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Special ed advocate, parole officer running for school board

Julie Farrell, Trinity Monahan contesting seat held by Ray Biggs

Julie Farrell.Two challengers filed this week to run against an incumbent board member for the St. Helens School District.

Julie Farrell, a St. Helens resident who has advocated for improvements to special education in the district, filed Tuesday, March 10, to run for a seat on the school board.

On Thursday, parole and probation officer Trinity Monahan of Columbia City submitted paperwork to run for the same seat.

Farrell and Monahan are seeking election to Position 2 on the school board, which is currently occupied by Ray Biggs. Biggs has already filed to run for a second four-year term.

“My kids have reached a stage in their education where it kind of frees me up, and I am passionate about their education and the education of the other kids in the community,” said Farrell, explaining her decision to run for the board. “My background is a little bit different. I’m a current stay-at-home mom, but I also was a ... full-time employed mother 10 years ago.”

Trinity Monahan.A mother of four, Farrell is also a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer. After initially enlisting in the Coast Guard, she worked her way up to become an officer and retired after 21 years at the rank of lieutenant, she said. The role gave her experience in management and administration, she added.

Over the past few years, Farrell has addressed the school board on multiple occasions, often speaking about an issue that is close to her heart: the education of students with learning disabilities.

“My fourth child was born with a disability,” Farrell said. “When he was in the public school system, I learned a lot about the special education aspect of school that I hadn’t seen before. And I wanted his education to be a lot like my other kids’ education, and I felt like it was not.”

Farrell said she believes the St. Helens School District “could improve” on its approach to special education.

Monahan did not immediately return a call requesting comment before the Spotlight’s press deadline Thursday.

Ray Biggs.The incumbent Biggs said Wednesday he is proud of his record — he pointed to his role in repealing a board policy that prohibited school staff and volunteers with concealed-carry permits from bringing guns onto campuses, as well as his advocacy for the alternative Columbia County Education Campus, as examples — and plans to leave it up to the voters to judge him.

“I’m not planning to do any campaigning at all,” Biggs said. “I’m going to run on my record, and either people like what I did, or they felt I generated too much controversy or dissension or whatever.”

He added, “I’m just going to leave it in God’s hands, you know. I’m either meant to be there or not.”

Also on Thursday, Traci Brumbles filed for Position 5, the other seat up for election this year on the St. Helens school board. Brumbles, a Deer Island resident, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board in 2013, losing to Jeff Howell.

Attempts to reach Brumbles for comment before press time were unsuccessful.

The election is scheduled for May 19. Candidates have until the close of business on Thursday, March 19, to file paperwork with the Columbia County Elections Department.