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High school dropout rate motivates candidate to run

John Sweeney says his P.E. program would help keep kids in school

TRIBUNE PHOTO: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - John Sweeney, who is running for Portland Public Schools board in Zone 2, says he wants to keep kids in school. 'It's important to graduate because the thing is if later on in life you decide to go to college ... (you have to) take tests and classes - which costs you time and money.'

Perennial candidate John Sweeney is back in the game with his bid for a Portland Public Schools board seat in north-central Zone 2.

Now retired, Sweeney, who worked for Portland Parks and Recreation as a laborer and supervisor before becoming a land management consultant, has kept tabs on a wide range of local political issues.

“You really got to be aware and pay attention to things going on,” Sweeney says.

The former Oregon Army National Guard captain came up through PPS, having attended Benson High School before his family moved to Japan. He graduated from Kubasaki American High School on Okinawa. He says he joined the Guard when he was just 16 years old. He has a daughter, who grew up in California, and three grandchildren.

A board member of the Multnomah Education Service District from 1979 to 1987, Sweeney says he strongly supports the Outdoor School program.

“A lot of these kids have never been out to the countryside,” he says.

In fact, Sweeney says the primary reason he is running is to promote his idea to help 200 students receive physical education credits over the summer between eighth grade and ninth grade at three of Portland’s parks.

The program would include fly fishing, golf, lawn bowling and other fun summertime activities. But, Sweeney says, the main goal would be to “create the mantra that they are going to finish high school.”

He says many students get discouraged because they feel like they have to go to college, so they drop out before even finishing high school, setting themselves up for a lifetime of financial struggles.

Sweeney says improving the high school graduation rate is his top priority.

Sweeney also occasionally appears on a cable television show called "Oregon Voter’s Digest" on Community Cable Access channels 11 and 23 or on YouTube.com. The show is hosted by another perennial Portland candidate, Bruce Broussard.

Broussard, who is a Republican, thinks Sweeney, who has run as a Democrat in previous races, would be an excellent choice for the nonpartisan position.

"He’s well-versed and very active and — aside from the politics of the Democratic Party — I can always rely on John,” he says.

By Shasta Kearns Moore
email: shasta@portlandtribune.com
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