New school board member says he plans to stay course

Based on what he learned while serving on the District 55 strategic planning committee, Dale Keene wants to build a stronger link between schools and the community to better prepare students to go to work.

During its regular meeting on Dec. 8, the School Board appointed Dale Keene, 39, to fill a vacancy left by Ken Roberts, who resigned for personal reasons.

“I was going to run for this position when it came up for election,” Keene said, adding that he is planning to run for the seat, position eight, at large, in the spring.

“I had worked on the strategic planning committee,” he said. “We are teaching our kids what’s out there and getting them ready for the real world €“ we aren’t using some of our resources to the best of our ability.”

Keene thinks there are ways to tie more technology into a closer connection between the community and schools, he said. When he was going to school, the district had a class where students operated a mock business to understand how businesses are run.

He would like to see something like that working again, he said, perhaps a business in web design, something they already do on their own, “giving them tools they can use when they graduate.”

Not all gradu-ates will go on to college, he said. Some do better if they don’t go straight into college, but they need to be prepared for the job market after they graduate, especially in this economic climate.

Keene said his goals align with the direction the School Board is already headed.

“I’ve worked with some of the School Board members already, so I know what a lot of their goals are,” he said.

He believes “tying into the community itself isn’t going to take dollars. It’s going to take time.”

Students themselves can be compensated with credits rather than cash, he said, and “if they can get a viable business running, that generates its own money.”

And the board is heading in the right direction, Keene said. “For the most part, the stewardship of our district has been very good compared to the rest of the state.”

The district has had to make cuts, but they haven’t been as deep as other districts, he said. The district has already implemented some cuts.

If more cuts are required, his goal, as Board Member Diane Gerson suggested last week, is to “try to keep (cuts) away from the classroom as much as possible. We don’t want to cut classes. That’s why we’re here €“ for the kids to learn.”

Efforts to reinstate PE and music programs at the elementary level should continue, Keene said, and he would like to keep them protected should more cuts be necessary.

“We had PE every day when I was in grade school,” he said. “If it does get cut again, it’s going to be much tougher to get going again.”

The economy and finances are probably the biggest challenges facing the district right now, he said. “We’ve got a fairly close-knit community.”

And that means opportunities, he said. That, combined with using resources in different ways, is key to keeping the district humming along.

District officials will have to think outside the box, he said. “I try to, but I’m just as guilty as everybody. We’re going to have to think outside the box to get over the hump.”

Keene was born in Lebanon and raised in Sweet Home. He attended school in Sweet Home and graduated in 1987. He played sports in high school, was a member of the National Honor Society and Key Club and participated in drama and leadership.

He attended Oregon State University for three years. He studied electrical engineering and then switched his major to physical therapy with a minor in psychology, he said. “And then life happened.”

He worked for Hewlett-Packard in injection molding and then from there to another Corvallis company.

He later worked at Advanced West Resources making golden firewood pellets. He has worked in retail and currently works in receiving at Target Distribution Center in Tangent.

He is married to Michelle Keene, who is the librarian and media person at Crawfordsville Elementary School. They have one son, David Skeen, who is attending the eighth grade at Sweet Home Junior High.

He attends Highway 20 Church of Christ and is unit commissioner, overseeing four Sweet Home units, with the Boy Scouts Calapooia District. He and his wife are district trainers. He volunteers during Day Camp in the summer.

He enjoys fishing and hunting when he gets the time. He said he also enjoys on-line computer gaming.