A contested Astoria School Board race in the May election offers voters the choice between financial and mental health expertise.
David Oser, a retired chief financial officer from regional lender Craft3 who was appointed to the school board in 2016, drew a challenge from Heidi Wintermute, a school psychologist in Washington’s Ocean Beach School District.
Oser, 69, has served on the boards of Columbia Memorial Hospital and the Clatsop Community College Foundation. He neared a position on Astoria’s budget committee, but said former Mayor Arline LaMear encouraged him to instead apply for the school board.
He helped stump for a $70 million school bond passed by voters in November to rebuild an academic hall at Astoria Middle School, while modernizing and improving safety at all campuses.
“A lot of the things that I’ve done here in town have been because of the expertise I have in finance, business and risk management,” Oser said. “I felt I had talents and experiences that not a lot of people had here.
“I want to be able to continue utilizing those skills during the period when the bond proceeds are actually spent.”
Wintermute, 41, said she was inspired to run for several reasons, including her 3-year-old son in Shooting Stars Child Development Center.
Being a third-generation Astorian who left and returned, Wintermute said, she felt the need to give back. She also serves on the school district’s budget committee.
“I am an educator, and I feel like we don’t currently have an educator on the school board, and I feel like I have a lot to offer in that way,” she said.
Both Oser and Wintermute have focused on the need for more counseling and other trauma-informed support to help students, along with more preschool and early learning opportunities.
Oser said he is getting more educated on trauma-informed care, an organizational structure and treatment framework responding to childhood traumas and how they affect learning. There is money in the proposed budget for next year to train the school district on its tenets, he said.
As a school psychologist for 10 years, Wintermute said, she’s worked with the most at-risk kids and seen childhood trauma, mental health and the resultant behavioral issues getting worse in schools.
“I think making sure that we are helping our kids’ basic needs are being met is super-important, making sure that we have small class sizes so that teachers can teach and have the mental health support staff that they need so kids can get what they need in school is big, huge right now,” she said. “I think that’s a big challenge, because you have to finance all of that.”
Educators around the state are lobbying for the passage of the Student Success Act, a gross receipts tax expected to add around $1 billion a year in K-12 funding, including an estimated $1.4 million in Astoria. Oser and Wintermute are both in support.
Despite his four children being grown and finished with school, Oser touted his involvement in school events. His wife, Patsy Oser, is a retired librarian who reads regularly to classes at John Jacob Astor Elementary School.
“On our school board, it’s important that there be people with kids in the district, and we do have that,” he said. “But it’s not like every member has to have kids in the district.”
Asked why she challenged Oser, Wintermute said that he’s a good guy, but that they are two totally different candidates.
“It really depends on what the voter wants,” she said. “He does have more experience than I do in the financial world, but I have a lot more experience in the mental health world. So it just depends on what you want.”