The Greater Albany Public Schools board of directors narrowed the list of candidates for a vacant board seat from eight candidates down to four during a Monday work session.
Former board member Micah Smith, who was originally appointed to the board in March 2012, resigned in June, citing greater work responsibilities. His term is set to expire June 31, 2021.
“If this was a year later I would be tempted to say let’s wait until 2021,” new board member Michael Thomson said, noting that the position could then be filled by voters.
Thomson beat out incumbent Lyle Utt for his Zone 3 seat in the May election, but Utt is attempting to regain a spot on the board, submitting one of the eight applications. Other applicants included Patrick Eastman, Christopher Roach, Javier Cervantes, Samantha Sheley, Megan Konzelman, Ursala Beattie, and Miriam Cummins, who also ran for a seat in May.
Board members reviewed applications blindly, with names redacted, and scored candidates on six questions ranging from their interest in being on the board to their definition of success in education.
Candidate names were revealed to the board on Monday just prior to discussion.
Eastman and Roach were included in all four board members’ top four scorers and moved onto the interview round set to take place Aug. 15. The board agreed to interview up to four candidates. And while Cervantes earned the third-highest total score, he was not automatically selected for an interview after questions surrounding his position and personal beliefs were raised.
New board member Eric Aguinaga said he attended an immigration-related rally where Cervantes spoke earlier this year, and said he didn’t like Cervantes’ “anti-federal police” stance. Board member Kim Butzner said she was unsure of Cervantes’ official position at Linn-Benton Community College.
“For all I know, it could be working in the admissions office,” she said. “I couldn’t tell from this that there was a highly skilled, educational aspect other than being an advocate.”
Cervantes is the department director for the Institutional Equity and Student Engagement Department at LBCC, which focuses on diversity, inclusion, student engagement and working toward improving completion rates for all students.
Board chair Jennifer Ward said she would make an argument to include Cervantes in the interview round.
“I felt his experience at LBCC meant he might have good input on the readiness of our graduates,” she said.
Superintendent Melissa Goff informed the board that it could only make a decision based on the information before them — even if they had prior knowledge of a candidate. The requirement, she said, was to ensure equity. Candidates were given six questions and an equal opportunity to answer them. A board member may have heard a candidate speak publicly on other subjects, but using that information, Goff said, was unfair to the candidates who did not.
The interview process, she said, was the time when board members could ask further questions.
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The board debated forwarding only its top two candidates onto the interview round but opted to include Sheley, who earned the fourth-highest score, noting that she brought an outside perspective and a variety of experiences.
Butzner, citing the fact that the information regarding candidates would become public record, recommended including Cervantes in the interview round. “From an HR perspective, I recommend putting him in,” he said.
Goff interjected just prior to the end of the work session to note that the process the board advertised to the public stated the board would take a ballot vote to determine finalists. The board did not initially follow that process on Monday, but after choosing Eastman, Roach, Cervantes and Sheley, it conducted a ballot vote at Goff’s suggestion.
The board is scheduled to select a new member on Aug. 15 immediately following interviews.
GAPS board candidates as ranked by the board:
• Patrick Eastman, a retired small business manager who has served with the GAPS Bond political action committee, Greater Albany Rotary Club, Albany Historical Carousel, Albany Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties.
• Christopher “Justin” Roach, a 14-year educator currently employed at Oregon State University as the head of a masters in teaching program. He has served on the Corvallis City Council, the Benton County Commission on Children and Families and the Willamette Criminal Justice Council.
• Javier Cervantes, the department director for the Institutional Equity and Student Engagement Department at LBCC, who has served on the Albany Human Relations Commission, Jackson Street Youth Services and Casa Latinos de Benton County and higher education commissions and teams.
• Samantha Sheley, a former teacher and business owner who has volunteered in the community through coaching and the Parks and Recreation Department.
• Megan Konzelman, a working professional who has volunteered in the community at various local schools and career fairs.
• Usala Beattie, a caseworker with Linn County Child Welfare, has been involved in her children’s Parent Teacher Club and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Program.
• Miriam Cummins, a resource development officer and executive assistant with Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality, has volunteered as part of the Parent Teacher Club and is on the Parents in Action board of directors as well as the Linn Benton Lincoln Educational Service District.
• Lyle Utt, former GAPS board member and computer programmer, has volunteered on the GAPS board and Oregon State Grange.