Their replacements, Regan Molotare and Rob Fernandez, will be sworn in Aug. 5

The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board will have a different look when it reconvenes in August. Two veteran members stepped down as their terms expired at the end of June. Dale Hoogestraat served on the board for nine years, while Cheri Zimmerman served for two.

Hoogestraat started small


Hoogestraat’s involvement with the school district started small and grew. First, he joined the budget committee.

“I really had no intention of moving to the board,” he said. “After a couple of years, there was an opening on the long-range planning committee and then an opening on the board when a board member resigned with one year remaining on his term.”

Nine years later, he left the board with a sense of satisfaction.

“The district is functioning extremely well, with highly competent and experienced administrators, teachers and classified staff,” he said. “I feel the district is well equipped to excel at providing great opportunities for students.”

That’s not to say that he doesn’t see challenges ahead.

“Managing the budget with sustainability is a challenge in the current environment,” Hoogestraat said. Another challenge, in his view, is state and federal regulation.

“We seem to change strategic direction every few years, with new goals, benchmarks, reporting requirements, funding compliance rules and a host of other regulations,” he said, crediting administrative staff for keeping the district in compliance.

The biggest challenge the new school board will face, Hoogestraat said, may be its members’ relatively low experience level, with board chairman Keith Steele’s four years making him the most senior. Current members Betty Reynolds and Kristin Keswick each have served two years. Two new members will be sworn in at the Aug. 5 board meeting: Regan Molotare and Rob Fernandez, who previously was appointed to the board in September 2010 to fill a vacancy until after the 2011 election.

“I believe that each board member as well as (Superintendent) Rhoades and his staff are highly capable and fully able to build this team; however, it will take some time,” Hoogestraat said.

Reflecting on his nine years on the board, Hoogestraat cited student achievement as one success.

“When I look at the things that our students are accomplishing in the classrooms, in the arts, in athletic competitions and in a host of other areas, it is quite amazing,” he said. Another bright spot has been the district’s community support.

“The community has been very committed financially by passing capital bonds and local options — most recently on the same ballot in 2008,” he said. “We enjoy some of the best school facilities in the area, if not the nation, as a result of the prioritization of education and the generosity of our community.”

Although he is unsure what his future involvement with the school district will be, he has offered to meet with board members, to answer questions or to provide information. He plans to continue participating in school events too.

“I have always enjoyed being in the schools for reading day, career day and watching various sporting events or music/art performances,” he said.

Zimmerman to focus on her health


When Zimmerman’s family decided to become more involved in the community, she didn’t know that the school board would be her avenue.

“We had been talking about it for several years,” Zimmerman said. “I heard through a friend that elections were coming up. We decided that was how we would get involved.”

Her decision to step down from the board is health-related.

“I had surgery on my spine in January, and it’s not getting better. I have trouble sitting for long periods of time. If I could bring in a recliner for school board meetings,” she joked, “I’d be fine.”

Despite the pain, Zimmerman considered running again in the 2013 election until a conversation with Molotare cemented her decision to retire.

“I found she was so in line with my thinking,” Zimmerman said. “I realized there wouldn’t be a point (in running again).”

Looking ahead to the challenges the new board might face, Zimmerman sees opportunity.

“One of the things that is coming up that I really support and that is gaining some steam is vocational training,” she said. “With the budget cuts of the last decades, everyone has gotten rid of auto shop and mechanical classes ... these are practical skills that can’t be outsourced overseas.”

The West Linn-Wilsonville district is poised to partner with local businesses to restart such programs, she said.

Zimmerman points to a couple of school district successes with pride.

“I can’t take credit for anything specific,” she said, “but I was there for the opening of two new schools and the dual language program, which I think was really well done, given the strong feelings on both sides.”

After leaving the board, Zimmerman said her first priority will be her health. “I’m going to focus for a year on getting my back better, so I’m walking and sitting normally. After that, I’m going to look at water boards and things like that, to try to continue community involvement,” she said.

She left open the possibility of staying involved with the school district through the budget committee.

“I’m a numbers-type person at heart, so that’s something that interests me,” she said.

Calling West Linn-Wilsonville’s reputation for excellence “well deserved,” Zimmerman said, “I know people from all over the Northwest who are trying to figure out how to move here and to get their children into our schools. ... People want to transfer to our district. That tells me we are doing things that people want.”

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