Labor picks four candidates for Portland School Board

Organized labor is lining up behind four candidates for open seats on the Portland Public School Board.

Over the past two weeks, candidates Eamon Molloy, David Wynde, John Ball and Richard Garrett have been endorsed by the independent Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the American Federation of Teachers-Portland Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees Local 111, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, the Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council and the District Council of Unions (DCU).

Service Employees Local 140, which represents cafeteria workers and is still fighting for reinstatement of more than 300 custodians that were fired last year (and replaced with contract workers), likes the field of endorsed candidates, but won't make an official decision until April 12, when its Executive Board meets.

All four school board seats that are up for election this year are being vacated by incumbents. Marc Abrams, who earlier had won the endorsement of the labor council, withdrew his candidacy. Former Chairwoman Debbie Menashe also withdrew her candidacy days before the filing deadline. Current Chairwoman Karla Wenzel and member Sue Hagmeier decided earlier not to seek re-election to the non-paid posts. There are seven seats on the school board.

Val Jack, president of the 1,350-member Local 111 and acting president of the DCU, an umbrella group of unions with members employed at the school district, said her local and Local 140 took part in the interviewing process arranged by PAT.

"It's the first time these groups have come together for a consensus recommendation on school board candidates," she said.

Ken Cropper of Service Employees Local 140 said normally it's difficult to find anyone to run for a school board seat. "This year there are lots of candidates to choose from."

In fact, 24 candidates filed for election within the four districts. Candidates must live in specific school board zones but are elected citywide.

The high participation no doubt has much to do with the frustration over school funding problems, the firing of custodians, and recent contract negotiations with school teachers that almost ended in a strike. An eleventh-hour deal that involved officials from the City of Portland and Multnomah County averted a first-ever walkout at the school district.

To help pay for the deal, city and county officials have put forth a ballot measure for May 20 in which they will ask voters to support a proposed three-year income tax surcharge on workers residing in Multnomah County. Money collected will be earmarked for schools and other city and county functions.

During the school board interview process candidates were asked if they supported the May 20 ballot measure, how they felt about the current administration, and their views on contracting custodial jobs.

The endorsed candidates are:

* Eamon Molloy, Zone 1: Molloy is a stay-at-home dad from Southwest Portland with children at Rieke Elementary. His wife is a physician at Kaiser Permanente.

* David Wynde, Zone 2: Wynde is a regional vice president at US Bank. He lives in the Irvington neighborhood with his wife and two daughters, both of whom attend Buckman Elementary School. According to Jack, in his homeland of the United Kingdom he was a white-collar union shop steward. His campaign literature carries the union label of the printing trades. He is active in the Portland Schools Foundation.

* John Ball, Zone 3: Ball is chief operating officer for Multnomah County who, according to union officials, was a chief architect in the last-minute deal that averted a teachers' strike. A Southwest Portland resident, Ball, according to Cropper, walked picket line in support of Eugene school teachers during their 1987 strike that involved Steve Goldschmidt, who is the director of human resources at the Portland School District.

* Richard Garrett, Zone 4: Garrett is a past president of PAT and a school teacher for 30 years. He is well-known in the labor community and lives in Southeast Portland.

April 4, 2003 issue

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