For as long as Bill Jennings can remember, he has relished the opportunity to learn and to advocate for the education of all.
As a Klamath Falls City Schools board member and president, one of his favorite things has been to hand high school graduates their hard-earned diplomas as family and friends look on.
“Those graduations are incredibly special because everyone’s journey is different,” Jennings said. “This is why we’re here.”
After a decade on the board, including several years as board president, a move outside of the city limits has prompted Jennings to hand in a letter of resignation at Monday’s board meeting.
He has served on the board since being elected in 2009.
“I am no longer eligible to be on the board,” Jennings said on Thursday. “It’s a matter of following board policy. “I would’ve preferred to stay on to fulfill my obligations.”
The meeting, which is open to the public, will take place at 6 p.m. Monday at the district office at 1336 Avalon St.
The letter of resignation must be approved by city school board members before it goes into effect, according to board policy.
If approved, an advertisement for applications for Jennings’ replacement will go out on Tuesday, Aug. 13 through Sept. 2. If there are multiple applicants for the opening, interviews for the open position will be held on Sept. 4 and 5, and a finalist will be chosen on Sept. 6. A new board member will be sworn in on Sept. 10.
Jennings is a 1987 graduate of Klamath Union. He also holds a mathematics degree from San Jose State University, an information technology degree from Oregon Tech, and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
Jennings is also the father of two KU graduates — classes of 2015 and 2018.
Between 2009 and 2019, Jennings noted an increase in opportunities for students in the city school district as more pathways to post-secondary and trade education.
“I believe that there’s never been a better time to graduate from high school in Klamath Falls,” Jennings said, “and I mean that as a Basin-wide thing.
“The opportunities from our partners – the things that school districts are doing with OIT (Oregon Institute of Technology) and with KCC (Klamath Community College) is incredible. The opportunities for post-high school education, if someone wants education after high school, it’s available for everyone.
“It’s a whole different climate today than 10 years ago,” Jennings added.
Jennings ran for the school district’s board of directors in 2009 with one of his goals being to address a need for upgraded facilities throughout the district.
“We accomplished a lot in 10 years,” Jennings said.
“It’s a group,” he added. “I’m one of seven people on a board.”
Nevertheless, Jennings has broken some tie votes over the years as board president.
“I’m happy our board was not always a 7-0 vote,” Jennings said.
One such vote was during a March meeting earlier this year when Jennings broke a tie to table giving a tax break to a hotel developer.
Jennings said it was one of the tougher decisions he’s made because he believes the school district should promote business.
“From a school perspective, the best thing that we can do as a school to promote new business is to provide high-quality education,” he said.
Jennings also served on the board at the beginning of the effort to secure a bond to pay for the remodel of KU, as well as throughout the construction phases.
When asked if he would have approached the project by doing anything different, he said: “I don’t regret any decisions we made at any moment in time with the information we had at the time.”
“You can’t see through some of those problems and the information that we had at given moments in time, I don’t look back at any of those things with any regrets.”
“The community didn’t want a new high school, they wanted a remodeled high school,” Jennings added. “And we went forward with the best information we had at the time. We’ve got a product in the end that the entire community can be proud of.”
Jennings also urged board members to continue to work toward more facility upgrades throughout the district, as have been done with the remodel of KU.
“We have dated facilities in our community and we have to continue to address that problem,” he added.
Jennings emphasized he will remain an advocate for education in Klamath Falls, where he has served at KCC for the last 15 years. He’ll also continue working with the Pelican Education Foundation.
“(Education) It’s one of the most important things that we need as a community that we need to focus our energies on,” Jennings said.