Top Issue Questions & Answers
In the case of Eugene School District 4J, there are seven board members who are elected at-large and serve on a volunteer basis. They oversee the district superintendent, set policy, oversee and adopt a multi million dollar budget and act as the voice of parents and community members. They are responsible for a district that now has over 1600 employees, 16,000 students in 37 schools. They control a budget of 250 million!
Quite frankly, the Eugene School Board has become a laughingstock and an embarrassment. They have become toddlers in a candy store without limits on their behavior. The budget they oversee alone should have the general public worried and asking questions about their fiscal priorities. Reckless, entitled and unprofessional would be words that come to mind when I watch proceedings. The meetings have become increasingly dysfunctional and people everywhere are starting to notice. There are more and more articles in news outlets about it, and parents are very concerned. In fact, the district recently made national news when students at Churchill High School were given an assignment that was entirely inappropriate for any age group, let alone children. Responses from the school board were defensive and less than appropriate for the grave concern regarding the direction of curriculum. I grew up Eugene and went to school here and so have my five kids. My wife, Jacquelyn, is a kindergarten teacher in a neighboring school district, and I own a small business here in town. I’m heavily invested in Eugene and want to see our students do well. But I think that the school board has lost focus. Period! They have failed to focus on the things that matter the most, like ensuring that our kids have a positive learning environment free from political ideology and indoctrination, free from personal agendas that take away from the pursuit of strict adherence to the academics at hand. We need rigorous standards that will prepare students for whatever careers they choose to pursue in life. Students and parents have the right to send their schools in our district, free from concern about what influence some radical educators or the school board will embark on at the behest of their children. I’m willing to step up and serve to help make the school district something we as a community can be proud of again. I pray I can make a difference.
The first thing I would like to see is a return to decorum and civility. It’s hard to get anything done when board members spend significant amounts of time in most meetings fighting with each other. Some more than others. The meetings have become self focused on personal slights rather than the seriousness of a task at hand, which is a huge budget, serious graduate rate concerns, teachers not adhering to basic tenants of what their actual job is, which is to teach the subjects assigned to them. The controversy which is the peanut gallery known as the Eugene School board meetings, is taking away from what our schools should really be all about—qualified professionals teaching children how to read, write and do math. The district’s graduation rate is 82 percent, which is slightly below the statewide average of 84 percent. Math proficiency is at 45 percent and reading proficiency is 55 percent. But the current board doesn’t seem to be talking about that very much or what can be done to improve student outcomes and teacher performance. Instead, it’s become about personalities and arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong. At best it has become a competition in virtue signaling from some very specific board members, at worse a systemic problematic woke machine that is driving an agenda that is not in the best interests of the kids or the parents. If I seem too blunt or needlessly alarming, I challenge you to get a bowl of popcorn and sit down to watch a Eugene School Board meeting online. Something needs to change, and I’m ready to help lead the way.
For one, I know the community really well. Growing up in Lane County, I graduated from Churchill High School and the University of Oregon, both in Eugene. I’ve also gone to Lane Community College, Umpqua Community College, University of Oregon and graduated from Tufts Dental College in Boston. I have employed many people in our fine county through my businesses, built and sold businesses from the ground up, been instrumental in providing direction for flailing business owners, have the experience to make growth and change happen. More importantly, though, I’m a parent of students who graduated from Sheldon High and two who are still going there. Moreover, I have parented 5 of my children and additionally, am a foster parent to children entrusted to our care. As an employer, I know what skills our students need to have in order to be successful as they start their careers. Some will pursue further higher education, some will pursue skilled trades. We need to enable ALL students to have options, opportunities and to be prepared. We can’t do that when we don’t have clear objective direction. Personal agendas of board members need to be halted, victim mentality needs to be checked at the door and we need to get down to business! The school board is a business and our product is our students! We need to partner with parents to ensure success for our students. I want to be part of the change that I think parents and community members are thirsty for.