By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
February 8, 2006
May Street Elementary School Teacher Kelvin Calkins thought some friend was playing a telephone prank on him — Senate President Peter Courtney wasn’t really calling for his help.
But a few moments later, Calkins realized it was no joke. He was being asked by the Democratic leader to work toward education funding reform on behalf of Oregon K-12 students. And he was one of only two teachers who would be seated on the new Senate Special Commission on Educational Excellence.
“I’m excited, I’m looking forward to finding some solutions,” said Calkins. “We’ve spent a lot of time lately losing funding so it’s time to move forward and support our children.”
He will work to craft a legislative funding package by October alongside Allan Bruner, named Oregon Teacher of the Year from Colton.
On Tuesday morning, Courtney held a press conference in Hood River to announce the formation of the special commission. He has appointed Sen. Rick Metsger, whose 26th District includes Hood River County, to co-chair the panel with Sen. Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton.
“In the Senate, Rick Metsger took on one of the most difficult challenges facing Oregon and succeeded in passing a multi-million transportation package for roads and bridges. He is the type of leader who can take on this new challenge and succeed,” Courtney said.
In addition to Calkins and Bruner, the co-chairs will be working with the following individuals: Jerome Colonna, Beaverton School District superintendent; Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin; Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg; Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton; Anita Olsen, president-elect of the Oregon PTA; Gretchen Pierce, president and general manager of Hult & Associates, LLC, a Eugene real estate development firm; Lolenzo Poe, Jr., director of Multnomah County’s Department of School and Community Partnerships; William D. Thorndike, Jr., president and chairman of Medford Fabrication/CSC. Inc.; Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene; and Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem.
The task of the committee, said Courtney, is to stabilize funding to meet the long-term educational needs of students.
“Schools are struggling with growing class sizes, shrinking school years and severe reductions in key programs and activities. We must reverse these trends,” Metsger said.
He said a quality education in Oregon is key to attracting top employers. Without a skilled workforce, he said the state cannot compete in the economic development arena.
“I will take the approach I did as Transportation Committee chairman in 2003 when we made the largest transportation infrastructure investment ($2.5 billion) in Oregon’s history to fix 470 aging bridges,” said Metsger.
“The first thing will be to identity what we want to accomplish and then we’ll figure out how to get there,” he concluded.