By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

School board finalists

Laura Boehme

Age: 49

Occupation: Director of IT infrastructure, Central Oregon Community College

Prior governmental experience: 15 years working at Oregon State University; worked with state licensure boards as a project manager and trainer with a local software development company

Melissa Barnes Dholakia

Age: 48

Occupation: Public school administration, supporting schools and small districts in program design, goal setting, monitoring and performance reporting

Prior governmental experience: Cascade School of Music board president; Lighthouse Community Public Schools board; OnePurpose School founding board member; New Leaders for New Schools advisory board

Carrie McPherson Douglass

Age: 36

Occupation: Managing partner of Education Cities, national nonprofit working to increase education outcomes for students from low-income communities

Prior governmental experience: Worked with 25 large school districts across the county; previously a teacher and HR head of a medium-sized school system

Ricardo Olegario

Age: 48

Occupation: Private investment management

Prior governmental experience: Bend-La Pine Budget Committee; Camp Fire Central Oregon board; High Lakes Parent-Teacher Organization board; High Lakes Site Council member; OSU-Cascades Campus Expansion Advisory Group

The Bend-La Pine Schools board is down to four finalists to replace Nori Juba, who attended his next to last board meeting Thursday night.

The district received 26 applications from local residents interested in filling out the remaining months of Juba’s term. Originally appointed to the seven-member board in 2005, Juba is stepping down to focus on work rather than stand for re-election in May.

On Wednesday, board members interviewed most of the applicants in rapid fire fashion, with two prospective board members interviewed by phone and one completing the initial screening process Thursday afternoon. Thursday evening, the board announced four finalists: Carrie McPherson Douglass, Laura Boehme, Melissa Barnes Dholakia and Ricardo Olegario.

Board chairwoman Peggy Kinkade said the district was fortunate to have so much interest in the position.

“I can’t believe how deep and broad the pool was with really, really excellent candidates. That’s a great problem,” Kinkade said.

Board members did not address the specifics of their interviews with their would-be colleagues Thursday evening, but agreed their final four stood out from the crowd.

Juba said he was impressed by the passion of each of the applicants he spoke to personally. Passion is important, he said, but above all, he wants to choose a candidate with a track record of working as part of a team to get things done.

Board member Cheri Helt said because whomever the board chooses could be off the board as early as May, she wants to find a candidate who can immediately dig into the issues the district is facing.

“We will be turning this back over to the voters in May and they will have a choice,” she said.

A few hours before the board meeting, Troy Reinhart, one of the applicants for the position, announced he is no longer interested in being appointed to the post. Instead, the Bend-based financial adviser said he has filed his paperwork to run for the same seat in the May election.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Reinhart said his experience at Wednesday’s candidate screening cemented his decision to remove his name from consideration.

He and the other contenders for the appointment sat down with the board, and each fielded three questions. He said he doesn’t think such a process provides meaningful information for winnowing down the list of applicants or eventually selecting a new board member, and that the current board would be better off leaving the position vacant until May.

“To take the time they needed to make an informed decision, even to get down to (finalists), speed dating doesn’t cut it,” he said.

Kinkade conceded the speed dating approach was imperfect, but said she was able to get a better sense of the candidates than was possible through reading their written applications.

The district is planning to schedule in-depth interviews with the four finalists for Feb. 27. Kinkade said if the board can reach a consensus on who should fill the post, a selection and vote could come as early as Feb. 28, scheduled to be Juba’s final board meeting.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,