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School board races get interesting in Forest Grove

Forest Grove incumbents draw well-known challengers, including retiring special ed director

Brad BafaroBrad Bafaro, the Forest Grove School District's longtime special education director, is challenging John Hayes, a longtime local education expert, for a seat on the Forest Grove School Board in the May 16 election, which could bring three new members to the board.

The filing deadline for candidates was March 16.

In addition to Hayes, Forest Grove incumbents Lonnie Winkler — who is also board chairman — and Charless Waterman are also facing challengers.

Hayes has been on the board since 2013. He served as the director for Pacific University's Center for a Sustainable Society and as dean of its College of Arts & Sciences after working as an environmental studies professor for years. In 2013, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed Hayes to a state task force on school funding. His wife is principal at the Forest Grove Community School.

Bafaro is retiring this summer after 12 years as director of the district's highly acclaimed special ed program, making him eligible to run for the position. He also taught for 25 years.

"I'm not surprised that Brad Bafaro decided to run for school board," said Hayes. "I was surprised that he chose to run against me, given that I have advocated so strongly for special education, a department that Brad Bafaro currently oversees."

Hayes said he has been influential in encouraging more project-based STEM activities in Forest Grove schools. He's also on the city's economic development and sustainability commissions and acts as a representative for Portland-area schools on the Metro Policy Advisory Committee.

Hayes would like to see pre-kindergarten programs provided in all elementary schools; increase the graduation rate by improving equity throughout the district; and decrease class size by increasing school funding.

Bafaro said he'd be happy to talk to the News-Times but was unable to respond before press time.John Hayes

Forest Grove resident and Banks High School Principal Mark Everett is running against Lonnie Winkler, who has been on the school board for four years, serving as board chair for two years and vice chair one year. Winkler has also served on the district's budget, technology and policy review committees. He is a director of field operations at SureID Inc., a Hillsboro company.

"I am not surprised about the number of candidates that filed this round," Winkler said. "I think with all of the things going on in D.C., it has moved people to action in their local communities and is a great thing."

Winkler said he'd like to focus on working with state government to secure more stable school funding. "The way that the state funds education makes it fluctuate year to year which means we have this give-and-take process," he said. "We add programs and teachers one year, and have to remove programs and teachers the next. It makes for an inconsistent learning environment."

Everett will be retiring at the end of the school year but is still very interested in educational issues, he said, including class size, graduation rates and retaining high-quality staff members. He's also passionate about creating strong mentorship for both new and experienced teachers.

Before Everett became an administrator in Banks, he taught at Forest Grove High School.

Bafaro is a close friend, Everett said, but he had decided to run for school board in the fall before he heard Bafaro also planned to run.

Everett has also served on Forest Grove's Historic Landmarks Board as well as various Banks School District committees centered on technology, negotiations and facilities planning. Mark Everett

Both of Everett's children are teachers, one in Forest Grove and one in Germany.

Fallon Harris and Valyrie Ingram are both running against Waterman, who has been on the school board since 2013 and has also served on the FGSD's budget committee and boundary committee. She's also currently on the district's Parent Advisory Committee and the District Leadership Academy.

"I am not surprised at all to have challengers. Both the 2013 and 2015 elections were also contested," Waterman said. "I am glad to see people in our community are interested in our schools."

Waterman would like to reduce class sizes and invest in Career and Technical Education and dual-credit options, as well as prioritizing adequate, stable funding.

Harris is the executive director at EdenAcres Environmental Education. She's also the program director and lead teacher for Swallowtail School's Farm Monday program.

Ingram works as a substitute teacher through Northwest Regional Education Service District and used to work as an instructional assistant for the FGSD. She has twin daughters enrolled at Neil Armstrong Middle School.

Ingram would like to work on reducing class sizes. She attended a budget meeting last year, where district staff said the teacher-to-student ratio is 1 to 23. But Ingram is skeptical because her daughters have more than 30 classmates.

"Children have better academic results with smaller class sizes," Ingram said. "It's hard to get that quality education with that many kids and every child should have access to quality education." She'd also like to promote increased transparency in the district.

Banks sees candidates, too

Banks and Gaston school district voters will also have a chance to cast their ballots this May.

Gaston's school board has two incumbents — Karen Fordyce and Roger Mesenbrink — running unopposed so far.

But Banks has two challengers for position 4, which is being vacated by Todd Iverson.

So Ronald Frame and Tom Lum Forest are running against each other.

Frame has previous school board experience. He is a graduate of Banks High School and Portland State University.

He works for Corbin Consulting Engineers.

Frame said he'd like to maintain current programs despite potential decreases in the state school budget.

He would also like to address congestion at pick-up and drop-off times at Banks schools.

Forest has served on various Banks educational committees and consistently attends board meetings.

He is a software engineer and a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Forest would like to increase community participation in school board issues as well as transparency.