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Klamath Falls city schools board candidates

Klamath Falls city schools board candidates

Editor’s note: A short list of questions was sent to each candidate running for a seat on the Klamath County School Board. Each was sent the same questions and instructed to keep their answers to around 100 words for each response. They are published here, with minimal editing, in the order in which the candidates will appear on the ballot. Each seat carries a four year term.

Zone 3

Devery Saluskin

Devery Saluskin

Devery Saluskin

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

I was born in Klamath Falls, graduated Tulelake High, Lane Community College and University of Oregon. I worked at 4 Winds Indian Education school in Chico. I also worked in the special ed class at Thurston High with emotionally disturbed students. I’ve coached football and basketball for high school and junior high. I worked JOM with the Klamath Tribes and as coordinator of Native American recruitment at the UO. I served one term as at-Large member of the Klamath Tribal Council. I currently work at the Klamath Tribes’ behavioral health center and I have four kids (one at Conger, one at Ponderosa, two graduated Tulelake High), a wife (teacher), and a grandson.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I was asked to run and believe I could be effective.

What are Klamath city schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

Improvement on communication with parents about scheduling, for example. What they are doing well is teaching and hiring principals like Ms. Bainbridge. They are also keeping the kids safe.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

Key indicators are graduation rates, usually, I’m sure. Increased electives, grant applications for more extracurriculars, innovative practices for teaching and discipline would also indicate success.

Timothy Pimental

Timothy Pimentel

Timothy Pimentel

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

In my career as a nurse leader, I have spent the last 8 years making budget and staffing decisions that directly affect the careers and lives of the staff I work with. The nursing department I lead has daily challenges and long-term challenges, with the use of proven leadership skills and sometimes out of the box ideas those challenges become workable projects.

My time in the military in addition to key roles I filled during my time at Jeld-Wen and all the leadership skills I have learned through nursing I believe I have the skills required to address the topics that this board is asked to make decision on.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I have considered running for the seat several times in the past but with work and children at home I decided at that time to wait for an opportunity that allows me to invest the time needed. Now that my children have moved on to their own careers I have the time needed to focus on the school board’s agenda. I feel the board needs individuals like myself that are impartial to the topics presented and are not running for the seat in order support any one group.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

I feel the school district is doing what they can to address the most important aspect of their mission and that is continuing to provide educational opportunities to students through whatever means possible. What I think could be improved is the speed at which decisions are made and carried out. Administrators, teachers and board members may be around for years but students come and go, so every minute is valuable and should not be wasted.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

If I can help to increase the graduation rate and assist with building programs that support learning and increase access to education opportunities I will feel good about what we have accomplished.

Vanessa R. Bennett is also competing for the seat in Zone 3. She did not return her answers.

Zone 6

Patrick Fenner

Patrick Fenner

Patrick Fenner

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

I have spent over two decades working with children and vulnerable families both as a social services specialist and as a case manager in the court system. This has given me a unique insight in the struggles these children and families face and the unique strengths they bring to our community. I also feel this has given me experience working in complex and messy situations with competing interests looking for very different outcomes.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I decided to run for this seat because of a belief that Klamath Falls City Schools can be so much more. Our city schools are the foundation of our community and stronger schools can help Klamath grow into all the promises the community offers. As a parent and professional spending time in our facilities, I see an opportunity to upgrade our aged infrastructure to bring our elementary schools into the 21st Century.

What are Klamath city schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

I believe that our city schools do a great job of communicating with parents and stressing community involvement. I believe that our schools and the staffs of these schools did an amazing job using technology and creativity in the last year in extremely difficult circumstances. I think our city schools get out of the habit of old thinking and move past the tried and true to serve our kids and get them ready for an evolving world.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

I will measure the success of my term on the school board by the satisfaction of kids and parents. I also want to look back and see real, tangible improvements to our facilities. I want to be able to point to real changes in technology, safety and innovation and say: “Yeah, our community came together and did that.”

Marissa Davidson

Marissa Davidson

Marissa Davidson

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

I graduated high school here in Klamath and attended Oregon Tech. I grew up here and am now raising my family in this community. I have volunteered with many organizations and have looked for opportunities to help better this community. As a parent to three young men attending the city schools right now, I believe raising our children to be great adults is the best thing we can do for the future of Klamath. A good education is essential to the development of our kids. My experience volunteering in the community and as a parent will help me succeed in this position.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I have been an active parent involved in my children’s activities including preschool, sports, Sunday school, and more. Now that they are all school age, school is the most important “activity” they are involved in. This is true for all our kids and all our children need advocates within the school district. I’m running to be that voice for them on the Klamath Falls City School Board. After seeing how our children (as well as school staff) have been treated this last year I could not sit back and not be involved. We need to stand up for our children and their well being.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

The city schools have a great group of educators and admins working within our schools at all levels. They are shaping the minds of our children to the best of their abilities. I think our district could work on communication from the board level on down. I have spoken to parents, admin staff, educators, and students who do not feel the district communicates effectively. That needs to change. I also believe we are a tight knit community, and our school districts should look for every opportunity to work together to better education for our entire county.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

I believe the best measure of success on a board like this is how well you work with your other board members to affect change to better our student’s environment and level of education. As city school board members, we should collaboratively work toward making our district the best it can be for our students.

Incumbent Mychal Amos is also running to retain his seat. He did not return his answers.

Zone 7

Tonie Kellom

Tonie Kellom

Tonie Kellom

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

As a retired educator of more than 30 years in which I taught everything from PE and marketing to alternative education where we took credit-deficient students and gave them the opportunity to be successful, I feel like I have experience in the classroom. As a retired administrator, I was athletic director, curriculum director, vice principal of discipline, director of alternative education (KLC and River Academy) and assistant principal at KU. I have had the opportunity to work with parents and students at many levels. I have served as the bridge between schools and the district office.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

After being raised in city schools, teaching in city schools, supporting my daughters as they went through the city schools, the time was right to serve on the board. I want to help us find ways we can be more efficient with our resources and improve our engagement with kids and families. Technology has changed learning and teaching. We can act aggressively as a district to use the new resources available to us to engage students more digitally and more personally on a one-to-one basis. Technology as a learning tool can give teachers more time to interact personally with students.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

In this current climate of COVID the district has done well to bring students back into school in the least restrictive and safest environments possible. I believe they have done a good job keeping students’ needs in the forefront while trying to balance budgetary issues. We have aging buildings with maintenance issues that need to be addressed and enrollment challenges that we need to get a handle on. I am especially interested in having every student graduate with confidence and skills to succeed. We can increase the availability and enrollment in career and technical education classes for all students.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

Our students and parents will tell us. As a Board we need to ask the right questions and do it more frequently. Then we can share the data and information as a board and make hard decisions with confidence that it is what the community wants. Graduation rate is not an adequate measure. If the students are telling us they aren’t ready for their future or graduate without any direction we have not done our job. There is room for improvement and I would like to be part of that process.

Dawn English

Dawn English

Dawn English

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

I have lived in the Klamath Basin since 1985. In my career as an educator, I have worked as a paraprofessional with a one-on-one and also in the mainstream classroom. With my secretarial skills I pay attention to details, I have collaborated with schools, district staff and community partnerships. I have worked with student databases, school budgeting and also accounting programs. After serving 24 years as a Klamath Falls City School employee, I am aware of the obstacles our children, families and educators are facing.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I decided to run for the school board because I want to bring a fresh perspective to the board to help improve our district. I have worked as a team member and would like to continue working as a team member with the School Board to hear other points of view and build consensus. I want to be a voice for our children, families and also our educators. I now have the unique opportunity to run for a School Board position and give back to our students, families, educators and Klamath Falls City Schools.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

I believe that our educators have really stepped up during these changing times. The district has been able to utilize funding in the technology area. Getting Chromebooks to all students in need was a huge undertaking. Staff collaboration within the district has improved, especially with PLC’s and staff meetings.

Things we need to improve: adequate funding for all our schools, increase electives so our students get a well-rounded educational experience, increase community support in our schools

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

It is important to measure the effect a school board member has on their constituents while on the board. I would want to get some baseline data at the beginning of my term, possibly from a survey that measures: 1) staff morale, 2) community concerns, 3) families’ concerns

In January 2025, I would then like to do the exact same survey and see if the positive comments have increased. I also would be working on these stakeholder’s concerns in an ongoing fashion to assure I listened to all constituents. Additionally, I would want to get information about attendance, graduation, enrollment, and student engagement in September 2021 and working with the new superintendent, assure we made positive gains in these areas. I believe using actual data is the appropriate way to evaluate my impact.

Carlos J. Soriano

Carlos Soriano

Carlos Soriano

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

For almost two years I have been serving on the Klamath Falls City School District Board, representing Zone 7 at-large seat. As a board member I have always been neutral, to hear from all sides. I take pride in being an advocate for education in our community. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a graduate degree in public administration. I have been working in government social services for almost 10 years focusing in self-sufficiency for our local families with the Department of Human Services. I also have 4 kids currently attending all levels of schooling in the district (elementary, middle, and high school).

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

Being on the board for the last two years has given me a great respect and admiration for our administrators, classified and non-classified staff who each day work hand in hand to ensure that our kids have a quality and safe education. I have also been amazed about the passion our local parents have for their kid’s education. As a board member who is passionate about education, I believe that each child should have an opportunity to succeed in the classroom. That means as a board member ensuring that our schools are fully funded to support teachers in the classroom and ensuring a safe environment for everyone in the schools. As a board member I would like to start promoting and supporting equity and inclusion in our city schools.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

What we are doing well is how we have been coping and dealing with the impacts of teaching/learning during this pandemic. I am proud that every time our schools faced an obstacle during this pandemic everyone from transportation, food services, staff, teachers, janitorial and all the way to the superintendent’s office worked collaboratively to ensure that our students had a safe place to learn. Even with the limited amount of time and resources. What we need to improve is investing in self care and professional development in staff, aging facilities, and triage on how we are going to support families and students who have been most impacted educationally during this pandemic.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

In the next six months to a year, our success will be determined on how we quickly adapt to going back to school full time. Also, with the recent hiring of Mr. Brown as our next superintendent, the board success will be determined on how the board works with new leadership. I am excited to work with Mr. Brown and sharing vision and ideas on how we can direct the right resources to where it matters most. My hope as during my term is to help expand the board’s communication with the community and community partnerships. Our success will also be determined on passing a future bond to build a modern and safe school for our elementary and middle school kids.

Ashley Wendt-Lusich

Ashley Wendt-Lusich

Ashley Wendt-Lusich

What in your background gives you the skills to succeed in this position?

I am a Klamath Falls native with strong roots in the community. I am a graduate of the Klamath Falls City Schools, a downtown business owner, constant volunteer in the schools and as a coach, and a JELD-WEN employee. I currently am a board member for two other entities and have many years of board experience. Not only that, I have over 12 years of experience running businesses, following budgets, being proactive, and standing up for what I believe in. I know what it means to put in the hard work by making tough decisions and not sitting on the sidelines.

Why did you decide to run for the seat?

I am running because our schools and our kids need help. They need a voice. They need to be put first. They need people willing to give back to our community, put in the time and rebuild our school district. I can’t sit on the sidelines and complain about how things are running with children of my own who are entering the district if I am not willing to step up and do the work myself. I grew up watching my mom serve on the school board for 16 years and I saw the difference she and the other board members made for not only the kids, but our community. I hope to be able to follow in her footsteps and do that again.

What are Klamath City Schools doing well, and what do they need to improve?

The Klamath Falls City Schools have been highly successful with improving our graduation rates. The number of graduates has almost doubled since I graduated from KUHS and that is very impressive. Yet at the same time, test scores have plummeted and we are not providing a competent workforce to our community. The city cchools are doing a great job of looking out for the safety of our kids by keeping them out of school for over a year, but it also has been a detriment because depression, suicide, abuse and other mental illnesses have skyrocketed and been under-reported. Bottom line, our kids needs to be back in school.

How will you measure the success of the board during your term?

I will measure success by all kids being back in school, full time. I also will measure success by the number of kids who stay in our district and have not transferred out of our district to the county. I will also measure success by improved test scores, increased job placement post-graduation, greater entrance rates to higher education of the student’s choice, access to mental health expanding, and increased partnerships with local colleges and businesses. In order to do so, all of these items require collaboration between the students, families, teachers, administrators, and the school board. We need to work together to unify our district and provide the best quality education and educational services to our community

Note: Deb Rodgers, whose name will be on the ballot, has rescinded her candidacy for the Zone 7 position and is not campaigning for the seat.