Editor’s note: The three candidates for Zone 1 on the D21 school board, Mary Morehouse, Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Erica Flores, bring a variety of motivations to their decision to run. Following is a summary of their statements, made either to the Chronicle or at a recent candidates forum hosted by the Wasco County Republican Central Committee. Each was asked why they ran, what skill set they bring, and what their vision is for the school district.
Mary Morehouse told the Wasco County Republican Central Committee she was running because she “got ticked off.”
She has three kids in North Wasco County School District 21 at all three levels, elementary, middle school and high school, and is well known at all her kids’ schools, she said.
On her candidate form for school board she said she was in schools almost daily and has helped start new school programs and policies.
She also tutors kids for free, and when one of the high school students she tutors was found to have a 1.75 GPA, she got mad, and, in her direct fashion, went to talk to the high school principal.
“He really had no ideas” for how to help struggling students, she said.
She was told students could graduate with as low as a 1.0 GPA, and Morehouse said she responded, “Oh, then he becomes society’s problem?”
The Dalles High School Principal Kurt Evans was asked to respond to Morehouse’s comment, and said via email, “Every day we are searching for ways to improve the health of our high school and improve the performance of the students who attend here.”
Morehouse said she calculated the student she was tutoring was doing better than 27 percent of his class. “We are failing our children if 27 percent of the freshman class are failing.”
As to the failed $235 million facilities bond that would have replaced four schools, Morehouse said she didn’t think facilities were the first problem in the district.
She said students can learn “anywhere.”
She felt the bond was the “easy way,” and was an “ok, let me get my checkbook,” approach.
“We have families that are struggling,” she said.
She said she’s run her own bookkeeping service for 12 years, and is as successful as she wants to be.
She said of her skillset, “I bring passion. My biggest attribute is passion for the kids and getting them the education they have to have.”
Rebecca Thistlethwaite currently holds the Zone 1 seat, which she was appointed to last summer. She did not attend the candidates forum but emailed responses to the questions asked.
As to her background, she said she has served on the Mosier Community School board, has gotten over $200,000 in grant money for it, and has served as cross country coach. She is also on the board of the North Wasco County Education Foundation.
She is an Oregon State University extension specialist focused on building local meat supply chains in Oregon and the U.S.
She said of her motivation to run, “I am a parent of two kids in the district and have a concern for the welfare and education of all kids. Public education is supremely important to me, as is democratic decision-making and civic participation.
She said she’s learned “a tremendous amount about this exceptional district and enjoyed working with my fellow board members” in her time on the board so far.
“The next few years will be a time of significant change and transition for the district and we have big, exciting plans that require public participation and an engaged board. I would like to be part of that and am happy to roll up my sleeves to be part of the team.”
She said she feels she can bring her knowledge from serving on the Mosier board and working in fundraising, plus an additional 12 years on volunteer boards for non-profit organizations. “I understand how boards work and the process of building consensus.”
She wants to work with the foundation to bring more money into the district for both student scholarships and grants to help teachers augment what the district can offer.
“My vision for the district is to help them further implement the ambition mission and vision statement that they created about six years ago,” she said. The D21 mission, in part, is to graduate all students to be college and career ready. Its vision is to have students performing in the top 5 percent of the nation.
She said the district has made “great improvements” in recent years “and I hope we can do even more if we work together with a positive mindset.”
She hopes for higher graduation rates, lower absenteeism, improved social/emotional literacy and overall mental health scores for students, attracting and retaining great staff and building excellent facilities to serve students well into the future.
Erica Flores, assistant branch manager at Rivermark Community Credit Union, told the Chronicle she was running for school board because, “As a parent, I think I have a responsibility to provide my children with the best educational experience. My responsibility does not end at home, it extends to the teachers, the school and the community. I truly believe that I have the skills needed to represent the community, the students, the teachers and the schools collectively.
“I also see a need for our board to be represented by the same diversity as our community and therefore am convinced that being a part of the board will open doors to parts of the community that have felt underrepresented.”
She said of her skillset, “I am confident I have the spirit, wit and cooperative attitude that will benefit everyone. I have great communication skills, I am a natural leader and an effective decision-maker.
“I am capable of working toward decisions that all can support and willing to compromise to achieve goals. I am willing to take risks, be supportive of board colleagues, district staff and community.”
She said her vision for the district “is to develop a more effective school system by working closely with schools, their families and the communities. I want the district to strive for adequate, equitable, and sustainable public funding as well as public policies that support our public schools.”