Two members of the Corvallis School Board have been elected to positions on a statewide school board advocacy group’s Members of Color Caucus.
On Friday, Corvallis School Board Chair Sami Al-AbdRabbuh was named president of the Oregon School Boards Association caucus and Luhui Whitebear was elected to Al-AbdRabbuh’s former position as District 4 director.
Al-AbdRabbuh, of Middle Eastern descent, and Whitebear, of Indigenous heritage, are the only Corvallis School Board members of color. Fellow members also work with the OSBA in different capacities: Vincent Adams as a development specialist and Sarah Finger McDonald as a Legislative Policy Committee member.
Al-AbdRabbuh said their OSBA positions demonstrate a “once in a generation opportunity” for the Corvallis district representatives to help ensure equitable education throughout the state.
“We want to make sure those systems really are helping every student,” he said. “The systemic biases and systemic challenges that have been there for decades are being confronted, and we are getting closer to justice.”
Al-AbdRabbuh’s position as president allows him a voting role on the OSBA’s board of directors, while Whitebear’s director role allows her to advocate for fellow school board members of color throughout Oregon’s 4th U.S. Congressional District.
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“It’s exciting because it allows me to reach out more to communities in those areas, to other school board members of color in particular,” Whitebear said. “It’s still a relatively newer caucus, but OSBA is not new and school board members of color aren’t necessarily new either.”
According to Al-AbdRabbuh, the OSBA caucus also works closely with the Oregon Legislature’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus to align how they advocate for policies throughout the state.
“It’s great that Sami is representing the state too,” Whitebear added. “It’s really cool that both of us are able to help our local community in that capacity.”
Al-AbdRabbuh said it’s important for students and staff to feel included, which requires closing the equity gap that disadvantages people of color.
“It’s important for me that each one of us has a unique story to be told,” he said. “We need to make sure that every student feels like they belong. (The new position) means for me that our strengths and our stories, experiences and expertise are being shared and our voices are being heard.”
Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091. Follow her on Twitter @NiaTariq.