Lebanon Local Voters Guide – 2023 Lebanon School Board Election

Editor’s Note: The May 16 election is when Oregonians will elect people to oversee local special districts – schools, fire and ambulance response, cemeteries and others that provide services to urban and rural residents.

Lebanon Local sent the questionnaire below to all five of the candidates for Lebanon School District Board of Directors: Melissa Baurer and Scott Bruslind, who are running for the Zone 1 seat; Richard Borden, the incumbent, and Clyde Rood II, who are running for the Zone 4 seat; and Nichole Piland, the incumbent, who is running for the Zone 5 seat. Baurer, Bruslind and Piland responded, as displayed below.

Melissa Baurer, 39

Years in Lebanon: Since 2017

Education: MA in Criminal Justice and a BA in Sociology

Professional Background/Work Experience: I am the Director of Integrated Health and Outreach, Santiam Hospital and Clinics. I oversee our disaster services program whom has case managed survivors of the Beachie Creek/Lionshead fire. We have helped 245 families return home where they have rebuilt their home or relocated. I also oversee the four service integration teams of Scio, North Santiam, Santiam Canyon, and Cascade as well as our community health and outreach program and care management of patients hospitalized. I oversee the function of Santiam Hospital and Clinics Foundation.

Other professional activities:

Melissa Baurer
  1. Established and implemented Santiam Service Integration Program for Santiam Hospital in 2017. Santiam Service Integration serves as a safety net by facilitating resources and information for individuals and families. The program is designed to coordinate community providers and services to identify needs, find solutions, and avoid duplication of services. There are currently four teams; North Santiam, Santiam Canyon, Cascade and Scio. This program is being recognized as best practice and a model that other communities in Oregon are interested in implementing.
  2. When Covid-19 affected our communities of the Santiam Region, resulting in financial hardships due to layoffs, quarantines, etc. I created a program, SIT MOBILE, that set up a center where donors donated money to buy essential items for families and seniors such as toiletries, food, etc. Prior to any government program, the trust I had with the community resulted in substantial monetary donations allowing us to help people with mortgages, rent, utilities, and medications while they waited on government support. The community partners responded by volunteering as drivers to deliver and assist with the distribution site.
  3. When the Beachie Creek-Lionshead Fire occurred in 2020, I was leading a program, Santiam Service Integration, that had the trust with the community. We quickly pivoted to provide immediate relief to over 1,000 households who were evacuating from the Canyon providing financial support, coordination of services, and triage large volume of phone calls. Two members of the community collaborated with our program to create a fund, Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund, which has raised just over 4.2 million dollars for disaster support to survivors. Our team expanded to provide disaster case management services to the 400 plus households who lost their primary homes. We are funded via state and federal contracts. Our program has received two FEMA audit visits of 100 percent. FEMA and National Partners like After the Fire USA and St. Vincent De Paul Disaster Services USA affirm that the Santiam program I oversee is a program that should be best practice for the nation. The program has 98 homeowners remaining of the 400-plus households who continue to rebuild. The others are back home.
  4. Established a 501c3 Foundation, Santiam Hospital and Clinics in 2022. Quickly formed a board, set a campaign goal of raising $5 million in Year One. We are well within reach of the goal.
  5. With my professional work over time, dating back to when I was social service director of the Salvation Army of Marion and Polk Counties to now director of Integrated Health and Outreach of Santiam Hospital and Clinics, a department I created based on the need of the communities we serve I have strong trusted relationships. I have partners on a local level including school districts, faith based representatives, nonprofits, businesses and county. With my disaster management leadership, I have worked closely with our state and federal government advocating for the survivors of the canyon. I have strong solid relationships resulting in positive results.

Political Experience/Affiliations: I do not have any direct political experience. However, I collaborate very closely with Linn County Commissioners, state/federal partners in the political environment. I am a registered Independent.

Other Community Involvement/Affiliations (outside of activities/experience already listed): I volunteer for my children’s school, Lacomb when able. I have served on the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and Early Learning Hub Board of Directors.

Family: My husband Adam and I live in Lacomb where we raise our two children, Jackson and Carly. Jackson is in first grade at Lacomb and Carly is in fifth grade at Lacomb.

Contact: [email protected] Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091785266060

Scott Bruslind, 63

Years in Lebanon:  Linda and I moved from Tucson, AZ in 1993 and lived in Albany until 1997 when we moved to Lacomb. We’ve lived here ever since.

Scott Bruslind

Education: M.Ag.Education (1998, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ), B.S. (1982, Upsala College, East Orange, NJ), High School diploma (1977, New Milford H.S., New Milford, CT)
Professional Background/Work Experience: 35 years as a journeyman lab analyst in industries as varied as copper mining, wood products, county owned wastewater treatment works, engineering services. Co-founder of Conversion Brewing Company, a downtown Lebanon brewpub.
Political Experience/Affiliations: 3 term member of the Lacomb Irrigation District, member of the Democratic Party of Oregon’s Gun Owners Caucus.

Other Community Involvement/Affiliations (outside of activities/experience already listed): Former Scoutmaster of Lebanon Troop 7088 (chartered with American Legion Santiam Post 51.) Religious Exploration teacher, Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, trained in sexual education curriculum “Our Whole Lives” program www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Whole_Lives.

Family: Wife Linda; daughter Amanda (Milwaukee, Wis.); son Jorian (LHS 2016, OSU 2022, Beaverton); daughter Svea (LHS 2019, OSU 2023, Corvallis); son Kelton (LHS 2019, OSU 2024, Corvallis).

Contact: [email protected], (541) 451-2978.

Nichole Piland, 47

Nichole Piland

Years in Lebanon: 15 Years

Education: High school diploma; some college courses

Professional Background/Work Experience:

Military – U.S. Navy; Army National Guard

Samaritan Health Services for 10 years working in the billing department; Financial Counselor; Informatics Coordinator.

Four years in the Linn County Tax and Assessment office.

Other Community Involvement/Affiliations (outside of activities/experience already listed):

I worked with an organization called Mountaineer Outreach donating school supplies and doing medical clinics in remote villages in the Philippines. Our organization has also helped repair an old community center/church that was damaged after the typhoon.

I have also part of the LBL ESD Budget Committee since November 2022.

Family: Matt and I married a year ago after 15 years together. I have had two of my own children, two stepsons, with two new grandbabies and two more on the way.

Contact: (541) 570-5430

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Note: Nichole Piland did not respond with answers to the questions below.

Why do you want to be a Lebanon School Board member?

Melissa Baurer: I would like to represent the students, parents, caretakers, and community of Lebanon as a board member. I am committed to listening, serving and learning from the community while making the best decision for students. I would like to increase the opportunities for family engagement, hold us as board members accountable while being transparent to the community.

Scott Bruslind: Oregon school districts are confronting cuts in the 2023 General Budget, coupled with cost of living and health care cost increases. Lebanon Community School District has to reckon with deferred maintenance from two failed bond measures. Lacomb School’s leaking roof does little to encourage kids to look forward to going to school. Their parents are right to be furious.

I’m running for LCSD #9 Zone 1 Board position to provide the leadership needed to navigate the choppy waters ahead, be steadfast and get the job done.

What sets you apart as a candidate for school district voters?

Scott Bruslind: I left my job at the Georgia-Pacific (now Bakelite) Resin plant in Millersburg, just weeks before Sept. 11, 2001, to be the primary caregiver for our newborn twins and their older brother. Staying at home, I learned to learn with my kids, to partner with their teachers and make going to school something to look forward to, something to be responsible for, and something to remember. We still sing the songs they learned in winter concerts, and we attend the Lacomb School alumni (aka Old Timers) pot-luck in July. In 2009, with interim-Superintendent Col. (Ret.) Lanning’s help, the Oregon National Guard leveled the school playing field as the focus of their two-week summer training. It was a great project – hosting Oregon heroes, leaving a lasting impact and we inaugurated with an AYSO Soccer fest.

Melissa Baurer: I am a mother of children attending Lacomb, which is part of the Lebanon Community School District. I have strong track record of relationships with partners serving our families from county, state, federal, faith based, and non-profits organizations. The relationships I have fostered overtime will be valuable as a school board member. My auditing expertise will benefit the community as we evaluate programs of the district.

What would you consider your primary responsibility/ies to voters as a School Board member if you are elected?

Melissa Baurer: My primary responsibility is to be committed to, listening to, learning from, and serving our community. I will do this with honesty, transparency, and accountability. With this, I will make the best decision possible representing our students, parents, and caretakers of our community.

Scott Bruslind: As elected officials our job is to decide policy and negotiate labor contracts. Our role as School Board members is to represent the values and priorities of the Lebanon community. It’s important to understand that we work through the Superintendent to do the job and that it’s a five-person board, so maintaining a professional approach to collaborative problem solving is a key attribute.

What do you think are the particular challenges that need to be addressed in the school district?

Scott Bruslind: Beyond the funding challenges (operational and facilities), LCSD is asked to deliver social services (school lunches, clothes and school supplies) that are not funded through normal channels. Economic conditions in the community press on families to have their kids ‘ready to learn’ and our common core of shared values is not so common anymore.

Melissa Baurer: I feel strongly that our board needs to evaluate their practice of budget decisions. Many of the schools need basic maintenance to be completed in order for our students to feel safe and secure at school. For example, Lacomb School’s roof has major leaks and does not allow for a conducive learning environment. We also need to address the opportunities for parental engagement and enhance our communication with the public.

A lot of School Board work revolves around funding. In general, how do you view the district’s position in this area? If you would like to change anything, how would you do so?

Melissa Baurer: Best practice of financial budgeting needs to be implemented, at minimum 10 percent of funding should be set aside for general maintenance of the schools. We also need to be transparent and held to a high standard of accountability with the public in regards to funding.

Scott Bruslind: By rejecting the most recent Bond measure, Lebanon missed an opportunity to secure long term funding at a favorable rate. We’re on the right path communicating with our State Representatives as to the situation we face and more advocacy in Salem will certainly help.

What other improvements would you like to see to the district’s operations/personnel/services?

Scott Bruslind: Superintendent Meckley has prioritized enhanced communications and community engagement, and I’ll do everything I can to amplify that initiative. We need to hold up those in the District who are examples of excellence, and we need to refine a way to get constructive feedback for improvement.

Melissa Baurer: There needs to be enhanced communication from schools to parents and caretakers. Each individual schools are unique in the populations they serve. We need to make sure that community members are given the opportunity to be involved in the creating and implantation of programs. The school board needs to be forecasting needs based on annual review sites. I would like to see more afterschool options for children who live in the outlying areas of the school district, working closely with community partners and community members to evaluate what is best for them.

In addition to any of the issues already touched on, what do you consider the biggest challenge(s) facing Lebanon School District? As briefly as possible, how would you address it/those?

Melissa Baurer: Building maintenance needs to be addressed first and foremost so all students in the district have a safe structure allowing for learning. We need to evaluate programming in place and find innovative methods to meet the needs identified by our community but if we do not direct funds to general maintenance we will not have the safe structures needed for the services benefiting our students.

Scott Bruslind: It’s a good time to reflect on the roots of public education and the demand that children are required to spend time in education. Progressive Republicans at the turn of the 20th century understood that to turn immigrants into citizens, the job could not be left to chance or market forces. It took a long view that investing (through the 8th grade, initially) in education would ensure the way of life we have come to take for granted. We need to remember where we came from, why we’re here, and build on the work that’s been done. We have a right to expect a return on our investment and to ensure that we’re getting the job done. It’s exciting to consider the near term opportunities for young people. We have employers waiting with jobs and we need to train the workforce of the future, but we must never lose sight that our main job is to make citizens prepared to take on the responsibility for protecting and preserving our way of life.