Across Central Oregon the voters have spoken—and they've mostly spoken for change.
The Bend-La Pine School Board will welcome four new members—and will seat a new chair after pastor Shimiko Montgomery defeated incumbent and board chair Andy High. Other new board members—all women—include Caroline Skidmore, Amy Tatom and Melissa Barnes Dholakia.
"It's humbling to follow in the footsteps of board members who have dedicated so many years of service to our district," Montgomery told the Source. "As I transition onto the board, I hope to develop relationships with not just those starting or continuing their terms, but also the ones who are ending their service."
Montgomery is a former school counselor and believes it's vital that we find ways to increase support services—such as school counselors and mental health resources—especially for students who may be struggling. Montgomery said she plans to continue the work of the current board of building strong engagement with all stakeholders, including students, families, educators and the community at large.
"I believe that it is together where we are strongest and where we work best in creating the excellent schools our kids deserve," Montgomery said. "I'm truly honored to have the confidence of our community to be elected to this position."Dholakia said that as a board member, her priorities would be those she ran on: Continuing to develop an innovative school program that builds agency, enabling students to have true choices in their futures, ensuring schools promote belonging, addressing the equity gaps in our schools—both in experience and outcomes—and doing so in a financially responsible way.
"Having new members on the school board is an incredible opportunity—and I am especially excited about our shared commitment to equity and inclusion in our schools," Dholakia said.
Tatom—who ran unopposed in her race—said her priority over the next four years will be to improve educational outcomes through health promotion.
"This means advocating for school counselors, psychologists and nurses," Tatom said. "It also means supporting our staff—from transportation to nutrition services—so they have the resources they need to promote the health and safety of all our students."
Tatom said to meet her priorities the board needs to work with community partners such as Deschutes County Public Health and the Central Oregon Health Council to deliver services efficiently and equitably. Tatom said she's met with leaders at both health service partners and currently serves on the board of the St. Charles Medical Group, and recently joined the executive committee of the Central Oregon Medical Society.
"I am already hearing ideas for how this can be accomplished and plan to hit the ground running in July," Tatom said.
Skidmore said she has three priorities when she takes her seat at the board on July 30: To advocate for appropriate funding and make sure that the funds will get the best student outcomes; to have safe schools, which involves strengthening mental health services—and creating messaging to parents about the importance of locking up firearms—and have the district work with each school to foster environments of kindness and inclusivity, so that all students feel like they belong.
"All of us have a ton of experience in education, so I think that's going to be a great asset to just kind of jumping in and getting ready to go," Skidmore said about joining the other three new members of the board. "I feel like the four of us really have strong relationships just through the campaign and then we're also making great connections and receiving a lot of support from current board members that will continue."
Redmond school board: A new member
Liz Goodrich defeated one-term incumbent Johnny Corbin for a seat on the Redmond School Board. Goodrich, who works for the Deschutes Public Library, said from the start of her campaign, she identified planning for growth, fiscal responsibility, staff support and ensuring an equitable and quality education for all Redmond students as her goals on the board.
"These goals have not changed," Goodrich said. "However, in talking with students, parents, and staff during the campaign, I have learned so much about other issues that deserve the attention of the board: Addressing adverse childhood experiences and class size are two areas where I think we have work to do."
Bend Park and Recreation: Two new faces
Ariel Mendez, who currently sits on the Bend Park and Recreation Budget Committee, was elected to the Park Board.
During a conversation with the Source May 23, Mendez said about the elephant hanging over the city—Mirror Pond dredging—that following decades of an economical policy of not dredging, he's not persuaded that the City suddenly needs to implement a costly policy of "dredge immediately"—and said he's not satisfied the public has considered whether dredging is really necessary to accomplish its stated goals without violating other community values.
Mendez—who's also board president of Bend Bikes—said he's excited to focus on promoting trails as a means of active transportation, adding that using a trail to get around hits every aspect of the district's vision.
"I've been an active community volunteer for years and I see joining the board as an extension of that service," Mendez said. "But I don't have all the answers and I take my responsibility to represent the community seriously—I look forward to continuing to listen and learn from our community after being sworn in."
Central Oregon Community College
After being appointed in January, former Bend City Councilor and Mayor Jim Clinton kept his seat on the Central Oregon Community College Board for the next four years. Clinton said installing the college's new president, Dr. Laurie Chesley, and getting her up to speed would lead the short-term priority list.
Clinton said budget constraints are always a big issue at the public college and university level, and unlike Washington and California, Oregon is a "slow learner" in the crucial link between higher education and economic development.
Clinton said although the economy is strong—driven by development and construction—it's much better to have a highly educated and trained workforce ready to lead and respond to the next wave of economic opportunities.
"The big challenge for COCC is offering the programs that produces such a workforce," Clinton said. "More online courses and career and technical programs are needed to supplement the core academic offerings for students transferring to other colleges or obtaining associates degrees."