My Washington County Public Affairs Forum Statement


Re-elect Karen Cunningham to the Beaverton School Board

The remarks I presented at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum on April 27, 2009

When I first ran for election to the Beaverton School Board, I had no motivation or agenda other than to use my experience, expertise and relationships to make the best policy decisions I could for our district as a whole. Today, as I run for reelection, my motivation remains the same.

At the beginning of my service I was surprised at the complexity and variety of the decisions the board makes. My primary touchstone in these decisions is the success of each of our 37,000 students, each coming to us with different gifts, talents, preparation and challenges. The continuous progress of each and every one of our students is my primary concern. It is not enough for students to meet standards. In my eight years on the board I have advocated for valid measurements of individual achievement and will continue to advocate for this if re-elected. Every child in every classroom must be learning each day.

Decision making also involves other constituencies. We must communicate effectively with our parents and collaborate with them to educate their children. We must be accountable to our taxpayers and responsibly manage resources, financial and otherwise. We must treat our staff fairly and with respect. And we must be a good neighbor to our community while providing it with educated future citizens. To do this well takes a great deal of knowledge and experience in the best of times. To do this well in this time of financial crisis takes even more. While I will work towards ways to prevent such a crisis from happening again in our state, for the immediate future we must make very difficult decisions. As we make these decisions the success of our students must remain at the center.

I began volunteering in the Beaverton School district because of my children. My sons were educated in Beaverton schools and attend public universities. They give me an important perspective on the board. I remember their first day of kindergarten and I remember shaking their hands as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. I have seen them use their Beaverton education and thus seen some of our successes as well as the few times where we could have done better.

I have gained not just this personal experience but much more in my eight years on the board. During that time I have served as chair and vice chair and on a variety of committees, both in and out of the district including the math project team, the classified negotiations team, the strategic planning planning committee, the Oregon school boards association legislative policy committee, the Northwest Regional ESD budget committee and the National School Boards association federal relations network. Other details of my background, experience and endorsements can be found on the flyers I brought with me.

With Craig Irwin leaving the board, I bring important experience, history and perspective. Only one other board member has served during a teacher union contract negotiation. No other board member has served under a superintendent other than Jerry Colonna. No other board member has lived with a different district goal, And no one else has lived through a budget crisis with its agonizing decisions.

Experience is of course not the only reason I believe I am the right person for this job. I have successfully built relationships with others in the education community in our state and nation. I can call our legislators and other elected officials and explain what pending legislation means for our district. I can call a fellow board member in another district and find out how their district approaches an issue. I have the trust of a range of employees and can openly discuss issues with them.

I believe in the power of change and the importance of incorporating new ideas, but I also believe that tough times demand experience. It has been said so often that it sounds trite, but I believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. I believe this and I live this.

Last edited May 6, 2009