Sisters School Board candidates

Name: Stephen King

Age: 60

Residence: Sisters

Profession: CEO and founder of SousZen Inc., adjunct professor in organizational management at The University of Oregon

Name: Jeff Smith

Age: 73

Residence: Sisters

Profession: Retired professor of public administration

Name: Don Hedrick

Age: 84

Residence: Sisters

Profession: Retired high school teacher and school administrator

Name: Mandee Seeley

Age: 36

Residence: Sisters

Profession: Administrative assistant at Sisters Park and Recreation District

The Sisters School Board has two competitive races on the May 21 special election ballot.

One race features a board member who is leaving his seat to challenge a colleague on the board. The other race pits a former school board chairman against a Sisters Park and Recreation District employee.

Stephen King, a school board member for the past five years, decided to vacate his Position 4 seat and run for the Position 3 seat against longtime board member and current chair Jeff Smith.

King, 60, a native of England who has worked for three decades in the high-tech business industry, said he didn’t want Smith and himself to run unopposed. He acknowledges leaving his seat could be seen as unusual, but he wanted to challenge Smith, who King believes represents the status quo on the board.

“I tend to be more out of the box, and I tend to push the envelope,” King said.

If elected, King said, he would continue to push for extending the school year and broadening the curriculum to include more hands-on learning. King said he would like to add two school days a year for the next five years and give students more choices in classes.

“If we want to create great humans and help kids realize their potential, it’s about giving them a breadth of experience,” King said.

Smith, 73, served on the school board from 1999 to 2012 and was appointed to the board in 2014 before being elected in 2015. The retired professor said he has gained a wealth of experience since first joining the board and often helps the board find compromises on various issues and work in partnership with the superintendent.

“It’s the leadership I provide that is most helpful,” Smith said.

As an educator for nearly 40 years, Smith said, he sees himself as an advocate for the students both in improving their curriculum and addressing their needs outside the classroom.

Smith wants to focus more on recognizing students’ mental health and life circumstances that may be hindering their education.

“We have to meet kids where they are as opposed to assuming they have come to our doorstep ready to learn,” Smith said.

David Thorsett, 54, an orthopedic surgeon, also filed to run against Smith and King for the Position 3 seat. However, Thorsett recently decided to withdraw from the race and endorse Smith.

The other school board seat will be filled by either former board chairman Don Hedrick or Mandee Seeley, an administrative assistant for the Sisters Park and Recreation District.

Hedrick, 84, taught high school for 25 years in the suburbs of Chicago. He spent another decade teaching in Chiloquin and Tillamook before retiring in Sisters. He served on the school board from 2009 to 2017 and was board chair from 2012 to 2016. After a short hiatus, Hedrick said, he is ready to serve on the board again.

“I decided I needed a break, and that was two years ago,” he said. “Now I’m ready to get back on the board and hopefully contribute to the education of the kids here. That’s what it’s all about.”

Hedrick said a priority for the board will be addressing the growing enrollment as more families continue to move to Sisters. It will be important to maintain class sizes as the school district continues to gain students, he said.

“We have to prepare for growth, and with my experience in education, I can help do that and work with the superintendent and other board members and community partners,” Hedrick said.

Seeley, 36, is a Florida native who moved to Sisters three years ago, after taking a road trip with her family across America. They fell in love with the area, she said.

Seeley previously home-schooled her two children, but she was impressed with the Sisters School District and enrolled her kids in the elementary school.

Through her job with the park district, Seeley said, she has met people from all walks of life and started volunteering with projects including with the park district’s community cleanup events.

Her love of the town and volunteer involvement motivated her run for the school board.

“I’ve gotten involved in the community in a lot of other areas, and I want to run for City Council next year so I thought this would be a good way to see how the election process works,” she said. “I have two kids in the school district and would love to be a part of their and others’ success in school.”

Some of her time in Sisters has been without formal housing. Being temporarily homeless at times has given Seeley a different perspective.

“It’s made me want to get more involved anywhere I can and help kids that might be struggling more than others,” she said. “It’s hard to understand how to help when you haven’t been in their situation.”

Seeley said she hopes to bring fresh ideas to the school board such as more student-­led learning and interactive learning experiences as well as more focus on nature and wellness.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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