ONTARIO Seven candidates are vying for four seats on the Ontario School District Board of Directors in the upcoming 2021 District Director Election on May 18. Initially, there would have been nine candidates, however, in recent days, one new candidate, Jeff Schauer, backed out and one incumbent, Derrick Draper, resigned amidst an executive session on April 20.

The last day to officially back out of the race was March 18, according to Malheur County Clerk Gayle Trotter. As such, Schauer’s and Draper’s names will still appear on the ballot.

At this point, those no longer running can choose not to campaign or to endorse other candidates, Trotter said.

When the newspaper reached out to Schauer for a candidate introduction, he replied, “I will not be responding. I have decided to withdraw for personal reasons. I will not take office even if elected.”

As such, Matt Stringer is the sole candidate for Position 2, a four-year seat currently held by Renae Corn, who is the board chairwoman.

Positions 3 and 4 are also four-year terms. There is a three-way race for Position 3, with incumbent Blanca Rodriguez running against Cydney Cooke and Tony Cade. It is noteworthy that Cade is in a lawsuit with the school district over his former coaching and teaching position at the school. Although Draper unofficially resigned on April 19, he will still run against Tom Greco for Position 4, and if he wins could take back that seat.

In Position 1, current board member Craig Geddes will face off with Martin Mendoza Jr. It is noteworthy that this will be the first time Geddes is in front of voters, as the board selected him in September of 2020 to fill the seat which was previously held by former-chairman Mike Blackaby, who resigned in July of 2020.

Candidates were all invited to participate in the Argus Observer’s introduction to the community. The deadline was noon on Monday, April 26. Responses follow from those who replied in alphabetical order by last name. Answers that exceeded the word-limit were truncated, which is indicated with an ellipses.

Tony Cade, 41

Occupation: Educator/Coach

Volunteer experience: I have been involved for 20-plus years in programs ranging from youth through collegiate--coaching in community basketball, football, soccer, and baseball leagues and sponsoring youth camps. I have organized community service projects, helped with Utah Special Olympics for five years, and organized a high school Anti-Bullying program (Especially 4 Athletes, E4A).

Political background: I have been involved in School Board meetings presenting initiatives to provide opportunities for students, athletes, and teachers. I also participated in school bond initiatives to better facilities, school curriculum, and overall school culture. I take seriously the opportunity to vote as a citizen to help better local, state, and federal leadership.

Why are you the best candidate? My Masters in Administration taught me the role leadership plays in morale at school. Between my wife’s, kids’, and my experiences teaching in, coaching in, and attending the Ontario School District, I bring the unique perspective of an educator, parent, and of students to current issues facing the district.

What do you see as the main issues for the special district board you are running for? We need to get kids and teachers back to the classroom and to a sense of normalcy. Local schools have been successful, and the success speaks for itself. We need to align the community vision and administration’s vision by listening to those community leaders who want the district to succeed. Teachers need to feel they have a voice. Some are afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions in the workplace. The Board needs to take an active role in the retention of qualified employees and reward the efforts of teachers and students who do what they should every day.

Have you ever been charged with a felony? No

Cydney Cooke, 27

Occupation: CFO

Volunteer experience: Planning and Zonning Commission, Friends of the Aquatic Center, Make Eastern Oregon Green Again, TVCC

Political background: Recall of Freddy Rodriguez, MalheurCAN

Why are you best candidate? OSD needs new board members, fresh ideas and a clean slate between faculty, administration and board members. Parents need liaisons they can trust. The children are the focus and the future. Let’s put the UNITY back in Community!

What do you see as the main issues for the special district board you are running for? I see no issues, only solutions!

Have you ever been charged with a felony? No

Tom Greco, 70

Occupation: Lead Pastor Ontario Community Church

Volunteer experience: Service includes 4RCC Board of Directors, Ontario Strategic Planning Team, Ontario Homeless Shelter Task Force, Malheur County Emergency Management Council, Mentoring students at Pioneer Elementary and Volunteer at the COVID Vaccine Clinics.

Political background: I am a conservative. I served as a Civilan Aide to Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and Ryan McCarthy.

Why are you best candidate? I seek first to understand, then to be understood. I strive to achieve win-win solutions. I lead by personal example in all I do. My focus will be to enjoin with our school leaders to solve problems and do what is best for our children’s education.

What do you see as the main issues for the special district board you are running for? I believe our current school board’s behavior does not reflect the established values and accepted behaviors of our community. I believe our community tries to be inclusive, is respectful in our discourses and collectively we try to do what is best for the community. The current board’s disrespect for our educational professionals, the constant badgering and interrupting speakers during meetings and the offering of unfounded accusations that teachers and administrators are not telling the truth are not who I believe Ontario is. Such unprofessional behavior and lack of respect sets a poor role model for our children. We can and must do better for our children.

Have you ever been charged with a felony? No

Blanca Rodriguez, 73

Occupation: Retired, Oregon DHS, Child Protective Services

Volunteer experience: I held all positions with MACL, Mexican-American Citizens League, (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer). The purpose of this organization was to address concerns of Hispanic student drop out and low graduation rates by facilitating youth conference/educational activities as well as create positive cultural awareness for the community.

Political background: My first and only political experience in an official capacity has been my election to the 2017-2021 Ontario School District Board term. I chose to run for election to the school board seat because I saw good results in student outcomes and felt it important to support the district’s accomplishments. I also wanted to be part of the continued success to provide students with the needed educational tools to ensure their success. I want to continue giving my time and effort to our community, and as a result I am running for reelection.

Why are you best candidate? I have been an Ontario resident for over 50 years. My two children are successful products of Ontario schools. This past term has given me a good understanding of the issues facing the district. I am honest, a good listener, respectful and positive as well as a goal-oriented problem solver.

What do you see as the main issues for the special district board you are running for? As a result of the pandemic, I see the most pressing issue our district will face is dealing with the post-COVID effects and dealing with the mental health issues and the wide-range of educational needs students are experiencing. Appropriately allocating resources to assist educators is of paramount importance to support students in recovering from the past year’s disruption. I also see the need to strive for and maintain a collaborative spirit keeping focus on the goal we are elected to further — student success.

Have you ever been charged with a felony? Not even a parking ticket.

Matthew Stringer, 61

Occupation: Executive Director Four RIvers Cultural Center

Volunteer experience: National Academy Recording Arts & Sciences — Board Member. Recent boards — Saint Alphonsus Foundation, Euvalcree, Food Pantry, Ontario Community Church

Political background: I am progressive but politically centrist. I live in New York City for 29 years, where the value of social programs is what makes the city operate. At this point of time I do not trust politics or politicians.

Why are you best candidate? I whole-heartedly support the 8C school district’s mission to equip all students with the skills for life long learning and to graduate prepared for college or career. I want to be a change agent for the school board and help build a kind, respectful and effective support system for 8C administration and faculty.

What do you see as the main issues for the special district board you are running for? Bringing civility back to the board and administration relations is critical. We all read the embarrassing and unprofessional approach the board presently takes. No one who is evaluating whether or not to move to Ontario will consider it if they are aware of how our school board or city council operate. The school board has everything to do with determining the quality of education offered in Ontario. Working with 8C administration and faculty is key to quality. The board has to support and direct the administration in order to provide the quality of professional learning that will improve outcomes students. …

Have you ever been charged with a felony? No

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