School Board Elections, May 2017

Zoë Bennett-Wendell, Reporter

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The May special elections are coming up, and for seniors that turned 18 recently, this means that we finally get to vote! These elections aren’t as mainstream as the last November election, but just as important. One item being voted on is our district’s school board members, the people elected will be making decision about the budget cuts that are going to take place, and this directly affects us. “For the first time in at least 6 years, all 4 spots are contested,” John Gambee, a candidate, said. You may have noticed the yard signs around town, and I’m here to give you the rundown on each candidate and who’s running against who. I went out and interviewed every candidate about their experience, mission, and connection to our district.


Sam Doman, running against sitting member Scott Gibson.

Though he doesn’t have any school board experience, Sam Doman says he’s qualified because his children are students in the JC district, and he cares about the community and it’s children. His mission is “to assist the superintendent to make our schools the best for teachers and students to have an amazing experience.” When asked about how he felt with last year’s passing of the district bond he replied with, “I think it shows how much the community values our students, teachers, and the schools themselves. I think it is our responsibility to use those funds in the most appropriate and efficient way possible.”


Brenda Gambee, running against sitting member Denise Pratt.

Brenda Gambee told me that if elected, she’ll possibly be the youngest member on the board. This doesn’t mean she’s inexperienced, though. Her family has been involved in the school board; her husband, John Gambee, has attended some of the meetings. She has six children that have attended Territorial, Laurel, Oaklea, and a daughter that played basketball and Volleyball at the High School this year. Ms. Gambee is a volunteer teacher, “I spend up to 100 hours each and every month working with other volunteers and parents to educate our children in a successful homeschooling community,” She said.  Although she’s heard skepticism about a homeschool mom wanting to run for the school board, she says she wants to share her experience with the district. Some school employees have approached her about being part of an online homeschooling curriculum in our area. “It is pretty obvious to most that kids are not a one size fits all and that for many of our youth to be successful in their education, alternatives are a must!” She said. She went to two different high schools, Churchill and a small high school in Manti, Utah. With that experience she deduced that she loves the small town feel better. She also said that she believes in communication, so she said, “I am willing and able to be transparent.” When asked about her mission Ms. Gambee said, “One vision, of unity, community and success… I believe in our educators, parents and students in that they will help the Junction City School District to be the best in the state instead of where it currently stands.”


John P Gambee, running against sitting member Judy Croce.

City council member, John Gambee is also running. He attended Springfield High School, then Brigham Young University, Lane Community College, and University of Oregon. Spanish is his second language, and he has taught it to students. He’s never been on the school board but has attended meetings, and reads the minutes. Mr. Gambee owns the Courtyard on 6th, and is self employed, “So I have a good sense of budgets.” He told me the one thing he tells his kids everyday is, “You never stop learning.” Adding to that he said, “I don’t believe our kids in JC are getting the best opportunity out there,” In reference to the school’s report card, which is public record, “We have an amazing little town, our schools should be number one.” When asked why he decided to run, Mr. Gambee went on to say, “The last couple I’ve had problems with the school board, and how do you hold elected officials accountable? You run…If someone has been on the school board for a number of years and the district hasn’t gotten better, they are accountable to the change not happening.” When talking about the school bond, he said that he was against waste, and he felt that he could see that with some public land that Oaklea was using. He felt that the bond was a last minute decision and he would’ve liked it better if it was more thought out.


Jeremy Moritz running against sitting member, Jacque Gerdes.

Jeremy doesn’t have experience on the school board, but has experience with being on Eugene Builders Exchange’s Board of Directors. When asked about why he ran he said, “I have three kids who are coming up thru (sic) the school system and it would be nice to have a say on their education and the environment in which they attend.” His mission for the district is, “To be a part of the discussion and potentially the decision process of what’s best for our community, staff and kids for the years to come”. He’s been involved with the district for almost a decade. As for last years bond he said, “There’s no doubt that the schools need to be fixed. Unfortunately, a new elementary school really needs to be built. I see many many years of discussions regarding getting our schools fixed and usable for all our kids.” He hopes the tax payers money will be used wisely.


Scott Gibson, sitting board member

While being on the school board, Scott Gibson is also on the Junction City Water District board, and the Lane County Farm Bureau board. Gibson said, “These positions have given me experience in creating a budget and solving problems as a group.” Gibson has a ten year old and twelve year old attending schools in the district. Gibson does not believe that education decisions should be made at the national, or state level, but that the community should be making these decisions on where the tax dollars go and what curriculums are being taught. Gibson’s reason for running is to be involved in his children’s education, and his mission is for the district is to provide more opportunities for technical and vocational studies. “Not every student has the opportunity to go to college. Junction City schools can give students a great start in a well- paying career in many technical and vocational Industries,” he said.


Denise Pratt, sitting board member.

Denise Pratt has been on the board for 20 years. Right now, she is a member of the bargaining committee, the budget committee, and the school bond citizens advisory committee. Her five children that all went through the Junction City School District. Right now, she has four grandchildren going through the JC District, and one that graduated two years ago. “There has never been adequate funding, so I feel like I have the experience and judgement to work toward solutions that are as fair and balanced as possible.” Measure 98, the measure from November’s election, is something that Pratt wants implemented for all students, even those who don’t have the option to go to college. This would help raise graduation rates by going straight into a career after high school. She shares this vision with the other 6 members on the board. They all function as a unit, “We occasionally have spirited discussions and sometimes very different ideas about how to achieve a goal.  When the discussion ends and the vote is taken we speak with one voice.” Pratt was very excited when the district bond was passed, and loves watching the improvements that are happening with the schools in the district.


Judy Croce, sitting board member.

Judy Croce has 17 years of experience on the school board, and before that on the budgeting committee. She brings her knowledge and experience to the board on how it functions. She decided to run again because she is concerned about the new budget, “Ever since the state came out with their projected budget, I have been concerned with the impact that it might have on our district. The board, along with the administrators and staff, have worked hard to keep a relatively stable budget.” Croce worked hard to pass the bond, and wants to stay on the board to see it through. “It is important to me that all students get a quality education. At Junction City we have a diverse enrollment. I want each student to be able to find their passion and gain the knowledge to help them go into the world as productive citizens.” She had four children go through the district. Her final thoughts on the bond were, “I am very proud to be a part of the passing of the bond. Our buildings have been in a desperate need of replacing and repair. I am excited that the project have started.”


Jacque Gerdes, sitting board member.

Jacque Gerdes has been on the board for 15 years, but has volunteered with the schools for 25 years. She has been on the board during rough times, like when school funding is decreased, but as a team they managed to keep programs that other schools have cut. She believes she is qualified because of her knowledge of school budgets, collaboration, and programs. She believes she brings a different voice to the board because of the many non-profits she has set up. Those non-profits include: Alternative Work Concepts, helping people get work with different abilities, and helping teachers train students for job success, and World of Good where she co-directs an international education scholarship program and set up businesses for families with no income. “I surely believe in the importance of affordable and quality public education for all children, and I believe we must all work together in our communities to assure that the students get the types of school programs that can educate, inspire, engage, and prepare every child for meaningful and successful futures!” If elected, she wants to continue the momentum that they have with the bond being passed, and to continue going to the schools and talking to the staff and being a person for both sides, the schools and the school board. She graduated from Corvallis High School and got her B.S. in Psychology at Oregon State University. “We loved this area and decided we wanted to raise our family here.” She had four children, all of them went through the JC district, and one of them is at the high school now. She was a huge advocate for the school bond being passed.


That’s the school board candidate round up. Remember to get your ballots in the drop boxes (located in Junction City by the library) before May 16th, 2017. It’s very important that we, as citizens, use this right, that not everyone has, and exercise it.

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1 Comment

One Response to “School Board Elections, May 2017”

  1. Catherine Cascade on April 30th, 2017 10:44 am

    When my ballot arrived in the mail I knew how I wanted to vote in all the categories except the JC School Board positions. I was completely uninformed, so I googled for background information on the candidates. Zoe Bennett-Wendell’s article was what I found. Kudos to the Maroon & Gold for providing this excellent coverage and filling a need that would otherwise have been unmet.


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School Board Elections, May 2017