School board races are technically nonpartisan. But in recent years, school board candidates have increasingly sided with one major political party or the other, with platforms going beyond typical school board issues like budgets and superintendent performance. Instead, often under the umbrella of “parents rights,” conservative candidates have pushed national talking points like access to books related to the LGBTQ+ experience, parental input on public school curriculum, or other issues that parents deem unsuitable for public schools
Early returns from school board elections across Oregon showed right wing school board candidates losing seats in several school districts, particularly in the Willamette Valley, while winning a majority elsewhere.
Results will continue to come in over the next several days, but here’s where things stood Wednesday afternoon.
Incumbents in Newberg, Canby appear to be losing
The reign of the conservative majority in Newberg that drove the small Willamette Valley school district through unconstitutional policies, a fired superintendent, and divided the community, appears to be ending.
According to early results from Tuesday’s election, the five candidates running to continue that majority appeared to be losing. Three incumbents are in that group — including school board chair Dave Brown, who survived a recall attempt last year.
According to results last updated Wednesday morning, James Wolfer, a Sherwood school resource officer, was defeating Brown 54% to 46%.
Incumbent Raquel Peregrino de Brito also appeared to be losing her race to Nancy Woodward 54% to 46%. The same was true for incumbent Shelley Kolb in her race against Deb Bridges, though Kolb was trailing by a slightly smaller margin. Peregrino de Brito and Kolb were appointed to their roles in 2022, after other board members resigned. In two open races, Jeremy Hayden was leading against Sue Osbourne 53% to 47%, while candidate Sol Allen led against Chris Irwin by a similar margin.
Those five leading candidates in Newberg — Wolfer, Woodward, Kolb, Hayden and Allen — are all on a slate supported by Basic Rights Oregon and Stand for Children, along with a local PAC called Oregon CARES.
Along with incumbents Brown, Peregrino de Brito, and Kolb, Osbourne, and Irwin have been running to support a stronger role for parents in how schools are run, supported by the Community Oriented Public Servants PAC.
In Canby, three candidates who ran together calling for the removal of “sexually explicit and vulgar material” in libraries appear to be losing their races. Two of those candidates, Stefani Carlson and Dawn Depner, are incumbents who were losing to Kelly Oliver and Mark Bigej, respectively.
Canby had recently removed controversial books from their school library, a move that led to student protests.
Bigej appeared to be defeating Depner 63% to 37% and Oliver was defeating Carlson 56% to 44%. Lori Boatright, who joined Carlson and Depner in their campaign to “demand excellence” also appears to be losing her race, with 38% of the vote compared to opponent Katie Iverson’s 54%. Another candidate in that race, JooLin Rice, held 8% of the vote.
All but one of the four races in the nearby North Clackamas School District were wide open with no incumbents running, which means new faces no matter who wins.
Like Newberg, the slate of candidates backed by Basic Rights Oregon and Stand for Children appears to be defeating their challengers.
Jena Benologa, the only incumbent in the race, was on track to defeat Courtneigh Swerzbin 66% to 34%.
Paul Kemp, Glenn Wachter and April Dobson appeared to be winning races against Tara Nelson, Aimee Reiner and Angela Pederson by double-digit margins.
Collaboration with parents and the need for greater transparency was often mentioned in the North Clackamas races. North Clackamas board meetings have been contentious and “unsafe” according to Benologa. A meeting last fall prompted a move to completely online board meetings.
Crook County voters choose a conservative school board
Results have gone the opposite direction in Crook County, where a slate of three far-right candidates easily defeated incumbents to take a controlling share of the board.
Cheyenne Edgerly, Jennifer Knight and Jessica Brumble — who comprise a slate known as “Crook County for Better Education” — ran on a platform opposing LGBTQ and racial inclusion in school curriculum.
Edgerly, in particular, has advocated against these kinds of materials for months. Emails show Edgerly, who serves on the local library board, pressured District Superintendent Sara Johnson to remove books and abandon other programs discussing queer people. She often shared disinformation with the district via far-right news outlets.
Edgerly was on track to defeat Doug Smith with 54% of the vote. Knight pulled 51% of votes in a three-way race with incumbent Jessica Ritter and Eddy Howard, while Brumble defeated longtime board member Patti Norris 56% to 43%.
Crook County for Better Education was managed and financially backed by Bryan Iverson, a political consultant and husband to Oregon House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson.
For a rural school district in Central Oregon, it was a relatively expensive race. Edgerly’s slate raised more than $10,000 in cash and in-kind donations. The incumbents, who formed their own slate titled “CC Together for Kids,” raised $13,000, which went to a large video campaign.
Current board members have said before this year, campaigning of any kind was rare in school board elections.
The presence of LGBTQ people and material has come under scrutiny in Crook County in the past year, similar to efforts in other parts of the country. A campaign to segregate queer children’s books at the local library in December failed.
The Crook County Court, the equivalent of a board of commissioners, also removed Library Board Member LaQuita Stec after she called for Edgerly’s resignation.
The new members will be sworn into office during the board’s July meeting.