John Fassler, Mike Adams square off for school board

Editor’s note: Four seats are open on the District 55 School Board. The Foster position, held by incumbent John Fassler, is contested by Michael E. Adams. The remaining positions are uncontested, including Cascadia, where Kevin Burger is running to succeed Leena Neuschwander, and Crawfordsville incumbent David VanDerlip and Sweet Home incumbent Mike Reynolds.

Ballots were mailed last week and are due back on May 17. A ballot drop box is located in the lobby of the Sweet Home Police Department.

Mike Adams

By Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

School curriculum needs to be focused and exciting, according to Michael E. Adams, a local attorney, running for the Foster School Board position.

“I truly think children are our most important resource,” Adams said. “I care about the education of all the kids in the district, including my two daughters. I want to make sure all children achieve their potential. We need to be focused on issues that are important. We need to have exciting curriculum based on core standards.”

Education needs to be focused on math, science, reading and critical thinking skills, he said.

Adams has been involved in education and children, volunteering at Foster School, including running the kitchen at the annual Outdoor School and parent-teacher nights. His wife, Katie Adams, is a teacher at Foster.

He has coached soccer and track with the Boys and Girls Club and served on the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors.

He also serves on the Sweet Home Planning Commission.

“I’ve thought about doing this before, running for School Board in the past,” Adams said. “I frankly was at a place in my life when I decided to do it. I just think we need to spend our limited resources in a way that puts our kids’ interests first.”

That’s one of the biggest issues facing schools right now.

“The resources that the School District has aren’t adequate at the current level,” Adams said. “The resources that the School District has aren’t adequate to continue the status quo.”

He has worked at the state legislature and seen the state budget process, he said, highlighting his familiarity with public budgets. He also worked as an attorney for Linn County for three and a half years.

The district has to make tough decisions, and it has made tough decisions, like closing a school and cutting teachers and classified staff.

“The state law requires that decisions are made in open meetings,” Adams said. “We need to listen and learn and get feedback from the people we represent, people in the community, staff and parents. We need to decide what’s important, and we need to run the School District much like you’d run a business.”

The budget probably won’t improve in the next couple of biennia, Adams said. The board needs to set policies that allow the experts to educate the children the best they can under those conditions.

“With the budget, I don’t know that I have any one big ax to grind,” Adams said. “I think one thing the School Board can do is have that discussion, focus on having a conversation in the public meetings in a logical and reasoned way to determine what cuts need to be made.

“There are times when I perceive maybe there should be more dialogue between members of the community and staff on certain issues.”

The past couple of budget discussions, he said, there were few community members present.

“There were issues raised and not as much dialogue as I would’ve hoped,” Adams said. Maybe it happened at an earlier time, but that’s something he noticed.

The board, district and community need to collaborate, he said, so employees aren’t continually in fear for their jobs, for example.

Cutting too much from salaries, he said, may not have a big impact now when people are not going to leave their jobs; but when the economy turns good again, the district should want to avoid losing employees who have been there for many years to districts paying more, which means the district needs to look at comparable districts regarding compensation.

The district needs to “use the resources they have in a way that gives the most benefit to kids,” he said. For instance, he thinks there are times it’s appropriate to buy new textbooks rather than something else those funds might be used for.

The board also should look at new ways of educating children, he said. He saw a presentation at the regular Rotary Club meeting a couple of weeks ago about a man teaching math and science in short, entertaining videos.

It’s in use in Southern California, Adams said. Students work through problems in class, and their homework is watching these segments.

He thinks that might beneficial here, he said. It’s not just teachers lecturing to students of different ability levels.

“I’m not the expert in education,” he said. “But I think there’s something we can do. It’s at least an idea for professionals to explore.”

“One thing I’d want to do is use the resources we have and be very diligent in seeking other funding sources,” Adams said. For example, he wants to see that the pool remains open, and he is volunteering on a committee to form an aquatics district.

“In the current budget crisis, it doesn’t sound like the School District is going to be able to continue the operation of the pool,” he said.

“I care about the education of our kids,” Adams said. “I will listen and learn and make the best decision I think is appropriate at the time. I think I have a unique skill set. I bring some skills that are relevant to the situation.” That includes his six years on the Planning Commission and more than three with Linn County, providing legal advice in public meetings about public records, public contracting and public employee ethics.

“I don’t think that I know everything, but I’m certainly willing to listen and learn and spend the time it takes to understand the issues,” Adams said.

Adams is a self-employed attorney, specializing in real estate, estate planning, probate and guardianship. He also contracts with the county to handle some litigation. He is a Captain and JAG officer in the Air National Guard.

He has two children, Kristen, 12, and Liz, 9.

More information may be found by searching for “Michael E. Adams for School Board” on Facebook or visiting his website at http://www.mikeadamsfor shsd55.com.

John Fassler

John Fassler wants to see that he has properly fulfilled his responsibilities as a board member.

The main job of the board is to hire a superintendent and make sure the superintendent is a good fit for the district, Fassler said.

School District 55 recently hired Don Schrader of Glide to succeed Larry Horton, who retires at the end of the year and will move on to a part-time position as superintendent in Reedsport.

Fassler is the incumbent running for the Foster position on the School Board.

He hadn’t intended to run for a second term, he said, but with the new superintendent and the urging of children, he decided to run for a second term.

Children started asking him if he was going to run, he said. “If the kids are asking, I must be making at least a hair of a difference.”

Fassler said he has open communication lines with staff. He attends all of the open houses and events he can, and he listens to staff concerns. Usually, he said, he directs them to their union representatives or principals, but he at least listens to them as well.

He has an open line at home too, he said. People call all hours of the night.

“I have empathy for them,” he said. “I have empathy for parents.”

Sometimes parents may be upset if they think the district is teaching something against their moral beliefs, for example, Fassler said. He helps direct them up the chain.

“I don’t want to see the community become fractured,” Fassler said. “We had a good chance of it with Holley and Crawfordsville. It broke my heart to have to close one.”

But the policy directed the board’s decision, he said. He had no problem rewriting it, but it couldn’t be ignored.

The district will close Crawfordsville at the end of the school year because of declining enrollment and budget cuts.

“With budgets, we have to look at things, and we have to put everything on the table,” Fassler said. Once people are saying don’t touch this or don’t touch that, the board isn’t able to make cuts.

“We’ve got to try to minimize cuts that hurt the kids, hurt the staff and hurt the community,” he said – in that order.

Right now, he said, “cuts have to be deep and consistent.”

Fassler’s priorities are a little different from those proposed by the administrators and accepted by the board as a whole.

“You don’t want to cut things like technology,” he said. “We’re in a technology-driven world. It’s my little cow. I’m willing to sacrifice it if it’s better for the community, better for the kids.

“The next two years are going to be difficult, and we’ll have to see where it comes from then.”

This will be the last time Fassler runs, he said. He is choosing to term limit himself, but in the meantime, “I want to make sure, number one, that all students are getting the best education we can give them.”

To do it well, students need work after they graduate, he said. He would like to find ways to bring jobs back to the community.

“If you’re just turning the kids out onto the street, we’re really just making a dependent generation,” he said. “Without jobs, they won’t be self-sufficient. We need to be able to set these kids up to succeed whether it be junior college, college or the workforce.”

Improving vocational and technical training is a step that direction, he said. “You have students that won’t go to college. When they walk out the door, they’ll need to go to work.”

If the state won’t help, the district will need to get grants and outside involvement, Fassler said.

The district has been successful with testing and graduation, he said. “We need to make sure we continue to show that success.”

A student’s failure is a failure on the district’s part, the board’s part, his part, he said. “I take failure personally. I don’t want to fail, and I don’t want to fail these kids.”

If a student fails, “apparently we haven’t given that child the right tools,” he said. Still, asking for a 100-percent success rate is setting up for failure. He thinks a realistic goal is 85- to 90-percent four-year graduation rates, he said. The current four-year graduation rate in Sweet Home is about 70 percent.

“We accept mediocrity, and I don’t want to accept mediocrity,” Fassler said. “I don’t accept it in my job. I don’t accept it in my own life.”

He remembers reading the work of former teacher and board member Ken Roberts, who, he said, proposed some good ideas on how to accommodate various learning styles.

He thinks the board should spend more time with the information Roberts compiled to help improve Sweet Home’s success, he said.

The district also needs to find more from programs that are working, Fassler said. When the Charter School does well, the district should be asking what it’s doing.

“I’m all for this thing of working together,” Fassler said.

“I believe that I’ve got a good rapport with the staff,” he said. He has enjoyed meeting people and listening to them, having them tell him what they think.

He plans to continue listening, he said, and being involved in school events.

Fassler is married to Melanie Fassler. He has two daughters, Casi Gibson, 24, and Rebakah, 9. He has one granddaughter, Areana Gibson, 4.

He works at CenturyLink as a local communications technician.

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