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3 enter Springfield schools race.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Three challengers have lined up to seek election to the Springfield School Board. Two are social conservatives drawn to the race over the issue of diversity, which has divided the community since last fall.

Wade Richardson, a financial analyst, is a member of the district committee that was set up earlier this year to create a diversity policy. A previous district diversity proposal came under attack last fall and was scrapped after complaints that it identified gays and lesbians as a protected class.

Richardson is running against board member Bill Medford for the Position 5 seat. "It wasn't necessarily the diversity committee" that sparked his candidacy, Richardson said. "That was certainly a catalyst. I have felt like doing something in the community for a while."

Richardson has been a conservative voice on the 28-member committee, stating that homosexuality is a choice, not an innate orientation.

He also says the district needs to reach out to Hispanic immigrants in Springfield, making them welcome in the school system to integrate them more quickly into mainstream culture. "These kids need to be assimilated into our culture," he said. "They can keep their own culture, too, but they need to speak English."

Though he's been on the board for only 2 1/2 years this time around, Medford is a longtime school board veteran, serving from 1972 to 1989. A real estate broker, Medford says the biggest problem facing the district right now - as is true with most school districts - is money.

"The dollars are going to be very short and we hopefully will stay as close in the coming year as we did last year on finances without having to make drastic cuts in the system," he said.

Medford said he doesn't expect the diversity issue to remain divisive for long. "I know this community is a diversified community," he said. "The committee has another meeting or so before they come to a meeting of the minds, but they will."

A second challenger, insurance man Jeff Bantz, is not on the diversity committee but is interested in the issue. He says the original diversity proposal went too far. He faces incumbent Al King for Position 3.

"The part I disagreed with on that and that most of the community disagrees with was the part about gender identity and sexual orientation," Bantz said. "Those two are big hot buttons for the Springfield community. I don't think the community wants certain students singled out for protection."

King, who has been on the board for three years, said the diversity business was overblown. "There was some paranoia that the district was going to have pro-gay policies and that they would be built into curriculum and into employment policies," he said. "It wasn't true. Folks had interpretations that weren't there."

King, a financial consultant, said the district faces more important problems that he wants to address.

"One that is very important to me is increasing the college matriculation rate," he said. "Communicating to the students that in our modern society college is much more important than it was in their parents' and grandparents' eras."

The third challenger, Sally Hales, said she's running because she felt it was time to get more involved in her community. `When I read in the paper there were three positions open on the board, I thought, `Well, here we go,' ' she said. "I have been concerned for some time about the status of education in the state of Oregon and particularly in our little community."

Hales, a manager at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, has no previous political experience. She is challenging Position 2 incumbent Jonathan Light, owner of Light's Music Service and a part-time school band teacher in the Bethel School District, who is finishing his fourth year on the Springfield board.

Light said his goal is implementing a quality education for students. The biggest problem schools face, he said, is funding.

"I wish the state would decide to fund schools better," he said. "That is our biggest frustration, the lack of money to do the things we know we should be doing."

POSITION 2

JONATHAN LIGHT

Age: 49

Occupation: Music store owner

Civic experience: Current member of the school board

SALLY HALES

Age: 41

Occupation: Hospital manager

Civic experience: None

POSITION 3

AL KING

Age: 58

Occupation: Financial consultant

Civic experience: Current member of the school board; former Oregon state representative

JEFF BANTZ

Age: 51

Occupation: Insurance claims adjuster

Civic experience: Shangri-La Water Board, Lane County precinct committee member

POSITION 5

BILL MEDFORD

Age: 72

Occupation: Real estate broker

Civic experience: Current member of the school board; also on board from 1972 to 1989; member of Lane Educational Service District Board for four years

WADE RICHARDSON

Age: 50

Occupation: Financial analyst

Civic experience: School district diversity committee

CAPTION(S):

E l e c t i o n 2 0 0 5
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Title Annotation:Elections; Two of those vying for board seats are social conservatives interested in diversity; a third wants to get more involved
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 24, 2005
Words:815
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