By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

YC School Board: Mitchell challenges Egland

YAMHILL-CARLTON — Incumbent Jami Egland, a state employee with a business in Carlton, is facing a challenge from Terah Long Mitchell, who works for Intel, for the Position 1 seat on the Yamhill-Carlton School Board.

Voters will decide in a mail-ballot election concluding Tuesday, May 16. Ballots must be returned to the Yamhill County Clerk’s Office by mail or in person by 8 p.m. election night.

The Egland-Mitchell race is one of two contested in Y-C this spring. In addition, Holly Nettles, operations manager with the Yamhill Community Care Organization, is facing a challenge from Ken Watson, a retired teacher now serving as fire department chaplain, in Position 5.

Software engineering manager William “Jack” Bibb Jr. is running unopposed in the Position 4 seat. Rick Yeo, who currently holds the position, is not seeking re-election.

Egland grew up in Renton, Washington, home of Microsoft. She moved to Carlton 17 years ago. In addition to her state post, she is partnering with her sister, Joni Anderson, in The Violet Rose gift shop in Carlton.

“I just really appreciate small towns,” she said. “It’s like going on vacation when I go home — nice and quiet.”

At the same time, she said, she’s pleased the area has been revitalized, and the wine industry attracts people to the city.

Egland said longtime board member Carol West encouraged her to apply for a board post. She knew West through her volunteer work with Carlton Together Cares.

“I wanted to get more involved,” she said. “It was one way for me to give back and get to know more about Carlton and Yamhill.”

She decided to run for another term this year, in part, to ensure there will be consistency on the board. As the only board member from Carlton, she wants her city to be represented.

During her service on the board thus far, Superintendent Steve Chiovarro retired and board members conducted a search that ended with hiring of current Superintendent Charan Cline. Egland termed the search “a really great process that brought in community members as well as staff and board members.”

She’s been pleased with the results, as well. She said Cline had “done some great things,” noting, “We communicate pretty well.”

One of the greatest accomplishments in the last few years, Egland said, was passing a $14.2 million bond measure to repair buildings and construct a new high school gym and career tech center.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I would love to see that through. Hopefully, the community will be pleased.”

She’s also enthused that Y-C has improved its academic performance across the board, and that Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School ranks in the top 10 percent of like schools in Oregon. “That’s our goal for all the schools,” she said.

The board has seen improved attendance and a new career program at Yamhill-Carlton High School, as well as partnerships with local wineries, farmers and businesses such as Meggit.

High school Principal Greg Neuman and the superintendent have brought in grants to support career education, as well. “That’s fabulous for the kids,” she said.

The district is working to keep class sizes small, which Egland said is “really, really important for learning, especially at the lowest grades.”

And efforts are underway “to teach the whole student, social, emotional and academic, not just three R’s,” she said. She’s a strong believer in public education, as it gives all children a chance to achieve their potential.

Y-C must try to maintain its gains even as every district in the state worries about school funding.

“Funding is always a concern,” Egland said, especially during a Legislative year, when the amount devoted to K-12 education is usually undecided until late spring.

“It’s a big problem in Oregon,” she said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but we’ve got to find the funds to educate our kids.”

As they search for solutions and try to make improvements, she said, it’s important for board members to be open to new ideas and listen to the community.

“Board members need to not have an agenda,” she said. “It’s important to listen, learn, observe, and do what’s right for the kids.”

That’s true of the current board, she said. While the members don’t always disagree, they are respectful of each other. They share a common purpose.

“We all try to listen and do the right thing for kids,” Egland said.

Mitchell grew up in Carlton and Gaston. She attended Y-C High for a time before graduating from Gaston High. She and her husband moved to Yamhill 13 years ago to raise their children.

“I like knowing everybody,” she said. “The kids have more opportunities to play sports, do things, and they know everyone, too.”

She decided to run for school board this year to do something for her community. “I really feel like we’re ready for a change,” she said.

“I hear from lots of parents and community member who have experience with the school, and they’re wondering what’s happening,” Mitchell said. “It’s time for a fresh set of eyes, experiences, enthusiasm.”

The flap over the “Eleanor & Park” novel contributed to decision to run, as did the bond measure approved by voters last year. She didn’t like how either was handled.

“I told myself, ‘You need to be the change you want to see. It’s not enough to be upset. Get involved,’” said Mitchell, who has a daughter in fifth-grade and a son in third.

Thinking of her children, she decided to speak out against requiring the novel. She asked the board to do a better job letting parents know about materials used in the classroom and given them a better chance to opt out.

She also is unhappy about the bond measure. For one thing, the district scaled back the scope after several failures. For another, she feels previous bond measures promised one thing and delivered another.

That situation seems to be happening again, Mitchell said.

“Proper due diligence was not completed before it went out to voters,” she said. “If this project is not executed in a way that makes voters feel happy, we’ll never pass another bond,” she warned.

As a board member, she said, she would do her best to turn things around and ensure the district gets the most of its bond money.

“Let’s put it on all on the table, look at it from every angle, understand how to accomplish everything we need to accomplish,” she said. “If we can’t, then go back to the community for input and ask, ‘What are your priorities?’”

One key to improving matters is to increase communication, she said. She wants to hear a more detailed monthly report about the projects, with challenges as well as successes spelled out.

“I manage projects all the time,” she said. “As a board member, I’m not just going to accept ‘on time, on budget.’ I want to see the details. I want to see oversight committee’s questions and concerns addressed.”

Mitchell’s project management experience comes from her work at Intel.

She joined the company in 1990, shortly after graduating, and worked her way up. She’s held a variety of positions over the years.

Her job is a direct result of a five-week secretarial internship she completed as a junior in high school. The experience made her passionate about starting a career, and teachers arranged a second internship for her, leading her to Intel, where she is currently an operations manager.

College isn’t the best, or the right, path for everyone, she said. “We absolutely have to invest in programs to help young people find decent jobs when they leave high school,” she said, pointing to internships like she had and programs such as the viticulture classes at Y-C.

“I was a product of that. Invest a little in me and I was able to go far,” she said.

The skills students learn in career-oriented classes also will serve them well if they continue to higher education, she said. “Even if you use the skills just as part of your home ownership,” she added. Learning such skills “helps them be productive members of society.”

 

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