to learn a lot in the next two years," Penner said. "But it's exciting, not daunting, I think."
For her part, Peterson said one of the things she most appreciated about joining the board was that although it does take a long time to fully grasp the work and intricacies of the district, a newcomer can come in with little experience and learn on the job.
Thomas said that all members of the board will make themselves available to Penner for guidance or as mentors and she can also utilize resources and training from the Oregon School Board Association to help get her up to speed.
"I think we've got a pretty good plan to get new members up to speed," Thomas said. "We will also do a board retreat that will at least be an opportunity for Brandy to spend some time with the existing members and get to know them a little better and start familiarizing herself with the things we are focusing on at that moment."
As a parting gift, Peterson was given a small plaque with her name on it that will be installed at the end of a row of seats in the Drea Ferguson Auditorium at Newberg High School.
Superintendent Kym Leblanc-Esparza and members of the board also voiced kudos and appreciation for finance director Gwen Gardener and longtime communications coordinator Claudia Stewart, both of whom are retiring.
"They have been incredible role models for me — women in grace and integrity," LeBlanc-Espraza said. "They like to have fun, work incredibly hard and are very knowledgeable about what they do. They helped me develop an understanding of Oregon that I wouldn't have been able to do coming from a different state were I not to have had both of these ladies and their guidance."