558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
School board candidates for Zone 3, Ray Graves and Patti Norris, visit after the forum. Incumbent for Zone 4, Scott Cooper is in the background talking to an audience member.
There are seven candidates vying for positions on the Crook County School Board, and Tuesday evening they squared off at a forum sponsored by the Central Oregon Patriots.
The meeting, attended by approximately 50-60 community members, was held at the Bowman Museum Annex. It provided an opportunity for the candidates to express their views on several topics that are relevant to the local school district. Craig Brookhart facilitated the discussion, which was conducted in a jeopardy-style format. The main topics included role of education, issues facing the schools, issues affecting students, the school budget, Measure 7-61, and the Common Core Standards. Candidates were given an opportunity to present opening and closing remarks, and were given two minutes for each set of questions.
All of the candidates running for the school board attended the forum. Zone 3 includes incumbent Patti Norris, who is being challenged by Ray Graves. Zone five has three candidates; Brad Peterson, Gwen Carr, and Mike Stuart. Zone 4 is unopposed with incumbent Scott Cooper, and Zone 4 is also unopposed by Walt Wagner.
In the role of education, all candidates agreed that the role of parents was critical in the success of students in school. Stuart, a former educator, indicated that parents should be active in what their child does in school and their education. As an instructor, he had found that lack of parental involvement was one of the most difficult challenges. Wagner added that he had noted that in many of the school board meetings he attended, very few parents were present. Peterson said he believes that schools need to do a better job of getting parents involved. Graves added that teaching students respect and morals start at home.
Norris pointed out that in regards to the things schools are doing, there are many positive things and they have been trying to do a better job of getting these out to the community and general public. Carr noted that she has attended school board meetings for the past year, and she has also spent time in the classrooms around the district. She also said that there are many great things happening, and the board needs to ensure that they continue to support programs.
The topic of arts versus sports was brought up by several candidates, with all agreeing that they should make every effort to support both.
On the issue of the school bond, the candidates had varying points of view. Norris indicated that with aging schools, it doesn’t make sense to keep pouring new money into old buildings. She added that a new school would reduce operating costs and would increase efficiencies.
Graves said that he does not believe it is the right time to support a bond. He emphasized that the old schools are going to incur costs unless they sell right away.
“Me personally, and a lot of people I talk to, I just don’t think right now is the time.”
Peterson does not support the bond, and believes that too many people cannot afford the continuation of the taxes.
Wagner and Stuart both support the bond. They both pointed out that people with children looking to move to the community look carefully at the schools.
Stuart said that he is in favor of building a new school.
“It is important to the Prineville area for economic reason,” he said. He said that one of the first things people ask real estate agents when looking at an area is what kinds of schools they have.
Cooper pointed out that this was the best deal voters would get for their money with the low interest rates and a constant amount of tax liability. He added that at some point, the old schools would have to be replaced.
Carr said that she has been on the committee for 7-61, and she is very much in favor of the measure. She said the committee did a good job, and they have been very mindful of ensuring that the tax liability remained the same.
One of the topics that elicited the most passion from the candidates was that of the Common Core Standards. Carr emphasized that the Common Core Standards are a mandate from the State. As a school board member, she would see it as her job to support the mandate, whether she agrees with the Common Core or not, but also support the teachers and staff to have the tools that they need.
Cooper indicated that regardless of how they feel about it, it is a mandate. He said that it is more important what is happening in the classroom, and they can work around the Common Core Standards.
Stuart also added that he doesn’t necessarily agree with the Common Core, but whether they agree with it or not, “we have to deal with it.” Wagner is very much against the Common Core, and thinks that it does not allow students be innovative. Peterson, is also against the Common Core Standards. Graves said that it is the wrong attitude to accept it from the state, and they need to change it.
Norris countered that the Common Core Standards is a list of standards that students have to set, such as learning to spell correctly or writing in a persuasive manner. She said that Common Core Standards don’t dictate curriculum, and she thinks there are good and bad things about the mandate.
The ballots for the May election are due on May 21 by 8 p.m.