Kevin Eckert challenges Edie Jones in school board contest
Last updated 4/13/2021 at Noon
Kevin Eckert is challenging current Sisters School board member Edie Jones for Position 5 in the upcoming May 18 school board election.
Jones has served on the board since February 2020, after being appointed to the position vacated by Amanda Clark.
Eckert moved to Sisters two years ago with his wife, Erika, and teenage sons from Washington, but spent much time over the past 18 years in Oregon, his wife’s native state.
Eckert holds a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Kansas.
Following graduation Eckert worked for three years in Seattle as a structural engineer before starting his own company, BUILD LLC, an architecture/building/construction/development company, which he still operates with offices in Puget Sound as well as here in Central Oregon.
He is the designer for the Sisters Woodlands development on the former U.S. Forest Service headquarters parcel at the west end of town.
Jones, a 30-year resident of Sisters, spent most of her career in work related to education from preschool to adults. Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation and dance from Washington State University and master’s degree in adult education from Oregon State University. Her most recent work is as a parent educator and director of Together for Children. She is the author of two books.
What is your motivation for running for the school board?
“I’ve served as a volunteer in schools for years, and currently am a volunteer coach at Sisters High School.
I greatly appreciate how well our schools are run and the ongoing commitment of teachers, administrators, and volunteers.
I also appreciate that the only constant is change, and there is significant change on the near horizon, including expansion in student enrollment and facilities and systems to support that expansion.
The tipping point to run for school board came when I researched the school bond and understood I have a couple of decades of professional experience that can be leveraged to wisely program, plan, and spend $33 million dollars on facilities.
This is a once-every-other-decade opportunity, and I offer to Sisters voters that my understanding of building programming, design, construction, financing, and budgets may be of value the next four years.
The school board has former teachers and educational professionals represented.
I believe that I can bring some different attributes and balance to fill out the board.”
“My life work has been involved in education endeavors, either in the field of recreation or as a professional educator. Staying involved in the education of the children in Sisters was a natural progression for continuing that interest, after I retired.
“Since moving to Sisters I have been immersed in the area of early childhood education and have developed a passion for assuring the recognition of the importance of early learning for young children. With the establishment of the Preschool Promise I decided this was the time to get involved in the school board and that prompted me to apply for the appointed position in February of 2020. I am feeling comfortable with the work and what it entails and look forward to continuing in the role of a director, if elected.”
Do you have anything particular in mind that you would like to see happen in the district?
“I have watched folks run for positions like this prior with very specific concerns, almost grievances. I see many subtle ways we can improve as a district, but systemically, we are a well-grounded, well-run, caring community. I want to support the ongoing effort.
“I’m very interested in supporting efforts for expanding alternative programming – offering more pathways, such as auto mechanics or welding, that will keep some kids more engaged and boost graduation rates. By all measures, Sisters schools have relatively high graduation rates. At the same time, we are still losing some kids where the traditional model, and their life structure, have them fall out of the system. These are smart, hardworking kids — not just numbers or percentages. I believe we can create more programming to keep them engaged. With the district expanding, these opportunities should be leveraged.”
“I don’t know if you’d call it an agenda, however, I do have a strong desire to assure that education of young children takes place within the school district.
It is so important for brain development, socialization and familiarity with what is expected when they become kindergartners.
I haven’t always felt this way, believing that all ‘babies’ needed to be cared for by their parents until around four years old.
Today, when many families have two parents working and children are cared for outside of the home, it is important that that care be the best that is possible.
Having a preschool experience that is in line with the school system is not only good for the child, it is also good for the school.
Kindergarten is now what first grade used to be, so it is important that kids come prepared to be able to handle the material that is offered.
Otherwise, it is very difficult for a teacher to meet the needs of all the children in their care.
“In addition, I firmly believe in hands-on learning, project-based education, internships and community involvement in the school system. I will continue to support and encourage that type of relationship within the district.”
What are your thoughts on the upcoming vote for the bond to build a new elementary school?
“I very much hope and am fully supporting the renewal of the school bond. The benefits for a new elementary school on the same “campus” as middle and high school are numerous. The growth and change coming to the district are happening as we talk. I offer to my fellow residents that I have a professional background in running complex projects with many constituents. I listen very carefully, analyze all available information, and work very well with large groups.”
“I strongly support the bond issue. Currently our elementary school is too small. As our city grows and attracts more families with young children it is absolutely essential that we have space enough to accommodate them. The fact that the bond will just continue the tax revenue that is already being paid by citizens, with no additional expense, makes this a ‘no-brainer’ and needs to be passed.”
What reaction should the district have in response to the impact of COVID-19 on students over the past year?
“In talking with teachers and some students, the changes administration made for the 2020/21 year were very effective — six-week classes to reduce exposure (cohorts) in anticipation of getting students back in school as soon as possible, more effective/systematic outreach of counselors to students who weren’t engaged (knocking on doors and support), keeping meals and other programs fully functioning — it was impressive to see how well the district pivoted over the summer to be ready to do the absolute best to serve students in very difficult circumstances.
No one would say this was ideal nor perfect — but in discussing the approach other districts took (or didn’t take), ours seemed to be about the best we could provide.
“As we’re looking hopefully to emerging from the pandemic and having a more “normal” fall term, I’d believe there will be renewed emphasis on bringing kids along who suffered academically, emotionally during the last year.
Editor’s note: Eckert also commented on Sisters’ plans to return to a five-day schedule post-COVID; the district was to move April 12 to a four-day schedule under new COVID-related protocols.
“...My hope had been to stay with the four-day class schedule and keep Friday as flex-day for teachers/staff to provide direct support, particularly for struggling students. Further, this flex-day could be used for alternate programming and internships for students who don’t ‘fit’ the typical school model or are looking for other inspiration/opportunities. I understand that working parents and others rely on five-day school weeks for younger students, but at the same time, I’d be interested in looking at the benefits of using one day a week to support students, at least at the high school level.
“There is no question that COVID has adversely impacted the education our kids have received.
The value of being in a classroom with other kids and a trained instructor cannot be denied.
At the same time, I have been extremely impressed with the efforts the school district and all of its personnel has gone through to make the situation the best possible.
They are all aware that many kids, at all levels, have fallen behind and will need extra attention, care, and opportunities.
Knowing that, I strongly support any additional classes, one-on-one tutoring, or other endeavors that the district can afford to help those students regain what was lost.
Also, much support for parents is needed to help them help their kids.
This could be through curriculum material, handouts with tips on teaching techniques, one-on-one conversations, articles and other avenues of help.
This is a time that the partnership between school and parents is extremely important.
It’s a reality and one we need to address.”
What else do you want voters to understand about you? Why should you be elected?
“Mrs. Jones, by all accounts, has served the district well and I truly applaud her for her service. I appreciate the time, energy, and thoughtfulness she has brought to the school board.
“At the same time, I believe the school board will benefit from someone with different experience and new experience.
I’m hoping my motivation to run is compelling and that I’ll earn enough support to serve our district. I believe we live in an area where folks are very thoughtful and attentive. As I won’t be launching any social media campaigns — I simply want to offer that I can bring a different perspective and skill set to serve our educational interests.”
“I believe it’s important that voters know that I am the mother of four successful, happy adult children and seven grandchildren. I strongly supported my children in their school, sports, and extracurricular activities.
“I feel it is very important for community members to volunteer where they have talent, interest, skills, and knowledge and that is why I have selected the school board as my place to contribute. I believe my extensive background, in many areas outside of formal education as well as having taught in all levels of public education, has prepared me to be a knowledgeable, effective addition to the School Board. At the same time, having been on many boards, I completely understand the necessity of a Board recognizing the difference between operations and policy making and why these boundaries are important.
“Having extensive experience in early childhood education allows me to bring a unique lens to the Board. I feel it helps me inform others and will encourage the district to delve into additional ways we can further serve families with young children. I believe my election would assure a unique perspective, both as a woman and an educator, that is valuable.”
Ballots for the May 18 vote, which also includes the school bond and other local issues, are expected to be mailed out to registered voters April 28.