97j Candidates Lacouture and Weinstein speak

Incumbent Brian Lacouture (left) will face Devon Weinstein for Position 7 on the Siuslaw School District 97j Board of Directors.

May 5, 2023 — There are four open positions on the Siuslaw School Board of Directors being contested on May 16. Each position has two candidates, an incumbent and a challenger.

Brian Lacouture is the current director for Position 1. Her challenger is Devon Weinstein.

Brian Lacouture

Occupation: General Contractor

Occupational Background: Construction

Educational Background: Cimarron Memorial High School, Diploma, General

Prior Governmental Experience: Siuslaw 97j School Board Director (2021-present)

Devon Weinstein

Occupation: Involved Community Member and Parent, volunteer as a student aide, class chaperone, and private tutor.

Occupational Background: Head Start of Lane County Teacher Aide II, also worked in soil and groundwater remediation

Educational Background: California State University, Bakersfield, Bachelor's of Science, Geology

Prior Governmental Experience: none

The Siuslaw News reached out to all eight candidates for Siuslaw School Board of Directors to ask about their views on some of the issues the community is asking us about. These questions cover just a few of the many important topics to consider before voting. More information on these and all candidates for the May 16 Special Election can be found at www.LaneCountyOR.gov/elections.  

The opinions of each of the candidates is their own. In the case of current Siuslaw School District Board Directors Armendariz, Lacouture, Pimlott and Sneddon, these opinions do not necessarily represent those of other Siuslaw School Board directors or the Siuslaw School Board as a governing body.

Do you agree with your fellow candidates who have stated that “these are troubling times for our educational system" and that there has been a recent "steady decline in our Siuslaw School District"? 

if yes - What are your reasons for believing so? How can the district improve? What are some positive things about the Siuslaw School District?

if no - Why do you disagree? Why do you believe there is a portion of the district community who sincerely believes these things?

Lacouture: I do believe that these are troubling times for our educational system. I also think it is important to point out that Siuslaw is not alone here. Depending on the source Oregon ranks somewhere between 38 and 46 out of the 50 states. Surely we can do better. With so many edicts and control measures coming from either Salem or DC, district staff is left chasing down so many clerical and administrative rules and regulations that there is little time left for innovating, and building the strong relationships that can help bolster each student’s success and preparation for their future. The district can improve by not just claiming “local control” and “autonomy” but finding ways to actually function in that manner. Positives are easy to see. The student body is a great group of kids overall. The staff is doing well with what they are having to deal with. The number of teachers, staff, and administrators that are doing their darndest to teach and preserve the good, the true and the beautiful is something that we should all be grateful for.  

Weinstein: One of the reasons these are troubling times for our education system is due to the rise in mental health issues reflected in CDC’s survey regarding ‘Persistent Feelings of Sadness or Hopelessness: www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf

After reading through the Siuslaw School District’s Suicide Prevention Document, it is apparent that the school has trained staff and a clear plan for students willing to seek help. However, the district could improve by screening EVERY student at least once a year through their existing C-SSRS Screener.

“Get politics out of school” is a familiar refrain. What does that mean to you?

Weinstein: Unless it is a class encouraging debate of a student chosen issue, or a social history class, certain topics should be left to families and after-school discussions. Students are welcome to become politically involved in their community outside school hours.

Lacouture: With so much oversight and regulation coming from such high levels, the district is being suffocated with having to implement the bureaucratic ideals of individuals who don’t take the true needs of Florence into consideration because they can’t. A one size fits all approach will not work and is not sustainable. The implementation of social theories and agendas is overriding the core purpose of education. Reading, writing, math, language arts, and history should be taught in an honest simple fashion. Every student is unique and as such, is going to be great at some subjects and may struggle to be proficient in other subjects with teachers being able to innovate and work with each student to reach their potential. 

How can the district get the least engaged student through the doors in the morning and at the same time help the most engaged student reach their highest potential?

Lacouture: Students and humans in general want to be rewarded for the work they put in. The push for equity (equality of outcomes) is a demotivating program and is not reality. Raising the bar and expecting more out of the students will have resounding benefits. Lowering the bar will not necessarily get more students over it.  

I believe we need the freedom for our schools and teachers and families to be innovative. There are so many enrichment opportunities that we can find for our kids if we work together and think big. Enrichment opportunities can help both the unmotivated and motivated kids achieve their potential and increase their interest in school and connect the dots to success beyond K-12 education. Our vocational programs are a good start but I believe there is more that can be done in partnering with the community.

We also need to continue to provide advanced classes and continue to offer more for the more advanced students to ensure their time in high school is of value once core classes are completed.

Incentivizing students to “show up” is a tricky subject. The district can’t and should not replace the parents and family. Much of school attendance comes down to the family getting the kids out the door and taking that responsibility on their own shoulders. However, I do recognize that is easier said than done. But when a crutch is offered by the district taking on the responsibility of getting kids to school that relieves a parent / guardian of that responsibility and therefore removes any accountability.

Weinstein: Siuslaw schools can increase attendance by involving the student in their own academic planning, giving them alternative learning options and having regular counseling appointments with a trained staff member to encourage connection and motivation from struggling students.

The district offers Siuslaw Schools’ Talented and Gifted (TAG) service that includes AP Literature and Composition, Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB), Noetic Math Learning Contest, sports and other opportunities to enrich students’ educational experience.

Charter school in Florence… yes or no?

Weinstein: Charter schools do not have their curriculum dictated by the Oregon Department of Education. A charter school with a comprehensive curriculum that strengthens all people within our community would be a wonderful asset to our area. However, a charter school that does not meet or exceed the curriculum standards of our existing public school or that divides our students, families and citizens would be an unfortunate diversion of our limited resources to our future Siuslaw citizens.

Lacouture: I cannot comment on the charter school coming before the school board as a sitting school board member because I have not heard the presentation yet.  However, in general, I am very much in favor of parents having as many options as possible for their kids’ education.