97j Candidates Armendariz and Haberly speak

Incumbent Frank Armendariz (left) will face Josh Haberly for Position 5 on the Siuslaw School District 97j Board of Directors.

May 5, 2023 — There are four open positions on the Siuslaw School Board of Directors being contested on May 16. Each position has two candidates, an incumbent and a challenger.

Frank Armendariz is the current director for Position 5. His challenger is Josh Haberly.

Frank Armendariz

Occupation: None

Occupational Background: River Guide/Outfitter

Educational Background: San Jose State University, Political Science

Prior Governmental Experience: Position #5 Siuslaw School Board

Josh Haberly 

Occupation: Painting Contractor

Occupational Background: Owner/Operator Haberly Painting 2006-Present

Educational Background: High School, General

Prior Governmental Experience: None 

The Siuslaw News reached out to all eight candidates for Siuslaw School Board of Directors to ask about their views on some of the issues the community is asking us about. These questions cover just a few of the many important topics to consider before voting. More information on these and all candidates for the May 16 Special Election can be found at www.LaneCountyOR.gov/elections.  

The opinions of each of the candidates are their own. In the case of current Siuslaw School District Board Directors Armendariz, Lacouture, Pimlott and Sneddon, these opinions do not necessarily represent those of other Siuslaw School Board directors or the Siuslaw School Board as a governing body.

Do you agree with your fellow candidates who have stated that “these are troubling times for our educational system" and that there has been a recent "steady decline in our Siuslaw School District"? 

if yes - What are your reasons for believing so? How can the district improve? What are some positive things about the Siuslaw School District?

if no - Why do you disagree? Why do you believe there is a portion of the district community who sincerely believes these things?

Armendariz: When I walk through our schools and think about the larger “education system", I see the many challenges and of course the Siuslaw School District has challenges too but it is not declining. In fact, there are great things that are happening in 97J. Just this last school year we updated the high school campus to increase the physical security of our students and staff. Planning for the future, the work also increased the student instructional capacity of the high school, adding four new classrooms. Our school libraries have become learning centers that connect students to advancing technology. Our computer science department is more advanced than ever. Our industrial arts departments continue to develop and make great strides in metal fabrication, welding instruction, computer aided manufacturing and our auto shop is one of the most advanced of any district on the coast. This semester we hope to graduate more students on time with the highest GPA in several years.

There are some people in the community who believe that there should be cultural changes in our schools and without those, view that as a decline. Possibly among them, the notion that religious observances should be part of the public school curriculum. Others that might pertain to books available to our students. Maybe also student gender identity issues, eliminating any discussion of students who identify as LGBTQ, as in “don’t say gay” and the teaching of an American history that is not accurate or true to the facts.

Haberly: I do agree with that statement. I feel the school shutdowns during COVID caused an educational slump for most students in some way, shape or form. We need to offer students more resources to start closing the achievement gap.

“Get politics out of school” is a familiar refrain. What does that mean to you?

Haberly: "Get politics out of school" to me refers to getting back to the basics of reading, writing, science, and math. Let's start challenging our students to strive for their full potential academically.

Armendariz: Like many others, I have no idea exactly what that slogan means. Electoral democracy by definition is political and we teach that in high school civics. People do have different perspectives, opinions, beliefs and everyone deserves to be listened to. I believe it is important for elected board members to always be accessible to all the public, parents, teachers, students. Board members must alway listen carefully. Where differences exist, we must seek compromise. If not possible, stand for your values and principles. Is that the politics in school 'they' refer to? I believe not, but that it is actually our job to consider ideas. What Board members must avoid is bickering, conniving and deceits intended to get one's way. When given the trust of the people our obligation is to maintain honesty, integrity, transparency and always compassion.

How can the district get the least engaged student through the doors in the morning and at the same time help the most engaged student reach their highest potential?

Armendariz: Board members are not hands-on educators, although some of us do indeed have classroom experience. That is often the motivation, like it is for myself to continue my service on the Siuslaw School Board. What we can do as Board members is to assure the resources are available to support both the so-called 'unengaged' students and the achieving students. So both types of kids get the best possible education. Our job as Board members is to make sure we don't have to choose one or the other to help and support. There is not a choice, one student's need should never be sacrificed for another. 

Haberly: It's heartbreaking to hear of some of our students' home life situations and it should motivate us to make Siuslaw a great learning environment and a fun place to come to school.  And we should strive for a higher standard than just getting kids through the door. This means fully supporting our educators to fulfill this goal.

Offering incentives and rewards for well achieving students has always been an effective tool for keeping them motivated and I know many of our teachers use these incentives. Also, for our students struggling to be academically motivated (getting through the door) we should keep developing vocational programs and consider options for older students such as job shadowing and internships.

Charter school in Florence… yes or no?

Haberly: The subject of a charter school in Florence has been a hot topic lately and I could not rule out supporting one. There have been some mixed results with charter schools across the board, some successful and some not. However, it would depend on the structure of the charter school and its relationship with our district. Without seeing an actual plan put forth I cannot say whether I would support it or not. I will say I would only support a charter school on the condition I truly felt it was best for all students in our district. 

Armendariz: A yes or no answer would be a disservice to the community. It's possible a sound, cost effective, thorough, accountable charter school proposal will come to the Board for consideration. I'm open to voting for a good plan.I was a teaching assistant in a charter school and there are charter schools that do enormously good work for students. The questions are always the competence of the charter school being proposed, safeguards for students and overall accountability. A major consideration is taking public tax dollars from a district budget which is already burdened and giving the money to private sector people. Best we take it one step at a time.