Challenger Sara Pocklington took a commanding lead Tuesday night over incumbent John Wendland and now appears headed for an impressive victory in the race for Lake Oswego School Board Position 3.
Unofficial results at midday Wednesday showed Pocklington leading Wendland, 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent. Final results will be tabulated within three weeks, according to elections officials, and must be certified by June 5, and the new School Board terms start July 1.
Pocklington's win mirrors a trend in the Portland metro area, where nine of 11 school board incumbents who drew challengers were ousted this week. She told The Review late Tuesday that because this was her first campaign, she wasn't sure what to expect. Still, she said she was surprised by the apparent wide margin of victory in early returns and grateful to her campaign team and the community.
"I'm just really pleased that my message resonated with the voters and with the opportunity to serve our community and our district on behalf of all of our kids," she said.
Pocklington and Wendland both led fierce campaigns, with letters to the editor filling pages of The Review for weeks and lawn signs and fliers for both candidates popping up all over town. Wendland, who said his eight years of experience on the School Board qualified him to continue to lead the district, said Tuesday night that he was disappointed with the School Board results but excited that a $187 million school bond appeared to be getting the thumbs-up from voters.
He also paused to thank his supporters.
"I am grateful for the eight years I have served on the School Board," Wendland said. "I am also very grateful for the wonderful people that supported me in this campaign, their hard work and their enthusiasm for our schools and community. I have nothing but support for Sara, Rob (Wagner) and the new School Board, and I wish them great success."
Pocklington contended throughout her campaign that it was time for a change. She made her case by stressing her financial expertise and her role as a parent with young children currently attending local schools. She highlighted her experience as a certified public accountant and as the technology accounting director for Nike, a Fortune 100 company.
But Pocklington, who has a bachelor's in accounting from the University of Oregon, also criticized Wendland for his role in past School Board actions, including the decision to close three elementary schools during the recession.
"I have no doubt that John Wendland has done the best job that he could over the past eight years, but our kids deserve better," she said in a Citizen's View published May 11 in The Review. "In the professional world that I live in, leaders are held accountable for their failures, not given an opportunity to see their plans through. If elected, I will catalyze growth and progress now, when it is needed most."
Wendland, who earned a bachelor's in accounting from Santa Clara University, countered that he also has a strong grasp of financials. Since 2003, he has been the owner and president of Portland Bindery Inc., a bindery operation serving commercial printers in the Northwest.
Wendland, who has previously served as chairman of the School Board, said the next few years will be critical as the district works to address maintenance issues and improve academic outcomes, and he argued during the campaign that his experience would be an important component in moving the district forward.
"I believe my experience and leadership will help ensure the Lake Oswego School District delivers the outstanding educational results this community expects and deserves," he said in a May 4 Citizen's View. "I am a proven voice for ALL children. I want to continue to serve our community and our children. Experience matters now more than ever."
The campaign for Position 3 was not without controversy. Wendland criticized Pocklington for accepting a $10,000 donation from the Oregon School Employees Association after she received the endorsement of the Lake Oswego School Employees Association, which is the classified employees' union for the school district.
Wendland also sought the endorsement of the classified union, but he maintained that Pocklington should not have accepted the funds because the School Board plays a role in contract negotiations. Pocklington said the board does not play a direct role, though, and told The Review that she was proud of the support she received from the union.
"These are the people that feed, care for and keep our students safe each and every day," she said, "and they are in a unique position to understand deeply what our students need to thrive."
Two of the three open School Board seats Tuesday featured uncontested races for four-year terms. Incumbent Liz Hartman and newcomer Rob Wagner both ran unopposed:
• Wagner will take over the Position 2 seat vacated by board Chair Sarah Howell, who chose not to run for a second term.
Wagner, a longtime volunteer who served on the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation board, currently works as the associate vice-president for advancement at Portland Community College, where he oversees community outreach and the nonprofit PCC Foundation.
He said he is excited to take on a new challenge as a Lake Oswego School Board member, and that he is particularly interested in having local high schools leverage partnerships with local colleges and universities so students can gain more dual-credit opportunities. The school bond approved Tuesday night includes funds for expanding science, technology, engineering and math opportunities, and Wagner said he's interested in moving forward with that expansion in instructional offerings and career technical education.
"I'm looking forward to working with this board and the district," he said. "It's really an honor."
• Hartman was elected to a second term in Position 4.
During her first term, Hartman played a role hiring Superintendent Heather Beck when Bill Korach retired after 27 years in that position. Hartman also served as School Board chair for two years and was elected to the Oregon School Boards Association Legislative Policy Committee. She obtained the highest level of leadership recognition, the Platinum Award, while serving with the OSBA.
Hartman said she's glad she can continue to serve Lake Oswego School District because the board has a lot to do in the coming years to implement the bond approved by voters. She said it will require careful oversight to improve local school facilities.
But for now, "I'm just so happy because the voters realized what the need was," Hartman said.