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home : education : schools December 8, 2016


4/30/2013 1:27:00 PM
Durham runs for full school-board term
Justin Durham. photo by John Griffith
+ click to enlarge
Justin Durham. photo by John Griffith

By John Griffith


Justin Durham was appointed in July to serve out the remainder of the first half of ailing board member Chris Jones' term as the Position No. 3 member of the school board. Durham is now running for a full four-year term in Position No. 2, a slot left open by Cheryl Stewart's decision not to run for a second term.

As of this printing Richard Cole has dropped out of the race, leaving Durham running unopposed for Position 2.

Reflecting on his current term on the board, Durham said, "Last year was all about local option, and getting the new board in place. Now I want to focus on retaining and attracting the best teachers that we possibly can, and making sure they have a voice... I'm really excited to be able to continue to invest into what I believe is one of our community's biggest assets.

"I also want to work with teachers and parents to connect more with our students. I think that the accelerated growth of technology in our kids' lives has given the kids the ability to have 'lives' that their parents are not aware of," he said.

Since his July 2013 appointment, Durham's personal life has changed pretty dramatically.

"It has been a big year of transition in my life," said Durham. "I have a new daughter born in January so now we have three kids. More recently we set up a board of directors at Sisters Coffee. My dad is chairman of the board, and I have been named president and CEO."

Looking back on his early days in Sisters, Durham said, "I'm really proud to grow up in Sisters. Going through Sisters schools I always felt loved and honored, and I'm honored that I will have the opportunity to give back. Sisters schools are the town's biggest asset."

Justin moved to Sisters with his family in 1988, when he was in first grade. He grew up on 10 acres on Hurtley Ranch Road and rode his pony to the bus stop. He can still tell you the names of each of his teachers and their impact on him; he particularly remembers Rand Runco for third-grade P.E. His fourth-grade field trip is remembered as a rite of passage.

Speaking to the reason that he stepped up for the school board, Durham said, "I have a strong belief in servant-leadership. I am concerned that civil service has been devalued."

Durham credits his deep desire to give back in part to the late Bill Reed, local Realtor and community leader.

"Bill Reed was a huge example; his passing left a vacuum in the community."

From Sisters High School, Durham went on to Concordia University in Portland to get his degree in independent studies.

"I started out as a history major with a strong interest in biology and physical therapy. Then I discovered that I was much more interested in history and theology," said Durham. "I realize now the value of developing a coherent world-view and conviction. Those are forgotten values. When it comes to college, it is often just about job training."

Fresh out of college, Durham got a job as the assistant manager at a downtown Portland coffee shop.

"You really learn how to work with adversity," said Durham. "You learn to think on your feet. You are in a war zone every day."

Around 2004, Justin returned to Sisters to help his parents, Winfield and Joy Durham, build the new home for the now iconic Sisters Coffee Company. His wife, Leigh-Anne, finished her master's degree and did her student teaching at Sisters High School, but then switched gears and took over as general manager of the enterprise.

"My wife, Leigh-Anne, is amazing," said Durham. "She is my best friend and my biggest encouragement in life. Last year, she stepped down from her position (at Sisters Coffee) to devote full time to our family. She is really excited about being on mission with me on this school board position. We do everything together as a team."

Justin originally took the position as director of sales and marketing in a company that has blossomed to 60 employees, supporting the retail trade in both Sisters and the Pearl District store in Portland, and supporting more than 300 wholesale accounts in 10 states.

"We are humbled by it (the business), this whole building and the business itself is a miracle. It is not about us, it is God's blessing," said Durham. "It is not just us - it is the people that work here; they are incredibly committed and they are very high-caliber individuals."

Durham hopes to pass on an ethic of service to his children.

Correction: In the April 24 edition of The Nugget ("School board election sees competitive race,") it was reported that Durham was running to fill out the remaining two years of Chris Jones' term. In fact, the two-year term is for Position No. 3 (Melvin Herberger vs. Edie Jones). Durham is now serving in Position No. 3 but is running for Position No. 2, which has a four-year term.









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