School board appoints new member

The Oak Harbor school board chose Sharon Jensen from among five candidates for an open seat.

The Oak Harbor school board chose Sharon Jensen from among five candidates for an open seat.

During Monday night’s meeting, Board President Lynn Goebel said the board received a total of 13 applications. The board interviewed the five finalists before going into executive session. Board members then unanimously voted to appoint Sharon Jensen to the seat that was vacated by Erik Mann last month.

Jensen said she wanted to be a board member because she believed in public education and the importance of all children having access to a good education. She’s had four daughters attend schools in the district.

Jensen works part time as a finance and human resources manager for an architecture firm in Seattle. She said she has experience in reading financial statements and preparing budgets and would bring a business perspective to the board.

Jensen said she thought a strength of the district was the collaboration and assistance from the military but that the district could improve its overall communication with the community.

The second candidate, Pamela Burley, said she wanted to be involved in the district because she has five grandchildren, four who are in the district.

Burley thought Hand in Hand was a district strength and described it as a “phenomenal service” for her grandchild who has autism. However, she thought a weakness of the district was the transition between school and life. She said her son, who is also autistic, struggled in the school district. She wanted every kid to be “productive” after their schooling.

Board member Bob Hallahan asked what schools can do better to educate autistic students.

“Make sure that the teacher knows what their idiosyncrasies are and let them have them,” Burley said. “Don’t draw attention to them.”

The third candidate, Kerstin Cornell, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has two children in the district. She said she knew that COVID-19 has played a role in children’s mental health and wants to increase access to mental health services.

She saw the school board’s role as balancing the unique needs of the military and non-military community. She was “overwhelmed with joy” that the needs of her children have been met and the schools in the district are rated so highly.

The fourth candidate, Ray Lindenburg, is a city planner for the city of Oak Harbor and has a daughter in the district. He said his government experience made him a unique candidate and he wanted to help improve the city, as well as the school district, and give back to the community by serving on the board.

He thought the board needed to come up with more focused ways on spending the bond money.

Lindenburg said a strength of the district was the teachers. He thought a weakness of the district was the aging school facilities and “severe shortcomings in space,” including hallways used for storage.

The fifth candidate, Josh Maclean, has five young children who are in elementary school, which motivated him to apply for the position. He has a degree in mathematics and works as an analyst for a local hospital.

He said communicating about the motives behind decisions is important. He believed the district did well in reworking the proposed bond to make it more palatable to the community. He said that while passing the bond is important, managing the construction of the new schools will mean a lot of work for the board.

All four board members voted for Jensen, who will be sworn in Jan. 30.