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Eight vie for Medford School Board positions

Shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, Medford School Board member Sally Killen waited at the Jackson County Clerk’s Office with her candidate filing paperwork in hand ready to run for re-election if certain individuals ran unopposed.

But at 5 p.m., the deadline for filing for local school boards, those individuals had challengers, and Killen left feeling relieved.

“I promised the board that I would be here if needed,” she said, adding that her husband would be thrilled she wasn't running again.

“I had been planning to serve six years from the beginning,” she said. “It’s been six years. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be willing to try again in the future. But right now I need a break.”

Eight candidates have filed for four seats on the Medford School Board, and of those only one — Karen Starchvick — is running unopposed.

But Killen said she had no qualms about Starchvick, a member of the district’s Budget Committee and Achievement Board and part of the local chapter of Stand for Children, a nonpartisan education advocacy organization.

“I think Karen is a strong candidate who does her homework and thinks analytically,” Killen said. “My two requirements for voting for someone on the board is that they are honest and logical. And, as far as I know, she’s both.”

Four-year terms end June 30 for Killen, Ron Andersen, Marlene Yesquen and Kim Wallan. And while Killen, Andersen and Yesquen have decided to bow out, Wallan, 53, a retired attorney, will run for a second term. She is being challenged by Michael Campbell, 28, co-owner of Sis-Q Cellular, for Position 5.

“I ran in the first place because I knew there were a lot of changes I wanted to see to improve our schools, but now that three board members are leaving, I feel like there should be some continuity, and it’s an exciting time,” Wallan said. “We’re making a lot of the changes ... and I want to be part of seeing them through.”

Janet Lightheart, a graduate student at Southern Oregon University and retired clinical laboratory scientist, will run against Curt Ankerberg, a certified public accountant, for Position 6, currently held by Andersen.

Andersen, who turns 76 today, said if he was a few years younger he’d run again.

“But how many boards have 76-year-olds running their high schools?” he joked.

Three candidates — Don Libby, chief financial officer of Jackson County Security; Kevin Christiansen, a construction manager and former Medford School Board member (2007-2010); and Lilia Caballero, cultural liaison coordinator for the Medford Police Department — will vie for Position 7, currently held by Yesquen.

Being a board member is a big commitment, Killen said.

“It’s a lot of hours, much more than you might expect,” she said. “It’s not just two board meetings a month. It’s a lot of committee meetings and community meetings, and if you’re on negotiations, it’s a tremendous amount of time.”

Nonetheless, both Killen and Andersen lamented that they were leaving just as Superintendent Brian Shumate’s vision for the district was starting to take shape.

“The district is in wonderful shape,” Andersen said. “We have outstanding facilities, people who are committed to maintaining them, a professional staff, and we've been fortunate to have quality teachers and administrators.”

At the beginning of April, members of the local chapter of Stand for Children will interview each of the candidates to determine whether they are collaborative workers and independent thinkers and have a knowledge of issues facing the Medford School District, said Jeff Kinsella, Jackson Elementary School’s Title 1 coordinator and a member of the group. The organization will endorse candidates accordingly.

“We feel it’s important that we get the right candidates elected, and if we can make a recommendation based on the interview process, it allows the voter to make a more informed vote,” Kinsella said.

Ballots will be mailed out May 1.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.