Malheur County school boards lure few filers as the deadline for special district election nears

MALHEUR COUNTY – Voters in Malheur County will have an opportunity to bring change to their respective school boards at the May 21 election.

The race for the 35 school board seats began Feb. 19, the first day candidates could file for office. 

By last Thursday, only 13 have officially filed to run for the unpaid positions, according to records from Malheur County Clerk Gayle Trotter. 

The deadline to file is Thursday, March 21.

School boards play a vital role in the community and represent the citizens in the education of children. 

In addition to establishing policies and regulations for the district schools, the school board also functions as the community’s watchdog for schools, according to the National School Boards Association. 

In the Jordan Valley School District, one candidate has filed for the three seats up for re-election on the district’s board. 

Newcomer Zackary Dufurrena filed for the two-year term, which is currently occupied by Kelli Williams. Incumbents Mike Quintero for Position 1 and Randy Carson for Position 2 haven’t filed but are both expected to run for re-election, according to Superintendent Rusty Bengoa.

Two seats on Ontario School Board are up for re-election and nobody has yet filed. 

Taryn Smith, public relations officer for Ontario schools, said incumbents Michael Blackaby and Eric Evans are expected to pursue re-election. 

Four of the five positions on the Nyssa School Board are up for re-election. 

Incumbent Lucy Beck confirmed to The Enterprise that she isn’t running again. 

“I’m ready to move onto something else,” said Beck, who has served on the Nyssa board for 12 years. “It’s been a good experience. I’m ready to be free to spend my time on other things.”

Newcomer Jeremy Peterson has filed to run for Beck’s four-year seat, and incumbent Michael Hartley has filed to keep his seat for the next four years. 

No candidates have filed for the other two seats. 

Two of the five Vale School Board positions are up and incumbents Michael McGourty and Scott Gressley have filed to keep their seats. Both seats are four-year terms.

The Juntura and Arock school districts each have three school board positions open but as of last week, no candidate has filed of any of them. That’s true for the two two-year terms on the Annex School Board.

Although no candidates have filed for the two open four-year seats on the Harper School Board, Superintendent Ron Talbot expects incumbents Garrett Bentz and Gary Johnson will run again.

For the Adrian School Board, incumbent Quinten Shenk filed to keep his two-year term seat. There are two Adrian boardß seats up for election, both of which are four-year terms. 

Adrian Superintendent Kevin Purnell said he expects incumbents Edward Kinkade and Robert Davis to file to retain their posts. 

Only one candidate has filed for the three seats open on the McDermitt School Board. Fred Wilkinson filed to keep his four-year seat. 

The other two open spots are also for four years.

Four of the seven Malheur Education Service District seats are up for grabs with two candidates filing by press time. 

All seats open for the spring election are four-year terms. 

Les Linegar and Jill Conant have filed to their respective seats, and incumbents David Westerberg and Cheri Hung are expected to file, according to Malheur ESD Superintendent Mark Redmond. 

Treasure Valley Community College Board incumbents Cheryl Cruson, Stephen Crow and Mark Wettstein have filed for re-election to four-year terms.

Matt Sorensen has filed for Position 2, which is occupied by current board chairman John Forsyth. 

Forsyth said Monday that he was not seeking re-election to the seat he held for 20 years.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to promote TVCC, to help our community and help our students,” said Forsythe. “I feel that that if you want be a good trustee, it’s going to require the ability to be part of the team. The team does best if all are working together. If you try to get on with a personal agenda, then that becomes a detriment to the board.”

Forsyth recommends those new to a school board “to listen carefully, ask good questions, explore issues thoroughly and make policy decisions based on the school’s mission.”

A school board hires and fires the superintendent and sets the policies for the district. At the community college level, board members hire and monitor the college president. 

Overall, the school board develops and adopts the all-important school budget, which sets priorities for how students are educated. 

It approves the curriculum such as books and materials teachers use to educate kids. It keeps an eye on school buildings and decides whether to ask voters for money for facilities improvement and how much.

“It’s a good way to serve the community,” said Beck, who is giving up her post on the Nyssa School Board. “There is a ton of commitment and you have to attend a lot of meetings, but it’s worth it. You get to see the students excel, and you get to work with the administration.”

School board members are volunteers, Beck said.

She said board members spend many hours each month in board and committee meetings, visiting schools and going to school events, reading documents and attending professional workshops. 

However, Beck said serving on the school board also gives her a unique perspective on how schools function. 

“Being on the school board gives good sense of how the money is spent,” Beck said. 

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

TRY A FREE SAMPLE – You can see for yourself the kind of local news reporting produced by the Malheur Enterprise with a news team focused exclusively on news that’s important to you. You can read us for free for 30 days. Signing up is easy and then you have 24/7 access to our reports. Sign up HERE. Or you can support some of the nation’s best journalism by subscribing to our digital news service for $5 a month, easy and automatic. Subscribe HERE.