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  • 22 Oct 2014

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Buel rejoins PPS with special election victory

Incumbent Gonzalez says he plans to stay involved in school district


Early Multnomah County election results Tuesday night showed a surprise Portland School Board upset for incumbent Martin Gonzalez.

Unofficial results for the Zone 4 seat at 8:30 p.m. showed a sizable lead for Steve Buel, a former teacher and school board member, who had the endorsement of the Portland Association of Teachers.

Buel was leading with 54 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for Gonzalez.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Gonzalez said the loss wouldn't stop him from being engaged in school district priorities — in particular issues of equity, closing the achievement gap and ensuring that historically underserved students' needs are met.

"The voters weren't there," he said of his defeat, declining to posture any analysis. "I entered the race knowing you either win or you lose."

Gonzalez said being unseated will free up some time for his family; he still has a daughter and several grandchildren who attend PPS. "The results of the election don't change the facts," he said. "We need to do more to close the achievement gap; raise the graduation rate; remove any barriers in the teacher contract and make sure we serve students in the best way possible."

Steve Buel said Tuesday night that he's looking forward to addressing several of the issues that were a major part of his campaign.

"We need to manage the testing so we are sure we are providing a good, solid, well-rounded education, on not just a testing culture," Buel said. "Teacher morale needs a boost. We need to do a better job of respecting them and including their thinking in decision making. We need to make sure that not only do we as a district spend money where it most directly affects children, but also lobby state government to do the same. We need to make sure we include parents up front in decision making. And we need to do a better job of making a high priority of engaging kids in school."

Also:

• Mt. Tabor resident Tom Koehler won election to the Zone 6 seat, beating David Morrison with 79 percent of the vote. Board member Trudy Sargent will vacate the Zone 6 seat on June 30 after serving two terms.

• Board member Pam Knowles, representing Zone 5, ran unopposed and won re-election to her second term.

In touch with schools

Buel, who lives on Hayden Island, served on the Portland School Board from 1979 to 1983, teaching in the Vancouver, Wash., Evergreen School District for the past 45 years until his retirement two and a half years ago.

He has followed PPS politics and news closely; a few years ago he co-founded Oregon Save Our Schools, an advocacy group that’s working in Salem for long-term education funding solutions.

He also ran for the Portland School Board in 2009, losing to Gonzalez, who had just served one year to fill a mid-term vacancy.

Gonzalez is president of the Latino Network, lives in North Portland and ran for the board as an activist. While on the board he lent his voice to English as a Second Language students and others in the minority.

Children's Levy renewed

Voters on Tuesday night also restored the Portland Children's Levy.

Created by city voters in 2002, the levy was renewed in 2008 for five years; this election adds five more years.

The levy annually invests $10 million in programs that help children arrive at school ready to learn, provide safe and constructive after-school alternatives for kids, prevent child abuse, neglect and family violence and help foster kids succeed.

There was no opposition lodged against renewal of the levy. Spearheaded by city Commissioner Dan Saltzman, it is subject to annual audits and keeps administrative expenses to 5 percent or less.

The levy generates revenue through a property tax of $0.4026 per $1,000 assessed valuation, or about $60 a year for a home with an assessed value of $150,000.

The levy funds 65 programs that impact 10,000 young people from birth through age 24.