Six contenders are vying to make decisions for the 200 students at Jewell School, where directors are still steadying from a seesaw school year.
Those elected May 15 will face a variety of issues in a district managed by a temporary superintendent, and where the interim principal's contract ends in June.
District head John Seeley has been on paid leave since October, following allegations of child abuse. Those accusations remain unresolved, as does his future at Jewell.
In addition, the district is working to better comply with state standards, such as requirements for a school counselor. Elected directors also will oversee the final pieces of a $17 million construction project to build a new Jewell School.
And Jewell has a lot at stake.
Thanks to plentiful sales of regionally harvested state timber, the district is among the wealthiest in the state, allowing it to spend up to $18,000 per pupil in the past. Next year's revenues are estimated at about $8.4 million, while expenditures are expected to reach about $3.8 million.
Community members don't always agree on how to distribute the wealth, and the recent round of challengers doesn't either. However, security and stability are common threads among candidates' concerns.
Candidates file by position but are elected by a districtwide vote. All are seeking four-year terms.
Newcomers want positionWith Jewell School Board member Oly Schockelt not running for re-election to his Position 1 seat, local contractor Gerald Coy and former Elsie-Vinemaple Fire Chief Allen Foster are facing off for the post. Both have children who have attended Jewell, though Foster's son now goes to Astoria Middle School.
Both candidates also see value in the Guaranteed Success program, which awards students who get their homework done with an annual trip. However, each is quick to note some drawbacks.
"The one part of the GS program I don't believe in is the extravagant trip every year, especially when in the past, there hasn't been a music program or counselor at the school," Foster said.
Position sought: Jewell School Board Position 1
Address: 9702 Beach Drive, Birkenfeld
Occupation: General contractor
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business from Portland State University, Clatsop Community College, Astoria High School Class of 1969
Length of time in Clatsop County: Two years, although Astoria is his hometown
Prior experience: 30-plus years in business with experience in accounting and operations management; as well as being self-employed for 25 years
Key issues: Overcoming a lack "of administrative leadership," increasing staff and establishing programs for first-rate education, ensuring long-term financial stability through investments.
"I will support a GS system that doesn't just guarantee kids can play high school football," added Coy.
Coy grew up in Clatsop County and has lived in Jewell since 2005. He wants to continue shifting the focus away from field trips and back to academics, which would include increasing staff and programs. Excess funds should be saved and invested, he added.
"We are failing in the education system," said Coy. "Many blame a lack of funding, but that isn't a problem here. We have a great school here, but it needs leadership."
After a mediocre academic experience in high school, Coy said, getting through college was tough, although he finished at Portland State University and now has 30 years' business experience.
He wants Jewell students to graduate better prepared.
"My primary deal is the academics," Coy said. "We've got an academic problem here, not a money problem. We need to redirect our resources to get the core classes in there."
Position sought: Jewell School Board Position 1
Address: 78805 Ore. Highway 202, Jewell
Occupation: Road maintenance worker, Clatsop County Public Works
Education: Portland Community College-Rock Creek, Clatsop Community College, Jewell High School Class of 1971
Length of time in Clatsop County: 53 years
Affiliations: Nehalem Valley Community Church
Prior experience: Nine years as fire chief of Elsie-Vinemaple Rural Fire Protection District; former Elsie-Vinemaple Fire District Board of Directors
Key issues: Total transparency; better stewardship of public funds; a high-quality education to draw transfer students; unity on the school board, with the school and with the community.
Allen Foster said he, too, was spurred to run for the board by an apparent lack of leadership.
"I didn't like the way things were going down there, and I didn't like the direction things were headed," said Foster, who works in road maintenance for the county.
He was also disturbed by a lack of unity among board members and the community.
"I want to see less division," he said. "There will always be a few people upset about things every now and then, but right now, it seems half the community feels one way and half feels the other. I want to see everybody back on the same page."
Listed among Foster's other concerns were transparency of the board's decisions and better stewardship of public funds. "I would like to see students wanting to come to Jewell for a high-quality education, not because there's an extravagant trip every year."
Small-town politics would have no influence over his choices, he said.
"I spent too many years as a fire chief to let public opinion sway my decisions," said Foster. "I'm not afraid to say what I think and I'm not going to be pressured by anybody."
Parents face offFacing off for the Position 3 spot are Cathy Rozinek and Tania Skinner, both Jewell School parents. Board member Carrie Thompson is not running for re-election.
Position sought: Jewell School Board Member Position 3
Address: 81271 Gronnel Road, Elsie
Occupation: Medical Clinic Manager, Providence Medical Group in Vernonia
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education, master's degree in Adult Fitness/Cardiac Rehabilitation, ADN Registered Nurse
Length of time in Clatsop County: 11 years
Prior experience: Special coursework in team building, policy and procedure development and goal setting; two years as Jewell School's JV and varsity girls volleyball coach
Key issues: Improving communications with community and staff to rebuild trust in the board, setting a vision or long-term plan with outlined steps; exploring other schools' programs to determine best practices to achieve student success, being fiscally responsible and ensuring maintenance of the district's budget.
Rozinek, who manages a medical clinic in Vernonia, hopes to set a long-term plan for the district and to build a sustainable budget. She noted that the district has been "moving forward" but said her management and teamwork experience could still help rebuild relations on the board and with the community.
"We need to come together as a group," she said. "We need to represent the students and staff ... and reach out to the community."
She supports the Guaranteed Success program's benefits but isn't convinced it represents the best use of resources.
"We need to get out there and make some comparisons. What's being done elsewhere in the country?" she said, pointing out some schools require students to raise some of the money for big trips. "It's great for the kids who do it, but some drop out. ... we need to find a way to reach those kids, too."
Position sought: Jewell School Board Position 3
Address: 79858 Lower Nehalem Road
Occupation: Software Program Management
Education: Bachelor of Science in computer ccience, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; coursework toward Master's in Computer Science, Oregon Graduate Institute
Length of time in Clatsop County: 81?2 years
Affiliations: International Function Point Users Group Member
Prior experience: Jewell School Site Council, work on school improvement plans
Key issues: Ensuring proper staffing and filling open teaching positions; improving educational opportunities by exploring ways to utilize the district's ample funding and enhance education for all Jewell School children.
Tania Skinner's children are too young to participate in GS, but she learned about the program at a Jewell School Site Council meeting.
"I think the program has some fabulous objectives and goals," said Skinner, who works in software program management. "But I think we need to look at alternatives and whether that's a responsible way to spend."
Her primary concerns are school staffing and improving educational opportunities, issues that will soon present "a tremendous number of challenges." She said she wants to help solve problems and improvement communication, advocating her skills getting "projects done on time and within budget."
"Over the next two years, many Jewell School teachers will be retiring. In addition, there is some uncertainty as to the staffing of some key administrative positions," she said. "Proper staffing of the school for the years to come is critical."
"Like any school, Jewell School has room for improvement," she added. "I'd like to see the school board and school staff explore some alternative approaches to enhancing education for the children. ... With a great education, the possibilities are endless."
Eady seeks comback against chairmanThe final match-up pits former director Carolyn Eady against school board chairman Karl Meier for the Position 5 spot.
Position sought: Jewell School Board Position 5
Address: 79380 Highway 202, Seaside
Occupation: Retired hospital administrator
Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, University of Detroit; master's in Health Services Administration, University of Michigan
Length of time in Clatsop County: 18 years
Affiliations: State Forests Advisory Committee member, chairwoman of Clatsop County's Recreational Lands Planning and Advisory Committee, chairwoman of Jewell School Budget Committee
Prior experience: Management consultant; Assistant Administrator of Ancillary Services at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska; Assistant Administrator of patient-care services at St. Vincent Hospital and Medical Center; Administrator of Ambulatory Care at University of Michigan Hospital
Key issues: Complete the final phase of the school construction project; determine the district's financial situation and develop a long-range plan for financial stability; support the staff in providing superior educational programs; promote an open and inclusive board culture that welcomes staff and community suggestions for improvement; support the administration in hiring and training qualified replacements for retiring staff members.
Eady, a retired hospital administrator, is chairwoman of the Jewell School Budget Committee and served on the board from 1997 to 2001.
She said she wants to "restore stability to the district," help complete the final phase of the new Jewell School building project and ensure open teaching positions are filled without disruption.
"Quite frankly, this new building won't mean anything if we don't have a group of lovely, well-qualified teachers," she said.
Eady also proposes to analyze finances and "make sure we're on the road to financial stability and a sustainable budget." She supports the Guaranteed Success trips, because they offer opportunities many children in Jewell otherwise "might never have."
And she said she attaches "great importance to education" having seen its value in her own life as one of the first in her family to finish college.
"It opens up more doors and opportunities," said Eady. "I think every child should be able to go."
Restoring "openness" and "transparency" with the community are also concerns, she said. "I feel I've had the experience and could contribute during this really critical period."
Position sought: Jewell School Board Position 5
Address: 77855 Ore. Highway 202, Jewell
Occupation: Farmer and logger on family estate
Education: Four years of college at La Grande and Oregon State University
Length of time in Clatsop County: 5 years full-time, and off and on since birth
Experience: Four years on the Jewell School Board, present board chairman; Jewell School Building Committee; Budget Committee; Jewell School volunteer; 34 years' business experience being self-employed
Key issues: Maintaining a high level of education at Jewell School; ensuring quality education for children during teacher turnover; maintaining integrity in spending public funds; completing the construction of the new Jewell School and making sure the contractor's agreement is fulfilled.
Incumbent Karl Meier is chairman of the Jewell School Board and has been a primary contact between the board and contractors working on the new school. He wants to continue overseeing the project through completion in November, making sure contracts are fulfilled and that "we get a quality building so we can have a quality learning environment."
Unlike Eady, Meier feels the GS trips are "unnecessary," and wants the district to "maintain high integrity when it comes to spending public funds."
Most importantly, he said, Jewell needs to maintain make a smooth transition when filling vacant staff positions for the students' sake.
"Seeing as we have a number of staff retiring this year, I think one of the things that needs to be followed through with is the turnover of personnel, that it goes in a fashion to ensure the best education possible for the kids," he said. "Education of all kids is important. We want to make sure our kids get the best opportunity this district can offer them."
Meier acknowledges the district has been through a difficult year, being bound by state law to remove the superintendent from his position but prohibited by law to discuss details of the circumstances. But overall, he said he has enjoyed it.
As a board, "you study the options and make the best educated decision you can as a group, and you move forward," Meier said. "A lot of the time that's not going to be a popular decision, but over time ... everything becomes calm and life goes on," he said. "We have an excellent staff now. We hope to continue this on to the future."