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Medford will lose 2 school board members

A May election is guaranteed to put new faces on the Medford School Board regardless of the outcome, as two veteran members have announced they won't seek re-election.

School Board Chairman Eric Dziura, a community college instructor, and School Board Member Larry Nicholson, an insurance agent, sent out e-mails Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, informing their board colleagues that they will bow out of the May 17 election.

"It's for personal reasons," Dziura said. "By the time my term is up, it will be almost five years."

Both Dziura and Nicholson said they wanted to spend more time with their wives.

Serving on the School Board takes up about 20 to 25 hours per month, including attending board meetings and conferences, reading, preparation time and training.

Four-year terms in Dziura's Position 5, Nicholson's Position 6, Sally Killen's Position 4 and Marlene Yesquen's Position 7 are all up for election May 17, according to the Jackson County Clerk's Elections Office.

The deadline to file for election to the seats is March 17. The current terms end June 30.

Yesquen is the board's newest member with her appointment to fill former Board Member Kevin Christiansen's seat in December.

Killen and Jeff Thomas, who holds Position 2, were elected to the School Board in May 2009.

Paulie Brading, Position 1, was appointed in June 2008 and elected in May 2009. Trisha Prendergast, Position 3, is the longest-serving board member with 10 years.

Nicholson, first elected in 2003, said his eight years on the board have been filled with challenges.

He cited repeated funding cuts, a $189 million bond election in 2006 and the subsequent school construction boom, which resulted in the new South Medford High School and renovations at 18 other campuses in the district of about 12,500 pupils.

"I think it's time to move on," Nicholson said. "For me, it's been very enjoyable and very frustrating."

Before Dziura's and Nicholson's departures, the two men will participate in some of the board's most difficult decisions yet: how to carve $10 million to $14 million out of the district's $90 million budget because of losses in state income tax revenue caused by the state's chronic high unemployment.

Dziura also will serve on a negotiating team that will try to agree on a new employment contract with teachers. Personnel costs represent about 85 percent of the district's budget, so employee contracts will likely have to be modified in some way.

"It's going to be a busy five months," Dziura said. "The job has gotten harder. The district had a lot on its plate even before the recession with the bond projects."

"The unemployment is going to stay high so the funding for public education is not going to improve because the state's revenue depends on income taxes, and costs continue to rise," he said.

He said he expected the board seats would attract several candidates. Eight people competed for appointment to the seat Yesquen got in December, he noted.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.