CENTRAL POINT — A newly formed parent group is hoping to garner enough last-minute votes to land two write-in candidates on the Central Point School District 6 board after Tuesday's election.
While supporters of the parent group, called Central Point Educators and Parents, are pushing for increased transparency and communication, School Board incumbents say they are eager to accept public feedback and want to see empty audience chambers filled during School Board meetings.
The CPEP group has voiced concerns about the district's openness to public feedback on issues such as small schools and bus contracts. An added bone of contention is the recent hiring of Eagle Point educator Lynn Scott, named as a defendant in a sex abuse civil suit, as new Mae Richardson Elementary principal.
The four candidates favored by CPEP include newcomer Tracy Jackson, a challenger to incumbent June Brock, and incumbent Ed Lindbloom, a financial adviser who is running against district-retiree Cathy Salmon.
Relying entirely on voters to write their names on ballots are former police officer Ryan Dale and aerospace engineer and former teacher Gordon Eckstrom, who threw their names into the election hat last week to challenge a pair of incumbents elected in 2009.
A father of eight, Eckstrom said he felt he had time to volunteer and wanted to improve his community schools. A former teacher, Eckstrom said he hoped to encourage balance between financial challenges and educational quality.
"I am someone who believes that sometimes cost-cutting isn't the best answer and that the bottom line isn't always the most important thing," Eckstrom said.
"I want to have people on our board who are willing to listen to parents, not who have been on there so long they think they know best."
Eckstrom's opponent, Gold Hill resident and Del Rio Vineyard owner Jolee Wallace, said she signed on for four more years because she is passionate about education and felt good about the hard work done by the board in the past four years.
Wallace, former teacher and site committee member for both Patrick Elementary and Hanby Middle School, took issue with claims made by the parent group.
"We have gone through horrible financial times. We were reduced at one time to four days and we're back up to five. We've seen a lot of really positive change, and everyone is working extremely hard for our stakeholders — which are our kids," she said.
"It makes me sad for somebody to run because of one heightened reason. I hope that people go out and vote, and I hope everyone knows that all of us on the board right now are doing this because we really care about the kids and about doing the best job we can do.
"We keep hearing about this group going to all our meetings, and I have no idea what my opponent even looks like," she added. "Other than for the last two, no one even comes to our meetings."
Local developer Bret Moore will face off against Dale, who decided to run and started campaigning door-to-door in recent weeks after hearing from residents who felt ignored by the School Board.
"I think we need a School Board that's more inclusive and transparent and seeks out feedback from parents instead of squelching it," Dale said. "I know there are a lot of great people working in this district, but the parents and citizens just want to feel that our voices are being heard."
"When somebody says, 'Thank you for your concern,' it shouldn't be followed with, 'But we don't really care what you have to say.' "
Dale's opponent took issue with what he sees as misinformation about a "well-run district."
"I believe we have a strong district with a lot of really good things going for it," Moore said. "I went to all Central Point schools myself, and I believe in what we're doing, but I don't think any of us should ever think we're doing everything possible, because there's room for improvement in everything.
"One other big thing I heard being put out there is that the board doesn't care about the children. I guarantee that all five of us are there for the kids. It's the only reason anyone is there."
Moore said board members are open to community feedback and are confused by empty audience chambers.
"Since I've been elected, I've probably been to 120 different meetings related to the School Board and, quite frankly, most of our meetings, there's no one in the audience," Moore said.
"We talk about everything at our board meetings, but nobody is there to hear. It's kind of like that thing about the tree falling in the forest."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com