Voters will have plenty to think about when they mark their ballots this spring for the May 16 special election. Eleven candidates will be vying for three seats on the Philomath School Board with eight challenging the three incumbents.
Three candidates are seeking the Position 1 seat — incumbent Jim Kildea as well as Jeana Ecker and Linda Krygier. Four are in the running for Position 3 — incumbent Tom Klipfel along with Greg Gerding, Wendy Kincade and Camille Storch. Four are also in the race for Position 4 with Shelley Niemann, Phoenix Ries and Matthew Thomas joining incumbent Don Cruise.
Each term runs for four years.
Kildea, a regulatory and compliance manager at Hewlett Packard, has been on the school board since 2009 and he said he’d like to serve one last term to finish work in progress.
“Serving on the school board is not for the faint of heart or for the inexperienced,” Kildea said. “There is still work to do to improve educational outcomes for a number of students in our district, manage spending priorities and further improve facilities and technology as well as other areas that are both involved and complex.”
Ecker, a subsidy coordinator for KinderCare Education, believes it’s time for a change and to move forward.
“As part of a family that has history in Philomath, I believe in this community and our schools,” Ecker said. “I knew I had a choice. I could sit back and hope things will get better or I could step up and give people a choice as to who they want to represent them on the board. Together we can take on challenges and celebrate successes.”
Krygier, a senior technical product manager at Samaritan Health Plans, said she has always been passionate about public education.
“I attended public schools as did my daughters. I am interested in using my analytical skills, consulting background and life experience to help ensure that our young people get the education that they need to be productive and engaged citizens,” Krygier said.
Kildea stresses the importance of seeing through procedural and cultural changes that are needed to ensure student safety.
“Procedural and policy changes are challenging but visible and understood; cultural changes are very difficult,” Kildea said. “Also, while board members see a great deal of data, information and evidence on which decisions are made, laws that govern student and staff confidentiality prevent any disclosure or discussion after decisions have been made. People have to trust that board members make informed and impartial decisions that ultimately have a positive effect on school culture and student safety, which can be extremely difficult to see or understand when others are lacking the facts. I want to make sure every student in our district is safe, every day.”
Ecker said it’s been a difficult year for the community with events that have affected all on some level.
“I have listened and watched. I want to have a positive impact on our community and our schools,” Ecker said. “To listen to everyone — community members, current board members, all staff and students that I will serve — and I want to actively be their voices. Given the chance, I will be a board member with an open mind and look forward to moving our community in a positive direction.”
Krygier said the appointment and confirmation of Betsy DeVos to the post of U.S. education secretary and the introduction of House Bill 610 in Congress played a significant role in her seeking a school board seat.
“HR 610 would eliminate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 and abolish the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act),” Krygier said. “These laws provide equal opportunity in education and provide nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. I am concerned about the future of public education under this administration.”
Klipfel, who works for Hewlett Packard as a supply chain manager for its Pagewide Web Press Division, has served on the school board since 2007. He said he’s proud of key accomplishments during that time, such as helping pass a construction bond and overseeing the project that built the new high school, maintaining a diversity of programs during challenging budget cycles and significantly reducing early retirement expenses for the district.
“Recently, I led the effort to adopt the district vision to ‘graduate every student and transition each into a job, training or college,’” Klipfel said. “As a board member, I am extremely interested in moving this vision forward with programs from kindergarten through 12th grade to make that a reality.”
Gerding, a longtime U.S. Navy veteran and now three years into retirement after serving as a fiscal director with Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, said he wanted to run because he deeply cares about the community and schools. He had three primary reasons for wanting to serve on the board.
“I want have a positive impact in the Philomath children’s education,” said Gerding, a Philomath High graduate who has nine grandchildren in the district. “I want to do good things for the Philomath community, and I want to give back to the Philomath community where I grew up that was such a positive impact on my life.”
Kincade, who is self-employed as a conflict resolution professional at BlueSkyMorning, would like to help the community work collaboratively to solve its problems and provide a healthy environment for everyone.
“My wish is to be a part of building an environment where all voices are heard, where protecting the rights and meeting the needs of all individuals is a priority, and where the impacts of mistakes are corrected through the practice of accountability and the restoration of relationships,” Kincade said.
Storch, who is self-employed with Old Blue Raw Honey, believes that as a mother who will have children in three of the six schools in the district over the next four years, she can offer “the perspective and stakes … different than those of parents of adult children.”
“A good board on a whole will implement policies that provide all children with a safe, respectful, inclusive environment that fosters learning and personal growth,” Storch said. “We all want Philomath students and graduates to represent our community well and to go on to become productive citizens here and elsewhere.”
Klipfel said he wants to continue the district’s momentum when it comes to progress on fronts such as developing long-range facility and technology plans, addressing shortfalls in remediation and academic programming and investing to get every student to graduate.
“In addition, given the difficult circumstances out of the high school this year and the very tough decisions the administration and the school board had to make as a result, I am concerned there are some candidates running who might move us backwards by revisiting steps we have taken to address some of the issues that caused this situation,” Klipfel said. “Therefore, I am also running to make sure that we continue to move forward from this event, always working to ensure we provide a safe and nurturing environment for our community’s kids to learn and grow.”
Gerding hopes to be a school board member that leads the district into a positive direction.
“Our Philomath community seems to be going through some turmoil right now and I hope to be part of the solution in pulling the community together again,” Gerding said. “It is imperative that we revitalize trust and confidence in our school board. It is time for change. I intend to help lead that change.”
Kincade said the board plays a central and critical role in the community and believes the current members have been ineffective with balancing power and making tough decisions.
“If the Philomath community is to move past the current environment of hostility and distrust, members of the PSD board will need to model attitudes and behaviors that facilitate the restoration of critical relationships,” Kincade said. “If elected to the school board, my primary focus will be to bring better-informed decision-making, an emphasis on the appropriate use of power, forums where all perspectives are heard and most importantly, a willingness to see the human in all people.”
Storch wants to dive into the numbers with a four-year term on the board.
“I’m particularly interested in learning more about how funds from the current Philomath Schools operating levy are being used and what the process or plan is for drafting, promoting and possibly implementing a new operating levy or an extension of the current one next spring,” Storch said.
Cruise, a retired Philomath teacher and current Oregon School Boards Association officer, has served on the board for the past six years. He wants to continue to apply himself to the mission of educating children.
“It is safe to say if you know anything about me, you know that I value encouraging our children to be the greatest they can be,” Cruise said. “I love kids, I care deeply about being there to support and encourage them as they grow to achieve their greatest potential.”
Niemann, who works as director of the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce, said she wants to have a positive impact as a school board member while supporting students with rich learning experiences and every opportunity possible to receive a high-quality, well-rounded education.
“The school district is facing some challenging budget shortfalls and possible declining student enrollment,” said Niemann, mother of two in the district. “I hope to have the opportunity to develop solutions to these challenges in order to secure safe, quality learning environments where diverse activity programs continue to be the pride of our school district.”
Ries, a personal/parent coach and yoga instructor, said she’s running for the board because she cares about kids and families, and believes that community service is a critical piece of good citizenship.
“I believe that my 35 years of working in the field of mental health and education with youth and families have equipped me with skills and experience that will make me a valuable board member and team player,” said Ries, who had three children go through the district. “Communication, problem-solving and understanding how systems work are a few of the strengths that I bring to the table.”
Thomas, a Mid-Valley Gravel dump truck driver and KVCS school bus driver, had a simple answer when asked about why he wanted to run for the school board.
“Schools are for an education, not adaptation,” Thomas said.
Cruise points to several issues that play a role in wanting to continue his involvement on the board.
“As a district, we have made so many investments in our educational programs that have done so much for our students,” Cruise said. “Across the district there have been so many success stories. I want them to continue and I know we can do even more.”
Cruise also points to the importance of a board member’s role to “listen and communicate well with our community, lead through policy, set district goals and direction, and to maintain progress to achieving our goals through meaningful evaluation of staff and programs.”
Niemann believes board members should be responsive and receptive to students, parents, staff and community members, encourage open dialog and consider voiced concerns during their decision-making process.
“This topic has become an issue both within the school and the community at large during the past school year,” Niemann said. “Board members must be responsive and willing to listen to concerns from members of the school district from which they are elected. The Philomath School District has always received a lot of support from the local community and it is important to continue to strengthen those ties in order to benefit students.”
Ries said she’s excited about the district’s direction with special education, an improved relationship with Kings Valley Charter School and a strong administrative team and collaborations that have strengthened academics by focusing on early education and remedial services, attendance and other indicators of school success.
“I think that this year has been difficult for many folks in the district and community and I am hopeful that we can move forward together, turning our attention to the positive things happening with our students and staff and working together to provide the best educational opportunities we can for all of our students,” Ries said.
Thomas said if you believe the old cliché, ‘Our children today are our leaders tomorrow,’ then schools are heading in the wrong direction.
“We are setting up our youth for failure in adulthood,” Thomas said. “Furthermore, as a proud parent of a young boy with disabilities, I think more time and money are valuable in children with special needs.”