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Crook County School Board will have four openings on May ballot
Thus far, only two board members have expressed their desire to continue their school board service
January 28, 2013
The Crook County School Board is at a critical point in its board membership, as the March filing deadline approaches for the May election ballot.
Currently, there are four out of five positions that will be on the May ballot, including Position 3 that was left vacant by Rich Mires and Position 4, currently held by appointee John Lang. Those elected for these positions will serve two years until the positions come up again for re-election on their normal schedule in 2015. In addition, Position 2, which is currently held by Scott Cooper, and Position 5, held by board chair Patti Norris, are up for re-election for a 4-year term. The position held by vice chair Doug Smith for Zone 1 does not come up for re-election until June 2015.
Crook County School Board Chair Patti Norris said that it is an unusual circumstance to have this many openings all at once. A recent change to state law requires that unfilled and appointed positions come up at the next election to fill the remaining two years of those terms. When asked whether they will run for re-election, Norris and Cooper both indicated they will be on the ballot.
According to Norris, the board will soon make a decision on whether they will appoint an interim for Mires’ position in February, or wait until someone is elected in May.
“If we appoint -ed someone in February, we hope they would put their name on the ballot and run for the remainder of the term,” pointed out Norris. “There’s no guarantee they would win, but they would have that opportunity to continue their service.”
With the current climate of financial challenges, including the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and a strained Oregon State budget, candidates for the these leadership roles will need to be prepared to hit the ground running.
Norris indicated that prudent fiscal management of limited funds will be an ongoing issue, and the next board will have the challenge of building and transitioning to a new elementary school and upgrading other district facilities if the school bond measure also on the May ballot should pass. She also emphasized that the state-mandated transition to new Common Core Standards and testing will result in a change in teaching and requirements for students, raising standards for both. In addition, working to meet the goals of Governor Kitzhaber’s 40-40-20 program will be a big focus, including partnerships with the early childhood community and secondary education.
“All of that, on top of the regular, everyday stuff, should keep us busy for another four years,” she quipped.
One of things that Norris is pleased with on the current board, and hopes to see going forward is, “a group of thoughtful, capable people who are out to serve all of the children in the district.”
Current board member John Lang was appointed to fill out Jess Messner’s position, who resigned in early November 2011. Because of specific guidelines put out by the Oregon State Legislature, Lang would have to put his name on the May ballot for re-election if he wishes to stay on the board. As of Friday, Lang said he is still unsure on whether he will run again.
Lang said that some of the biggest issues he foresees in the near future of education involve the upcoming school maintenance bond, the PERS issue, and possible reactions to gun control in relation to schools. In addition to a focus on Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS Scores), he would also like to see more of a focus on education improvement as a standard of assessment.
“I am undecided about it,” said Lang of his decision to run for the next election.
Scott Cooper, who was an interim for Riley Stock, who resigned on May 28, 2011, began his official term on July 1, 2009. Cooper has announced that he will put his name on the May ballot.
“I do think we have a pretty good team that is working well together, that has a certain level of trust between the board, the administration, the staff, and the community,” said Cooper. “I would like to see that team stay together.”
He indicated that although he hasn’t filed any papers yet, he would like to be part of the forward momentum of the current board.
“We have been through a really tough time in our district, not because of internal forces, but because of external forces,” added Cooper. “That becomes very wearing on people after a while. It’s not the easiest time to be a school board member.”
He indicated that there are some big issues on the horizon. He also referred to the transition to the Common Core Standards, as well as Learning Compacts, the PERS net, Powell Butte Charter School issues, and national and state education changes.
“The biggest challenge for all of us is trying to keep our eye on the big picture, because there are so many small details that could sidetrack you along the way. We need to hire good staff and let them deal with the details, and we need to focus on the really big pictures and the outcomes that we want to get for Crook County Kids.”
Cooper concluded that the district has seen steady improvement throughout the past four years.
“That level of stability that hasn’t necessarily been characteristic of other schools in the region,” he emphasized. “I think you can get a pretty quality education right now in Crook County.”
The first day to file for the May ballot is Feb. 9, 2013. The deadline to file is March 21, 2013.
To reach the Crook County Clerks’ Office call 541-447-6553.