Come 18 May, communities throughout Marion County will be electing fellow citizens to a number of local governing boards, including public school districts, fire districts, water districts, and even library districts, and deciding whether or not to fund district projects. During the first week of April every household in the county received a copy of this year's voter pamphlet (PDF — audio version also available) listing every candidate for every position up for election and every money measure on the ballot.
The Marion County Republican Central Committee, meeting 18 March, heard from several candidates seeking election to positions on school boards. Four candidates for the Salem-Keizer School District board and two candidates for the Woodburn School District board received endorsement while two candidates for a position on the North Santiam School District board received votes of support.
Salem-Keizer School Board
The Salem-Keizer Schools district is the second-largest in the state, reaching over 42,000 students with 65 schools. A seven-member board sets policy for the district. Each director represents a zone as shown on the map to the left. The director must live in the zone represented, but the entire district casts votes for all directors, in that way making them at-large. As you can see from the map, the school district boundaries extend far beyond the city limits of both Salem and Keizer.
Four positions are up for grabs this cycle, only one of which fields the incumbent. Zone 1 drew the most attention with four candidates seeking to follow Kathy Goss, leaving after one term. Jesse Lippold, the incumbent in Zone 5, drew two challengers. Marion County Republicans, in concert with Oregon Right to Life and Marion+Polk First, endorsed four candidates. Read on for brief introductions:
A 13-year resident of West Salem and a realtor, Kari Zohner was born and raised here, graduating from McNary High School. Her two sons attend district schools, as well. As a former substitute teacher in the district, she has experience on both sides of the desk. "I am running to make the board more transparent, open, and ultimately responsive to the students and parents of this great community," she states. She is definitely more than a soccer mom.
Linda Farrington grew up in the jungles of northern Thailand and Malaysia where her parents were missionaries. She graduated from high school away from them in Eugene. She has lived in Salem for the last 30+ years. She has volunteered many hours in district classrooms, leading and supporting fundraisers, working the concession stand at school ball games, and supported school district music and sports programs. Even after all six kids graduated, she continued serving the district, spending a term on the district's Budget Committee. She lives out her belief that "we are strongest when we all pitch in and work together to solve problems."
The Oregon Trail brought Mike Slagle's ancestors to Salem in the 1860s. He has lived in the Houck [Middle School] neighborhood in SE Salem since it was built in the 1980s. His children graduated from North High. He has officiated school sports games and coached youth sports teams for more than 23 years. As president of the North Salem High Booster Club he led the installation of the new turf field. In an environment where political tensions have infected relationships between the board and the school community it serves, Mike believes "our community is resilient and capable of great things if we put aside politics and focus on what is best for our kids!"
Recognizing that vulnerable children need more help, Liam Collins and his wife became foster parents specifically to teenagers. After witnessing the brutality the Left has brought to bear on the Salem-Keizer School Board this past year, he is now stepping into the fray to follow Paul Kyllo who is stepping down. Seeing that kids are ready to return to in-person instruction, he has learned through one of his own fosters that some students can thrive in the digital realm. "If elected, I will always work to protect parental choice — including for those who choose hybrid or remote learning, as well as those who are ready to return their kids to classrooms."
Woodburn School Board
At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Woodburn Public Schools had enrolled 5,600 students. The demographic breakdown revealed that 63% of the student population claimed Hispanic/Latino heritage (one elementary school was 99% Hispanic) and 33% were Caucasian/non-Hispanic. The remaining 4% were multi-racial, Asian, and Native American. The five-member school board currently has two Hispanic members and three Caucasian. Positions 2, 3, and 5 are up for election this cycle. Marion County Republicans endorsed candidates for positions 3 and 5. Unlike the situation in Salem, all three incumbents seek to retain their positions.
Position 3 — Savely (Savva) Kalugin
Until recently the Russian Old Believer and Slavic communities in the Willamette Valley formed a sleeping giant. Savely Kalugin is a construction site foreman for a builder and owner of a pair of small contracting businesses in the Old Believer community around Woodburn. His personal Facebook page shows him to be quite forward-looking — he and his wife recently welcomed their first child. "I want to work for and represent our children and parents. I will put student and parent success [at the] forefront of my goals" as a school board director.
Position 5 — Rosie Burkoff
She is a single mother of five children, four of whom are still students in Woodburn public schools. She graduated from Woodburn High in 1995. In her voter pamphlet statement (see pg 37), she recounts how her experience moving from Woodburn to Sedro Wooley, WA in 2008 now serves as a motivation to seek election to the school board. At the time of the move her two children were attending Heritage Elementary and were in regular classes. In Sedro Wooley, one of the top ten school districts in Washington, her children were placed in ESL classrooms and had to receive extra tutoring to catch up with other students. "We need to get back to the basic learning system, [teaching] our students history, language arts, and [increasing] the physical activity in physical education classes."
North Santiam School Board
The North Santiam School District serves Stayton, Sublimity, and Mehama-Lyons with five schools and an "Options" online program. The board of directors has seven members, essentially allocated one director for each school and two at-large. The schools in Sublimity and Mehama-Lyons cover grades K-8 while Stayton's elementary school reaches grades K-3 and the middle school serves grades 4-8. All high school-aged students attend Stayton High School.
Only the two at-large directors are elected by the entire district. Those directors representing the schools are elected by voters residing within the boundaries defined for the K-8 schools. The two candidates supported by Marion County Republicans are vying for the same position, looking to replace the incumbent seeking her fifth term on the board.
Position 3 (Stayton) — Amy McKenzie Watts
The young mother of three, two of whom are school-aged, is a freelance web and graphic designer/photographer/film producer making her way in the "gig" economy. She and her husband moved their family to Stayton about three years ago, ditching the big city for the sake of the kids. She is seeking the position in order to have a say in curriculum and school environment.
Position 3 (Stayton) — Linda Rowe
Citing ODE statistics showing that the district is falling well below average in educational success, Linda believes the board needs to prioritize the basics: only 45% of students tested are reading at grade level and an astonishing 72% are not competent in math. Yet the school district spends about $16,000 per student, significantly above the state average of $13,000. Though she has been retired from a long nursing career for six years, she is still involved with the education of two of her grandchildren as a full-time caregiver.