News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Cogdill and Cooper face off in school board race

The Sisters School Board Position 1 is a two-person contest between relative newcomers to Sisters, Rodney Cooper and Jenica Cogdill.

Current Board Chair Jay Wilkins opted to not run for re-election to the four-year term.

Terms for Positions 2 and 5 are also ending and elections to those seats will be covered over the next two weeks in The Nugget.

Cooper, a graduate of the University of Oregon with an education degree in 1977, retired from teaching in 2009, after spending his entire career in the rural Crow-Applegate-Lorane School District southwest of Eugene. During those years he taught every grade from kindergarten to eighth grade. After retiring, he continued to work as a substitute teacher, including the time since his move to Sisters in May 2019 with his wife of 46 years, Kristy. The couple has four school-aged grandchildren residing in the district.

Jenica Cogdill moved to Sisters in 2018 from Portland after taking a job at the Les Schwab headquarters in Bend, where she works as a customer experience manager which focuses on team marketing, digital communication, and social media. She previously worked for Nike and Facebook as well as the City of Eugene and other roles in marketing and consulting management.

She and her husband Ben have a fourth grade daughter who attends Sisters Elementary School. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon in journalism and public relations and a MBA from Willamette University.

Neither candidate has held elective office. Cooper served on the budget committee for the Fern Ridge School District and Cogdill is a current member of the Sisters School District budget committee.

Both candidates responded to the following questions:

What is your motivation for running for the Sisters School board and do you have any particular actions you want to see carried out in the upcoming years?

Cooper: When I saw there was an opening I decided to throw my hat in the ring as a way to contribute in this community. I think I have a lot to offer the school district based on my teaching career and knowledge of the inner workings of a school and thought there are not often candidates with that degree of perspective. I am concerned about graduation rates in Oregon which are very low — not so much in Sisters — and want to do what I can to address that issue.

Cogdill: After being selected for the budget committee this year, the idea of running for the school board presented itself, and I decided I could and should step up and run for the board in order to give back to the school community which I have come to regard highly.

As I began to consider running for the board, I actually sat down with the board members to learn more about the time commitment and hear their goals and vision and eventually took time and read through all of the school board policies, the mission and vision statements, and the budget and spent hours just digging through it.

I was impressed with how intentional, thoughtful, and holistic everything is. It is powerful. We live in the most amazing district. I have no particular agenda, but I simply love our youth. I don’t have big ideas about changes, but rather to do what I can to make sure things are running smoothly, that community perspectives are gathered and heard, including those of students. I believe a board member’s role is to deal with budgets, policies and guiding the superintendent.

In response to the impact of COVID-19 on students over the past year:

Cooper: There is no question students have missed learning opportunities and activities in Oregon over the last year. I am in favor of running a summer school program for students that have fallen behind during the COVID shutdowns. Preferably in-person teaching, but at minimum providing teacher-connected online efforts.

Cogdill: We’re facing challenges of lost education and increased educational disparities across the district from the past year. As a district, we need to figure out how to best move forward from COVID, rebalance, and get everyone back on track — especially those students who have fallen behind the most. We have difficult decisions and hard work ahead of us, but I’m confident we can harness our collective wisdom to find the best possible solutions for our students and staff.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming vote for the bond to build a new elementary school?

Cooper: I haven’t had a chance to research very much on the details of the bond, but it is clear that Sisters is growing and will need more classroom space. The bond is not the reason I am running, but I can understand the need for it.

Cogdill: I certainly hope it passes. From all that I have read a new school is needed and beneficial, so if it will help us meet the needs of our students. If it passes, I feel prepared to help shepherd the process. I am familiar with public budgets having worked the City of Eugene, as well as corporate budgets.

What else do you want voters to know about you and why you should be elected?

Cooper: I am a lifelong teacher and I love education, and want to continue to contribute, keep my head in the game and do what I can to support Sisters’ schools.

Cogdill: I love the youth of our community and simply want to support them. Our family is so thankful to have moved here. I really value and respect the culture of Sisters schools and its history, so I am not someone from Portland aiming at making big, sweeping changes or anything like that. We moved here because we like what Sisters is about. As far as my ability to serve, I’m confident that I can draw from experience, training, and personal character to contribute value to this effort.

The vote for school board positions along with other local and regional issues is set to be completed on May 18. Ballots will be mailed out later this month.


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