Regan Molatore knows the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Born and raised in Wilsonville, she attended Wilsonville Primary School starting in kindergarten, moved on to Inza R. Wood Middle School after that, and graduated from West Linn High School (before there was a Wilsonville High School) in 1993.
Molatore, 42, attended the University of San Diego after high school, where she earned a bachelor's degree and returned to Oregon to study law at the University of Oregon in 1997. After graduation, she decided to move to Los Angeles to practice construction litigation for five years. But, she says, a return to Wilsonville was inevitable. She knew she'd come home sooner or later.
"When it was time to raise a family and start that chapter of my life I wanted to come home. I liked the schools here, they did well by me, so when picking a location I wanted to be within this school district," Molatore says. "I was essentially born and raised in Wilsonville, just a half mile up the street from where I live now, and I knew I wanted to come back. I don't see us leaving any time soon either."
Today, Molatore has two children in the school district and will soon complete her first term as a West Linn-Wilsonville School Board member. Running for Position 1, Molatore — who is the vice chair of the current board — is the only candidate with previous school board experience. She says she's loved the work over the past four years and had no reservations about running for a second term.
"I applied the first time because I am somebody who throughout my life has come to appreciate education. I've always viewed it as the greatest gift you can give yourself," she says. "I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of (the past four years).
Molatore says she learned an "incredible" amount over the past four years, both about the school district and her role as a board member, but that there's always more education to be had.
"When you come on to the school board the best thing you can do is just use your first year to really listen because there is so much to learn," she says. "At the end of year one you feel like you've done everything and things aren't as unfamiliar. The second time the budget cycle rolled around I felt like I was much more comfortable with it, for example. At the end of year two I felt like it was 'OK, now I can own my role and I understand why and where the district is going. I can confidently contribute to the work.' And at that point, as you ask questions about the nature of work taking place, you start to have more influence, whether you know it or not."
Molatore stopped practicing law shortly after moving back to Oregon, and now works as a construction project manager. She says she grew up around construction — her father worked as a plumber and ultimately as a residential developer — and that her current work fits her well and gives her valuable experience she can use as a board member. It also allows her to work from home and stay involved in West Linn-Wilsonville schools.
"I think my background helps me in board work, especially when it comes to our recent bond and the construction that's happening right now," she says. "For work relating to those things I definitely pull on my personal experiences, and my general legal knowledge tends to be helpful."
When reflecting back on her four years as a member of the WL-WV School Board, Molatore says she considers the construction of the district's two newest schools (Meridian Creek Middle School and Sunset Primary) and increased graduation rates as some of the accomplishments she's most proud of. She's also proud of new partnerships with World of Speed, Oregon Tech and Clackamas Community College, the district's growing dual language program, and she says she has particularly enjoyed serving as the liaison to the district's Long-Range Planning Committee for the past two years.
But she says she's not satisfied with the district's work, either, and says there's always room to learn and grow, pointing to the recent middle school boundary process as one example. She says she's enjoyed getting to know the West Linn community and strengthening the relationship between the district's two primary cities.
Molatore also says there will always be room for district improvement in terms of achievement like the district's board goal No. 1 to "Grow student achievement, through the use of high leverage instructional strategies that raise rigor and generate equitable outcomes for all students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps."
"For me, my job as school board member is to always put the best interest of the child first," she says. "That's my guiding principle. So in everything I do and every decision I make I try to ask myself if I'm putting the child's interest first, and am I making the best possible decision for the most children possible?"
Molatore says two initiatives she hopes to see continue in the next four years, whether she's a member of the board or not, include work around student equity as well as what the district calls CEL work — Center for Educational Learning. She says CEL work — what is essentially targeted feedback from administration to principals and principals to teachers that focuses on specific teaching methods, whether it be related to math, language arts, science or something else entirely — is one example of how the district can continue to close opportunity and achievement gaps.
"CEL is kind of this philosophy that we have a very high-performing school district, yet that's not good enough for anybody. We have room to do better and we want to do better," she says. "I think it's important work, I think it's vital work, and I think it's becoming systematic from the top down. And I do think it's the type of work that is going to help that last 1 percent of students; that last 3 percent."
Ultimately, she says she believes in the school district and the staff that is in place. As far as she's concerned, it did right by her, and she'd like to help it grow in the future.
"I am very, very grateful for the education I've received from West Linn-Wilsonville," she says. "It did a good job for me and laid the foundation I needed to go on to college and be successful in law school as well as later in life. I will always remember those individual teachers who made that little difference. The ones that said something relatively innocuous but I carry it with me today. So I have a tremendous appreciation for West Linn-Wilsonville itself and what it gave me in my life."