Business owner and incumbent Andy High is challenged by pastor Shimiko Montgomery for a seat on the Bend-La Pine School Board. Voters should re-elect High.

Bend’s school district is now the fifth largest in the state, tested by swelling enrollment and increasing diversity.

Montgomery’s priorities are driven by her experience. She is the pastor for justice and mission at First Presbyterian Bend and has worked as a school counselor. She has seen families struggle because of homelessness, income, a language barrier and more. She knows how that can translate into poor performance in school. Montgomery, 35, feels too much pressure is put on teachers to solve these issues in the classroom and she wants to help as a policy maker at the board level. “As someone with experience working with these populations and the organizations that serve them and someone who has education experience, I can help our schools address and break down the barriers that students and families face,” she told us. She wants to build better partnerships with community organizations to help students and families. She hopes to put more counselors in schools.

Montgomery did tell a Bulletin reporter that she would support a teacher walkout to bring attention to school funding issues. Surely teachers can find ways to call for more school funding without disrupting student education. A walkout would also be a violation of the district’s collective bargaining agreements.

High, 40, has worked in politics, did government affairs for the Central Oregon Builders Association and served on the city’s affordable housing committee for 13 years. He now owns Thompson Pump and ­Irrigation, which does irrigation and wells.

If there’s a signature accomplishment since he became a board member in 2014, it might well be his personal effort that led to the board’s contract with PlanB consultants to perform deeper audits of district operations. The district already does financial audits. PlanB’s work goes further. For instance, PlanB reports have generally shown the district does a good job of building new schools. It also made recommendations to take a second look at plans to find ways to save money and to track change orders that can run up project costs. Taxpayers have High to thank for bringing that increased level of scrutiny to the district.

High is particularly proud of how the Bend schools have improved career and technical offerings, such as by improving the shop in La Pine. He said not every student wants to go to college, but he wants to provide them with the foundation for a strong career. He is not happy about Oregon’s overall high school graduation rate. Bend schools, though, are a relative bright spot and have shown improvement. He wants to build on that.

High, now the board chair, has brought innovative leadership to the Bend schools. Voters should keep him in the job.

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