{{featured_button_text}}

The Greater Albany Public School district has two positions open in the May 21 election and both races feature several candidates, including challengers to current school board member Lyle Utt. Member Frank Bricker announced he would retire in June.

Below is an overview of who is running:

Zone 3

Name: Michael Thomson

Occupation: Caregiver

Age: 48

Q: What is your connection to the district and why did you run?

A: I grew up the son of public school teachers. They taught me how important good schools are for the whole community. Now, my wife and I are the parents of a second-grader at Takena. Beginning with pre-kindergarten classes through the Educational Service District, we have worked closely with teachers to guide her education.

It’s that same belief in partnership that led me to run for the Albany school board. As a parent and a volunteer, I am running because I want a district that does all it can to lower class sizes, help students with unmet mental and emotional needs and continue to expand career and technical programs. In addition, I offer new leadership to the board as an active participant in board meetings, the district as a whole and the greater Albany community.

Q: What can you bring to the Greater Albany Public Schools board?

A: With experience in public policy, including eight years on the Albany Budget Committee, and someone who has spent time in the schools, I will bring an understanding of the burdens we have placed on teachers and classified staff. Helping the front-line workers do their job will benefit every student.

In my experience on various volunteer boards and commissions, I have worked in a collaborative manner, seeking consensus to solve problems. I have found, however, there are times when you have to be willing to stand up for your stated values, no matter the consequence. In those instances, I will disagree without being disagreeable.

Lastly, for over a month now, I've been visiting with folks at their doorstep talking about my vision for our schools and listening to what their concerns are. It has been a learning experience for me and I will bring those conversations with me to the board.

Q: What issues do you believe are most pressing for the Greater Albany Public Schools district?

A: Crowded classrooms — years of underfunding from the state and a growing Albany area have resulted in class sizes that are too large. With our limited budget, the board needs to listen to teachers, classified staff and parents as tough choices are made.

We need to do more to help the children coming to school with severe mental and emotional needs that aren't being addressed elsewhere. Too often, the teachers’ time in the classroom is consumed by a small number of kids out of the whole class of 30 or more.

When tackling the various issues facing the district, values like equity and inclusion need to be more than just words. No matter what neighborhood a child resides in, they deserve to reach their full potential. Finally, I will always advocate for keeping Central Elementary open as a school.

Zone 3

Name: Lyle Utt

Occupation: Computer programmer

Age: 56

Q: What is your connection to the district and why did you run?

A: My connection to the district is that I have had children in the district for 21 years. I ran for the school board to give back to the community in which I live, and after being a member of different school district committees. I thought I could do good for the kids of the greater Albany school district.

Q: What can you bring to the school board?

A: In my opinion, I bring a unique perspective because of my upbringing. I also have tried to see other points of view alter that view when given valid input on why the other way is better. I also want all kids in the greater Albany school district to succeed no matter their ZIP code.

Q: What issues do you believe are most pressing for Greater Albany Public Schools?

A: Stable and adequate funding. Without stable and adequate funding, everything else becomes harder to do. For instance, if you want lower class size, you would need three things, enough classrooms, two classrooms of 30 don’t take as many classrooms as three classrooms of 20, and enough staff (teachers and support) to put in all the classrooms. Both of those things take money; in the case of classrooms, if you don't have enough then it can take significant amounts of money.

Q: You're the incumbent in this race. What do you think you’ve accomplished during your tenure on the board that highlights your experience?

A: As a school board member, I have actively participated in hiring three superintendents. I assisted in passing a school bond measure. I have always tried to be an active participant in all school board meetings, something that I have worked on over the last eight years.

At-Large Position 1

Name: Miriam Cummins

Occupation: Resource development officer and executive assistant with Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality.

Age: 31

Q: What is your connection to the district and why did you run?

A: My daughter is currently attending kindergarten at South Shore Elementary and my son will be entering kindergarten next year.

The main reason why I decided to run is because as a Latina I noticed that there is no representation of people of color in the board and in administrative positions. I have personally experienced Latino families being left behind because of the difference in culture, and I want to be the bridge that allows them to be heard.

I also want to make sure that there is communication from the schools to families about what resources are available in the community. Without my work at LBL-ESD (the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Educational Service District) I likely would not have known what support my son could have gotten, likely causing a delay later in school because of his communication.

Q: What can you bring to the Greater Albany Public Schools board?

A: I will bring many things to the school board: I have significant knowledge of resources in both special education and higher education; I bring personal knowledge in cultural awareness and diversity and inclusion; and I also bring understanding as a first-generation college graduate and Ford Family Scholar in how difficult it can be to navigate the educational system, especially as a minority.

My children are young and just starting school and I believe having a younger voice on the board will bring awareness to all sorts of issues that are occurring in our elementary schools that don’t often get a lot of attention.

Finally, as a Latina I believe that I will be able to increase parent engagement with the Latino community.

Q: What issues do you believe are most pressing for Greater Albany Public Schools?

A: Firstly, I believe Albany’s education performance in math is seriously lacking in all grade levels (as shown by standardized tests) and needs some attention. There is something in how math is taught now that is impacting the retention of the concepts. We need to spend time researching and evaluating how math is being taught and finding ways to make it better.

Secondly, I believe accountability is needed to retain good, capable teachers. I want to offer training or additional resources to teachers that are struggling, as well as finding rewards for teachers that are overachieving.

Thirdly, I’ve even experienced this in kindergarten with my daughter — bullying is a major problem in schools, and more needs to be done to stop this from happening. Teachers are left without good tools to deal with this, and we need to find active ways to enable them to properly coach young minds.

At-Large Position 1

Name: Jim Jansen

Occupation: IT administrator, web developer

Age: 61

Q: What is your connection to the district and why did you run?

A: I have several friends who are, or were, teachers in the Greater Albany Public Schools district and find a need to speak up for the students, teachers and taxpayers in the greater Albany area. I live in an area where new families are moving in and where administration is having major impacts to the families and students. We need to get back to providing an exceptional education experience. Make it fun to learn.

Q: What can you bring to the school board?

A: Add an outside perspective — someone who will not shy away from an opinion, speak my mind and work for all students across the district. Helping those who can’t speak for themselves. All students and teachers should have the same opportunities regardless of where they live.

Q: What issues do you believe are most pressing for Greater Albany Public Schools?

A: Administrative overreach, start listening to the teachers and students. Parents need to be involved in their own child’s schooling. Low-income families and special-needs students. Student and teacher safety, both inside the schools and on the way to and from school. We need to raise the literacy rates in all schools.

At-large Position 1

Name: Eric J. Aguinaga

Occupation: Commercial sales and service at Les Schwab

Age: 35

Q: What is your connection to the district and why did you run?

A: As a parent in GAPS, I have witnessed many challenges that teachers, staff, administrators, parents and students face on a daily basis working within the political structure of the district. Many of these challenges can be overcome with clear and objective thinking, effective communication and common sense decision-making. I would like the opportunity to bring a new voice and a new paradigm to our school board.

Q: What can you bring to the school board?

A: My greatest strength is my experience. For the last three years I have served on the school board Bond Oversight Committee. I have been to every school in our district and understand the needs of students and staff. I am the only candidate to attend school board meetings and participate in many volunteer opportunities.

Q: What issues do you believe are most pressing for Greater Albany Public Schools?

A: Our most pressing issues are bullying, overcrowding, lack of vocational opportunities and staff changeover. I plan to make these my top priority. I also plan to work with the Budget Committee to ensure we are using tax dollars in the most efficient way possible.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
0
0
2
0
0