Some school board members bring decades of experience with education issues
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Frank Pender is one of the longest-serving school board members in Oregon. Pender, seen in his trademark “tin hat,” owns Tanglewood Timber Products and uses his industry experience to help students find careers, such as at the Sprague High School College and Career Day. (Photo courtesy of Willamette ESD/2016)
Frank Pender became a school board member in 1974, the same year President Nixon left office and Oregon Gov. Robert Straub was elected.
He has fought to protect school districts, served on numerous state panels and still gets choked up when he talks about helping young people.
Pender retired from teaching in 1999, but he’s still a school board member, serving the Willamette Education Service District.
“It’s an inside track to see to it that kids get a fair shake in the school system,” he said.
January is School Board Recognition Month. OSBA records show more than 50 Oregon school board members have at least 20 years of experience serving local education needs.
Pender is among about a dozen state school board members who have more than 30 years of experience. Willamette ESD Board Chair Larry Trott, who has been on the board 13 years, appreciates Pender’s community involvement and connections and the historical perspective he brings.
“He is always willing to speak his mind, which is important,” Trott said. “It’s important to have people who aren’t going to melt into the crowd.”
Three members of the OSBA Board of Directors have at least 20 years of school board experience, according to OSBA records.
Lori Theros, Klamath Falls City Schools board, has 24 years of service. Sherry Duerst-Higgins has served on the South Lane board since 1988, where she is chair, and has served the Lane ESD board for 24 years.
Phoenix-Talent School Board Chair Craig Prewitt has 26 years of service. Prewitt has seen his three children move through area schools and now his grandchildren attend his schools.
Prewitt joined a school board because he believes a strong public education system is the basis of a strong society. He jokes that serving on a school board for decades raises questions about mental stability, but he is serious about how the work helps improve young people’s lives. He treasures that moment when he gets to hand a student a diploma.
“It is a job that is richly compensated in a way you can never measure,” he said.