There are eleven candidates running for four positions on the Hillsboro School Board, but after the April 6 candidate forum hosted by 350pdx did not make it easier to differentiate between their positions.  The ten candidates present (Jennifer Brandse did not attend) appeared collegial and largely agreed with one another during the panel.  At one moment, Monte Akers (incumbent) raised a yellow “agree” sign while his opponent, Martin Granum, was speaking.

Few questions brought sharply different answers from candidates. They’re all concerned about the projected budget shortfall next year. They spoke in favor of a proposed bond and of partnering with businesses and non-profit organizations in the community.  They all mentioned protecting classrooms and students from any cuts they need to be made.  All candidates agree on the importance of increasing participation in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and extracurricular activities. All have or have had children in the Hillsboro School District.

Even when politically divisive questions were asked, responses differed only in subtle ways.

When asked, “How will you promote education regarding climate change in Washington county schools?” Position 2 incumbent Glenn Miller said, “Being an Oregonian, environmental stewardship is part of the deal.” He acknowledged that there is disagreement about “how far we should go” to address climate change, but stressed that he wants students to learn how to be good stewards of the environment in school.  Mark Watson, who is also running for Position 2, began by stating that there is “overwhelming evidence” that humans are causing climate change. He said that science education should be evidence based and not, “‘hokum, if you will.”

Position 6 candidates were asked how they saw the school district working with immigration and customs enforcement (ICE). Jaci Spross said students need to feel safe at school, and that they cannot learn when worried about deportations. Brian Lyles said that ICE is not allowed in our schools, and that we need to communicate to students that they are safe at school. Alexander Flores responded, “Ditto, obviously,” to Lyles, and reiterated that ICE representatives have confirmed they cannot enter schools.  Kevin Currin-Smith responded to Flores by saying, “that’s good,” and added that having students feel safe at school is necessary for improving the graduation rate.

Position 6 candidates were asked to weigh in on another potentially controversial topic, the recent school board decision to not allow contraceptives at the school-based health clinic operated by Virginia Garcia at Century High School.  They were asked their opinion on making contraceptive information available in the health clinic.  Currin-Smith responded this goes back to “making sure schools are informed to current standards of scientific knowledge.” Flores claimed to be in “neutral mode,” but acknowledged he had his first child at 16 and believes in speaking openly with teenagers.  Lyles said he is “all for” educating students, many of whom may not be comfortable speaking to their parents about sexuality. He said that there was no money in the budget to provide actual contraceptives for students. Spross addressed the situation directly, pointing out that the clinic is run by Virginia Garcia and that the Hillsboro School District serves only as a landlord. “It’s a medical clinic and a medical clinic needs to provide full service, no matter what that entails,” said Spross.

The Hillsboro Signal will be publishing a more detailed profile of each candidate in the coming week.