|Funding||Supports proposed bond
Would support an operating levy
|Supports proposed bond
Hopes to avoid an operating levy
|Supports proposed bond
Planning to ask for operating levy
|Contraceptives at school-based health clinics||Would revisit, vote yes||Would have voted no
Supports contraceptives with parental notification
|Would revisit, vote yes|
|Strategies for Increasing the Graduation Rate||Respond to needs of individual students||Focus on parental involvement and at-risk students||Dual Credit & Internship Programs
Replicate the success of CHICAs program
On School Funding
Jennifer Brandse thinks the community needs more education around the funding needs of our school district. As a member of the school board, she said she would also “explain to people in Salem why it’s important to fund schools.” She supports the proposed bond, and when asked about requesting an operating levy in the future, she said, “I’m pretty liberal… and believe that more money for schools is a good thing overall.” One challenge, she said, is the number of people in the community who do not have school-age children. She wants to show people that improving education for K-12 students improves the community as a whole.
Erika Lopez is currently on the school district’s budget committee. Because the district does not have a paid lobbyist like some other local districts, she said, the school board has to make a more coordinated effort to make the district’s voice heard at the state level. “We owe it to our residents to make sure we’re advocating for our schools well,” she said.
Lopez supports the proposed bond, but pushed for the less expensive of the two proposed options. With this option, “it’s a transfer,” meaning taxes will not increase. She hopes this will help start a conversation about a future operating levy. According to Lopez, the role of school board members is also, “to be an advocate in the community… to shine light on the issues and the ways a school needs a community’s help.”
April Davis wants legislators in Salem to fully fund school districts. She says, “they’ve given us a lower percent [of the state budget] every year,” and would like to see a return to previous percentages. She “totally supports” the bond, saying it is necessary because of growth and the condition of current school buildings.
Davis also said that the role of the school board in raising money is to provide support. If an operating levy were proposed, she says should would help educate people about the levy and the needs of the district. “I would support it as much as I could,” she said, mentioning that Hillsboro has never been able to pass a levy. “I hope it doesn’t come to that. I really wish the state would first fully fund the schools so that school districts wouldn’t have to go to the community that way.”
On Contraceptives in School-Based Health Clinics
On the issue of contraceptives in the school-based health clinic operated by Virginia Garcia, Davis says that she would have voted “no” along with current board members Monte Akers, Glenn Miller, Wayne Clift, and Erik Seligman. She would have supported an earlier measure that allowed clinics to provide contraceptives with parental notification. She said, “my position on this issue has to do with parent involvement. I am strongly advocating for parent involvement in all aspects of a student’s life.”
Lopez says she would have voted differently, supporting unrestricted access to contraceptives in school-based health clinics. “Our position as school board members is to ensure that our students are successful,” Lopez said, “A barrier to success is having kids too early. It’s an additional responsibility for them on top of trying to focus on school.”
Brandse’s position is similar to Lopez’s. “I strongly believe that a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare is directly tied to her economic well-being,” she said. She said that in an ideal situation, parents would be talking to their students about sexual health, but “the reality is that there are some kids where that’s not happening.”
On Increasing the Graduation Rate
Lopez says the key to increasing the graduation rate is helping students answer the question, “what comes next?” She wants to increase the number of dual credit courses available with PCC so students can begin earning college credits while they’re still in high schools. “That makes college feel really attainable,” she said. Other suggestions include introductions to technical programs, like two-year certificates in welding or bodywork, and internships within the community that could become jobs after graduation.
Lopez also talked about attending a forum at South Meadows Middle School, where students shared their experiences as students of color in the Hillsboro School District. “I’m glad that those conversations are starting and that our kids are feeling empowered,” she said, but also found it frustrating that students hare having some of the same negative experiences that she had 14 years ago as a student in the district. She thinks the district still has work to do around issues of diversity and inclusivity. She supports the CHICAs program, which has strong results with Latina girls in the district, and would like to see it replicated for male students. A similar program for male Latino students – Men of Honor – is being piloted at Hillsboro High School. “You have to be able to understand that that sense of identity and belonging is so important,” Lopez said.
Davis said that improving the graduation rate begins with focusing on the “parental connection.” She said that some teachers have done home visits and, “that’s powerful.” She added that parents need to feel welcome in schools.
Davis also supports programs that focus on “at-risk kids”, especially in middle school. She supports encouraging these students to take honors class because, “they do not sign up for them usually.” She talked about a program at Glencoe High School where a math teacher met with a group of students, mostly Latino boys, each morning. They focused on math and gained confidence. She said the students performed better in their regular math classes and are now mentoring middle school students. She would support more programs like this.
Brandse remembers being shocked by the graduation rate in Oregon, and noted that the Hillsboro School District’s graduation rate (80.4% for 2014-15, the most recent year reported by ODE) is much higher than the state’s.
She recommends strategies focusing on individual students. She says the board should ask, “what is motivating their choices?” and then work to find solutions. Brandse also says she thinks the district “is moving in the right direction,” citing the many positive changes she’s seen since her daughter entered the school district 9 years ago.
On Class Size
Brandse says that keep class sizes small is “up toward the top of the list” of her priorities for the school district. “It’s an important part of the puzzle to figure out how to keep the class sizes down,” she said. This will look different for students of different ages and of differing needs.
Lopez responded to a question about class size in terms of the budget. “It’s one of the things we look at when we’re trying to save money, but it’s also one of the things we want to preserve as much as we can,” she said.
Lopez also thinks that volunteers can help offset larger class sizes. She would like to recruit retirees in particular to volunteer in classrooms. This “would be so beneficial,” she said, also noting that it could help create a sense of connection to the school district for older residents who no longer have children in schools.
Davis says the average class size right now is 29 and, “that’s not ideal.” She’d like to see smaller classes, especially in the lower grades. Davis also believes, though, that the effectiveness of a teacher is more important than the size of the class.
Davis referenced a conversation with a Hillsboro school administrator who shared studies that showed increasing a class size by one or two students does not impact educational outcomes. She knows, however, that this idea is not popular with many parents. The only way to “bridge that gap,” she said, is to educate the community.