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Four vie for three school board seats

Special election ballots are due May 21


There are three positions up for the May 21 special election ballot for the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board. Positions 1, 3 and 5 have terms ending June 30.

The only contested race is for Position 5, where Board Chairman Keith Steele is running for re-election against Ron Parton. Dale Hoogestraat and Cheri Zimmerman, whose terms are also ending, opted not to seek re-election.

The candidates responded to a questionnaire submitted by the Tidings.

Position 5

Keith Steele — incumbent

Age: 48by: SUBMITTED - KEITH STEELE

Family: My wife, Kimberly, teaches undergraduate and graduate level management and marketing courses for Marylhurst University and Linfield College. Our son, Tyler, graduated from WLHS in 2011 and is now studying chemical engineering at OSU. Our daughter, Olivia, is a freshman at WLHS and our daughter, Natalie, is a seventh-grade student attending Rosemont Ridge Middle School.

Job and education: I am a principal and managing partner at Sitka Technology Group LLC in Portland. We develop and operate advanced software and data management tools that enhance environmental conservation and restoration practices. We are currently No. 23 on the Portland Business Journal’s Fast Growing 100 Private Oregon Companies. I have a B.S. in business finance and law from Portland State University.

Education philosophy: Public education is the very foundation of a prosperous, just and thoughtful society. It is an invaluable catalyst for continuing progress in urgent issues concerning economic prosperity, health, the environment, class, race, equity and crime. Any society concerned with such matters cannot long endure without a robust system of public education that gives all children equal access to participate fully and meaningfully in society, regardless of their background or ability. Our work in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District is a direct reflection of these values and we do this work with a profound sense purpose and possibility.

City of residence: West Linn

Length of time in school district: 16 years

Hobbies: My favorite activities include camping, skiing, fly fishing and just about any home improvement project that involves using power tools.

Why are you running for school board?

I am running for re-election this year to provide leadership continuity on the board during a period of rapid change and to help our school district successfully navigate the challenges we will face in the next few years. In the last four years, there has been a complete turnover in the membership of the board, and while it is helpful to have new voices and experiences in our deliberations, it is also vital that we maintain experience, knowledge and personal relationships to be an effective governing body. I am the candidate that can best deliver these needed qualities.

What skills, knowledge and experiences of yours would benefit the school board?

I have served the district in a number of capacities over the years. Before being elected to the board in 2009, I served on the district budget committee for a year and co-chaired the campaign to pass the 2008 capital bond and renewal of our local option levy. I served as vice chairman last year and serve as board chairman this year. I am also currently a member of the Clackamas Education Service District Budget Committee. If re-elected, the knowledge I have gained these past four years will serve our schools well.

How should the school district prioritize spending?

The spending of the district must be (and is) directly connected to and aligned with defined strategies and actions that help meet identified board objectives. These objectives are published on the district website, the most important of which is objective No. 1, which relates to increasing student achievement for all kids and closing achievement gaps. This year, we have identified 11 categories of education investment strategies that we know support high levels of student achievement. These identified strategies and actions are key inputs to the budget setting process that is currently underway for the coming school year.

What should the school district’s role be in regional issues such as transportation and urban growth?

The operation of the district is most greatly impacted by issues related to urban growth. As more students enroll in the district, our need for additional buildings increases and our operating costs increase to be able to fund the staff necessary to serve these children. The growth policies of Metro, the city of Wilsonville and the city of West Linn therefore have a significant impact on our long-term finances and debt structure. It is important that the district’s voice be heard and factored into regional planning efforts and this year we have started this important dialog with both cities.

What’s one issue the school board tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

In the school board member community, it is often said that the most important decision a board will ever make is the hiring of a superintendent. Although there are many things that have gone well and a couple that could have been handled better, if I had to choose one issue to celebrate, it would be the hiring of Dr. William Rhoades as the superintendent of schools. He is an amazing leader and educator and is serving the needs of this district extremely well.

What do you see as current or looming school board priorities?

Funding levels from the state of Oregon continues to be of concern as we work to develop and maintain programs that help our kids meet the requirements of the governor’s 40-40-20 education goals. We have approximately 70 fewer teachers than we did just a few short years ago and, like all districts, are tasked with meeting increasingly aggressive goals with fewer resources. This is a constant challenge that occupies much of our time and energy.

How should the school board ideally work with the superintendent and district staff?

The board is a governing body, not a management team. That means that we are primarily concerned with providing or clarifying policy and establishing high-level direction to guide the operations of the district through the office of the superintendent. It is important for each member of the board to clearly understand and respect the role they fill, the types of decisions they make and the types of decisions that should be made by staff. Developing this balance between the superintendent and members of the board is critical to have a high-functioning leadership team.

What should voters know about you?

I would like voters to know that I am fully committed to our schools and our kids, and will do everything I can to ensure that our district maintains and improves on its already excellent reputation.

How would you facilitate school board meetings to ensure all members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

The reason that we have five members on the board is to solicit a broad range of experiences and knowledge into our deliberations. I believe that examining an issue from as many angles as possible leads to better decisions for our kids and schools and I openly encourage other members of the board to share their views, concerns and questions during meetings. I am fortunate to have so many good people around me that offer great new insights into tough problems. It is a great local example of democracy that works.

Ron Parton

Age: 66by: SUBMITTED - RON PARTON

Family: Wife, Sharon; daughter, Shannon; and son, Craig

Job and education: Principal consultant/partner, information technology management, project management

Education philosophy: We need to provide educational opportunities and get our children to the level where they can successfully sustain and lead a well-balanced life and contribute to society. This can be varying levels depending on the needs of the child. Some excel and continue on to college; others can be equally successful finding a vocation that they excel at without the path through college. We need to ensure the right path is provided so they can find it.

City of residence: West Linn

Length of time in school district: 15 years

Hobbies: Golf, grandkids, gardening

Why are you running for school board?

I am running for school board to participate and contribute to our community and provide experienced analysis, process orientation and leadership toward educational excellence and solid foundation for our greatest assets — our children. I believe community service is a valuable commodity. I am proud to have participated in city government. My 30-plus years of experience in project-oriented solution delivery will enhance our school board’s resources.

What skills, knowledge and experiences of yours would benefit the school board?

I served on the budget committee and then city council when Tualatin was the fastest-growing city in Oregon. It instilled some valuable fundamentals about contributing back to the community. I am very familiar with the aspects and dynamics of a board environment. This would allow minimal ramp-up time and facilitate hitting the ground running. I bring 30-plus years of solid problem solving and solution delivery. Teamwork and effective decision making is a strong suit.

How should the school district prioritize spending?

All budget issues need to be balanced with the question: “How does this allow us to reach our goal in the classroom?” This is no revelation, just commonsense. If it does not further the achievement of the goal of educational excellence and directly make a positive impact on the classroom, its priority should be adjusted accordingly.

What should the school district’s role be in regional issues such as transportation and urban growth?

The school district should be able to provide a solid leadership role as needed. They should provide a proactive role and partner with the municipalities in ways that can facilitate mutually beneficial solutions. They benefit and they collectively impact these needs so they should participate proactively as needed.

What’s one issue the school board tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

Language immersion program. The communication and process around explaining how this program was to be rolled out seems it could have been handled better.

What do you see as current or looming school board priorities?

Most paramount looming priority is the finances and how the current financial situations can be addressed. Sustaining the great programs and metrics of the district is critical but the fiscal needs loom large over this objective and need a viable solution.

How should the school board ideally work with the superintendent and district staff?

  • The board needs to form a close teamwork with the superintendent and staff.
  • A school board needs to focus on the ABCs (accountability, budget and communication).
  • Accountability is required to ensure that the best education possible is available to the students.
  • With the budget, a solid fiscal conservative posture is a must. There need to be realistic and open dialogue to address everyone’s financial needs.
  • Communication is very critical. The more critical the issues needing attention and understanding, the more effective communication needs to be. Solid information clearly communicated can assist everyone in understanding decisions, policies and processes.
  • What should voters know about you?

    The voters should know that Ron Parton is an honest, hardworking, loyal and committed person. Family values are extremely important and commitment to reaching established goals is very important. Commonsense decisions, methodical analysis and process-oriented approach work best. They can count on an objective, thoughtful approach that will be applied to the problems presenting themselves to the district.

    How would you facilitate school board meetings to ensure all members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

    The members of the board are all there out of a commitment to providing the best educational experience possible for the children of the district. Their valuable time and experience that they bring is to be considered equally and factored into the decision process. The value of a board and its diverse membership is significant and should be allowed to grow and create a synergy as the members gain experience. Enabling the members to voice their opinions, address their concerns and contribute their decisions is paramount to a well-functioning board. There are five positions for a logical reason; their contributions need to be cultivated.

    Position 1

    Regan Molatore

    Age: 37by: SUBMITTED - REGAN MOLATORE

    Family: My husband, Clifton, and I have been married for 12 years. We have two incredible kids, Claudia and Riddick.

    Job and education: I have a law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law and am licensed to practice law in Oregon and California. As a lawyer, I represented public agencies, municipalities and school districts. I am a board member of the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation and served as its vice president this school year.

    Education philosophy: An education is never a waste and is the single greatest gift an individual can give themselves.

    City of residence: Wilsonville

    Length of time in school district: 26 years

    Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, fly fishing and adding to the animals on our “farm.”

    Why are you running for school board?

    I love this district. I seek this position with great energy and enthusiasm. I attended schools in this district from K-12th grade and am grateful for the education I received. My education served me well and I would like the opportunity to repay my gratitude by serving on the board. As a member of the board, I will work to ensure our children receive the best education possible.

    What skills, knowledge and experiences of yours would benefit the school board?

    My legal training provides skills for assessing and analyzing issues and formulating and promulgating policies to deal with those issues. I will use these skills to advocate for policies in the best interests of our children. My long-term ties and involvement in the community will provide a critical link between the board and the community. I am involved on many levels — district level: WLWL Education Foundation, world language, key communicator and principal selection; school level: PTA, classroom parent and teacher appreciation; community: Fun in the Park, MOMS Club and soccer coach.

    How should the school district prioritize spending?

    The district should have three guiding principles. 1) Student achievement and honoring the Achievement Compact. The board must provide rigorous programs and curriculum, maximize classroom resources and maintain the number of instructional days. 2) Sustainable programs. While the proposed state budget promises funding stability, there are many unknowns (PERS reforms). Our communities support local option levies, but this revenue is subject to the uncertainties of the housing market. When spending, the district must consider programs that are sustainable through this time of unstable funding. 3) Maintaining enrichment and extracurricular activities. These activities reinforce classroom learning and provide life skills that cannot be taught in the classroom.

    What should the school district’s role be in regional issues such as transportation and urban growth?

    The district must be mindful of regional issues in planning. The resolution of regional issues lies within the discretion of other elected officials, such as city councilors and county commissioners. Often these issues are resolved without those officials taking into account how our schools will be affected. The district must monitor these issues and anticipate how their resolution will impact our schools. For example, transportation and urban growth bring new members to our communities and schools. If the district is not watching these issues and responding accordingly, we could find our schools overcrowded and understaffed.

    What’s one issue the school board tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

    At the last school board meeting, the board approved a resolution to refinance approximately $15.5 million in bonds that were issued in 2004. This action will result in a shorter repayment schedule, a lower interest rate and $800,000 in savings to taxpayers. As a taxpayer I am appreciative of this stewardship.

    What do you see as current or looming school board priorities?

    The district’s 2008 capital bonds have almost been fully drawn. Initial inquiries and groundwork is currently being laid for a new bond issuance. In these difficult economic times, it is imperative that the board responsibly use bonding to ensure that taxpayers are not unduly burdened with bond financing. Fiscal responsibility must be the number one priority of the board. The board must ensure that our children are provided a first-class education without putting too much strain on taxpayers.

    How should the school board ideally work with the superintendent and district staff?

    It is the board’s responsibility to set vision, provide goals and act as a check and balance to the superintendent and his staff. The superintendent and staff, as professional educators, should be given deference to determine the best way to execute and achieve the board’s expectations but the board must set those expectations and closely monitor the results.

    What should voters know about you?

    As a board member, I will listen first, lead thoughtfully and build strong partnerships to find the best solutions for our children and district. I approach problem solving with an open mind and am able to appreciate different perspectives. I welcome insight and constructive discussions from our community members. I also think our district must constantly evolve. Change is necessary for our district if it wants to continue its tradition of educational excellence.

    How would you facilitate school board meetings to ensure all members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

    I would revamp the board meeting format. Community members wait two to three hours to speak at meetings. When they get the opportunity to speak, the time for public comment is not rationally related to the issue on which the community member speaks or they must speak before they’ve had an opportunity to hear the administrations’ recommendations. This method devalues community members’ input. I would format the meetings as follows: 1) administrators present issue for board’s consideration, 2) public is able to comment, and 3) board deliberation and/or board sends the issue back to committee for further evaluation based on information received. I would repeat this pattern for each issue.

    Position 3

    Rob Fernandez

    Age: 54by: SUBMITTED - ROB FERNANDEZ

    Family: Wife and three children: Dr. Margaret Boone, Annaliese (18), Brianna (16) and Larissa (14)

    Job and education: Owner and president, Carisbrook Technology Services LLC. Started in 2000, the company has 48 employees and is located in Wilsonville. We provision veterinary telemedince/digital radiography management, clinical systems management, network, hardware and system software technical support to more than 800 veterinary hospitals.

    BS Lewis and Clark College 1982 — biology

    MBA University of Pennsylvania 1989 — MIS

    Education philosophy: Respects to Robert Frost: “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

    City of residence: Wilsonville

    Length of time in school district: 27 years

    Hobbies: Sailing, skiing, Oregon Ducks football

    Why are you running for school board?

    I have chosen to volunteer my time with our district as a director because I believe that quality public schools are the foundation for a healthy, prosperous society. Freedom is a privilege that demands thoughtful deliberation and an appreciation for the consequence of the decisions that we make. It is critical that we give our children the best start that we can with quality teachers, facilities and support services, so they are prepared to assume their role as informed citizens. I believe that serving on the board as a director is the best option for playing a significant role in the process of shaping the content of what our schools deliver.

    What skills, knowledge and experiences of yours would benefit the school board?

    As a father of three children who attend our schools, I see the results of our schools’ efforts every day at home. I have coached and mentored many children and teens over the years, and feel that I am adept at engaging them in meaningful communication. I feel these experiences provide a “grassroots” foundation for tackling the thorny issues that come before the board. For me, these issues are not abstractions or financial exercises — they are real problems that have a direct and profound consequence for my family, the professionals who work in our schools and the patrons of the district.

    How should the school district prioritize spending?

    My overall approach to school spending in general is:

  • The farther away from the classroom that you get, the more rigorous the analysis should be as to whether the spending is necessary
  • Don’t build it unless it is necessary
  • Don’t deploy technology without a clearly identified requirement
  • Don’t hire people without the processes and the means to support their mission
  • What should the school district’s role be in regional issues such as transportation and urban growth?

    None. These issues become politicized and divisive. We have enough on our plate managing our schools.

    What’s one issue the school board tackled that you wish had turned out differently, or what is a project you feel turned out well? What went wrong, or what worked out well?

    What went wrong: During the lame duck phase of my prior tenure as a director, I raised the subject of looking to replace some specific work done by district personnel with contracted services. This is a proven method of balancing cost demands by avoiding additional hires and redeploying valuable district staff to high-value tasks within the organization. I chose field mowing and maintenance as an example. I conveyed my intent prior to the meeting hoping to engage in some thoughtful discussion. I was broadsided by facts and figures countering my exposition that were not verifiable given my short time remaining on the board. I left my term feeling very frustrated that there was no willingness to evaluate contracted services options with any degree of intellectual honesty.

    What went well: Bill Rhoades — we searched for and hired an outstanding, ethical leader for the district. I have the utmost respect for Bill, and I look forward working with him for the next four years.

    What do you see as current or looming school board priorities?

  • Approve a rational and cautious budget for the next biennium.
  • Negotiate a fair and sustainable contract with the certified staff.
  • Provide a clear and precise policy direction to assure that the administration runs an efficient and responsive organization.
  • Anticipate regional and state actions that will effect (adversely or positively) our district by staying current on all education related legislation, policy and legal matters.
  • How should the school board ideally work with the superintendent and district staff?

    I think that this is a question that will have to be addressed by the new board as a group. Since every board is different based on the personalities, skills and professional experiences of the individual directors, we will need to see how our group’s dynamic evolves and adjust accordingly.

    What should voters know about you?

    I never lose at Scrabble, and, when no one is around, I let my dog, Chip, sleep on the bed.

    How would you facilitate school board meetings to ensure all members feel like they are treated fairly and so voters feel represented?

    I do not like the current format of the meetings. I think that too often critical discussions are pushed late into the evening which is not ideal for thoughtful deliberation. I have spoken about this with some staff and other board members/candidates and intend to bring it up after my term begins in July. “Fairness” is a non-issue; public meeting laws protect the rights of all citizens and set forth rules as to how they may participate in any school board meeting. “Feeling represented” is a shared responsibility. I suspect that all the board members would welcome as much participation as possible. The reality is that attending our meetings, work sessions and committee meetings doesn’t seem like an exciting night to many of our patrons. I wish there was more interest; the more there is participation and discussion, the better the outcome.




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