Jefferson County School District will have some youth injected into its school board after the May election.
The district’s two contested seats have attracted five candidates, all younger than 40. One race has an incumbent, while the other will determine who will replace 12-year board member Stan Sullivan.
Although some candidates share similar goals, such as increasing career and technical education offerings and limiting staff turnover, each contender has a unique perspective on how to run the rural school district.
Jefferson County School District Position 4
Casandra Moses, 36, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and has been appointed to the tribes’ election committee, Jefferson County School District’s budget committee and the executive board of the Central Oregon Disabilities Support Network.
Moses said she was inspired to run partly because she wants parents to be aware of their rights to advocate for children with disabilities. She struggled to get schools to provide support services for her 20-year-old daughter, a former Madras High student who was diagnosed with dyslexia late in high school, Moses said. Her daughter had to transfer to Redmond Proficiency Academy to get the help she needed and eventually graduate.
“I felt like there was no support as a parent, or for her being a student,” she said. “I want to be able to give parents the tools they need to fight for their children, without having to go through alternative doors, or without having to fight the education and medical system just to get the diagnosis they need.”
Moses said she would try to align core standards and practices between the majority of the district’s schools and Warm Springs K-8, which she called “segregated.”
Furthermore, she wants the district to actively get more involved with parents of color. A combined 68% of Jefferson County students are Native American or Hispanic, according to state data.
“Being half-Mexican, I understand other barriers that the Hispanic community faces with the fear of being involved, the fear of going to meetings, going to community events,” she said.
Courtney Snead, 37, is the lone incumbent running for a Jefferson County seat. The Madras resident, who owns a management consulting business that assists public and nonprofits, touted the school district’s successes during her first term. Those include skyrocketing graduation rates at Madras High School and the development of a Future Center at Madras High, which helps students map out their post-high school career or college plans.
“I think over the past four years of my first term, we’ve made a lot of good strategic investments,” Snead said. “I want to continue to have a voice at the table so I can contribute to ... our forward progress.”
Snead, a mother of two children ages 4 and 2, said if reelected, she would try to reduce achievement gaps between the various socioeconomic groups of students. Over 95% of students receive free and reduced lunch, according to the state.
Snead also said she wanted to create incentives that get teachers to live in the school district, as a “good portion” of its staff commutes from Prineville, Redmond or even Bend.
Jefferson County Position 5
Madras resident Taylor Lark, 33, admitted that he “didn’t have a big agenda” or “an ax to grind” in his campaign for the open school board seat.
“I think the school district is running in the right direction,” he said. “If we can continue to improve on the practices and the strategies that were put in place, then we can focus on other areas.”
The president and founder of the nursing software consulting company The Stover Group said if elected, he’d promote extracurricular activities and career and technical education, to give students a chance to succeed outside a traditional classroom setting. Although he is not Latino, Lark also said he felt the school board needed to give a strong voice to that community.
Lark, a father of six kids, three of whom attend Metolius Elementary, has never held an elected position, but he said he is deeply involved in the Madras community through volunteering at his local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He also coaches youth sports, including as a volunteer for Madras High’s football team.
Carina Miller, 31, is about to leave an elected position next week — she has served one three-year term on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ Tribal Council, representing the Wasco tribe. Before moving back to her hometown of Warm Springs, she also worked as a Head Start teacher in Pendleton and worked with curriculum and testing on the Umatilla reservation.
Miller, who if elected would be the second Warm Springs tribal member on the school board, alongside Laurie Danzuka (or third, if Moses is also elected), said it was crucial to include more voices of Native women — “not just a token, not just one” — to promote equity among racial and gender lines in the school district.
“It doesn’t just benefit students of color,” she said about promoting equity. “The quality of education has to do with what these students bring back to our economy and communities.”
Miller, a mother of a baby boy, said her experience on the Tribal Council gave her necessary skills in budgeting, lobbying and identifying funding sources.
If elected, she said she’d push for more career and technical education programs and training to help staff work with students who have experienced trauma.
“We come from a place with high poverty and high addiction rates,” Miller said. “The stresses these kids are going through could impact their social-emotional abilities.”
Kevin Richards, 37, is a farmer on the rural outskirts of Madras who was raised in the city. Before becoming a farmer, he spent years as a national employee of the Future Farmers of America in Washington, D.C., traveling around the country to help build its programs.
“I’m really familiar with the value of CTE programs and how it can particularly (help) in rural communities and areas with demographic challenges,” Richards said.
Richards, a father of three, including a son at Buff Elementary, had some plans if elected, such as getting local businesses more involved in CTE programs, fighting teacher turnover and maintaining a positive culture at Madras High after the departures of co-principals H.D. Weddel and Mark Neffendorf. But he said he was hesitant to define a clear agenda, and planned on spending his early years on the board soaking in information.
“I think it’s very important, when you go into a board, to not go in with strong preconceived ideas of significant changes that need to be made,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, email@example.com