The ballots for the May 21 Springfield School Board election are out, and Eugene Weekly interviewed the candidates to learn more about their goals for Springfield schools.
Out of the six Springfield School Board candidates running in the special election, three are incumbents who have previously served on the board: Laurie Adams, Position 1; Naomi Raven, Position 4; and Michelle Webber, Position 5.
Adams brings almost three decades of board experience. She says she’s running for re-election to maintain the upward trajectory of the Springfield School District — particularly its rising graduation rate, she says, which was 72.6 in 2018, according to data from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
“I felt like there were ways that I could serve kids, that I could do things for kids that weren’t happening for them at home,” she says.
She wants to restart hosting school board meetings at different schools each time, during which parents would bring their student children to speak to the board.
“I miss that,” Adams says. “I miss seeing those kids.” She also wants to continue developing the district’s more than 100 career and technical education courses (CTE), which include automotive technology, culinary arts and engineering programs.
Fellow incumbent Raven began serving on the board in September 2018 to get more involved in local education.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” Raven says while planting delphinium flowers in her garden. “We’ve made huge strides in a positive direction over the last several years, and a lot of good things are happening here in Springfield. It’s neat to be a part of that.”
As a former special education teacher, she wants to tackle what she says is a statewide issue — disruptive classroom behaviors. Raven wants to research ways to prevent behaviors that constrain learning and form some kind of policy. She also wants to continue work on raising graduation rates and bolstering CTE programs.
She has multiple degrees in the educational field: a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Utah, a K-8 teaching endorsement from Pacific University and a master’s in education from Indiana University.
“It’s incredibly important to have the voice of an educator, and that’s a lens that I feel like needs to be looked through when making decisions that affect educators and students,” she says.
Webber, appointed to the board in June 2018, says she wants to maintain the board’s combined decades of experience and improve the district’s cultural diversity and equity. She cites her experience as the board’s vice chair and her 25 years of detail-oriented financial policy experience working at Columbia Bank.
“We have such a forward momentum right now, and we all know what the direction is, where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there,” she says. “I just think it’s important that we stay on course.”
Experience serving in governmental positions is the main divide between the candidates: Out of the three candidates running without school board experience, one — Jessica Adams — has experience working in government, according to school board candidate filings.
Adams, the vice president of the Springfield High School Booster Board, is running against Raven for Position 4.
“I chose to run just because I see that there’s kind of a disconnect between the community and the district itself,” says Adams, who’s volunteered with the district for over a decade. She wants to tackle large class sizes and bolster attendance rates. She strongly supports CTE programs, wanting to see more of them in Springfield schools.
“I’m just a mom. I’m not into the politics of… “ Adams trails off. “I know that everything is kind of run by politics, unfortunately. It’s kind of sad these days. I’m just trying to bring a fresher perspective — just the normal, average person who wants to see things get better.”
Other candidates challenging incumbents include Todd Mann, who’s running for Position 1, and Karen Hunter, who’s running for Position 5.
Hunter wants to bridge the gap between the board’s policy decisions and the classroom. She cites her experience volunteering in Springfield classrooms as one benefit she’ll bring to the board if elected.
One idea she has is for community members to serve as mentors and volunteers in Springfield schools while the state tries to find solutions for its large class sizes. Springfield School District has a median class size of 25 students, according to an annual ODE class size report.
“We can make such a big impact,” Hunter tells EW. “If a teacher has 36 kids in a classroom, yet we have a volunteer going in and pulling kiddos out, that can really support the teacher.”
Mann, born and raised in Springfield, says that his tough childhood made school a sanctuary for him. His ideas to bolster financial literacy education, nutritional literacy education and home ownership literacy all tie back to the struggles he had at home.
“I want to make sure that every kid feels like they have somewhere where they belong, where they don’t have to struggle,” he says.
He says his financial planning, education and human resources background would serve him well on the board. He cited a lack of funding from the state as a problem that needs a long-term financial solution.
“That means that our students are equipped to make smart financial decisions when they attend our schools, when they become adults,” he says. “So, essentially, preparing people for life, how to avoid financial predators to make smart life decisions so that we can have a thriving community.”
Voters can drop off in their ballots at official drop box sites until 8 pm Tuesday, May 21. You can find a list of these sites on the official Lane County website.