Political Leanings at School
During the January 11th Siuslaw School Board Meeting, the Board of Directors considered applications for the Budget Committee. Upon announcing the full list of candidates, director Frank Armendariz raised concern over one candidate for quote “political leanings that I would be concerned about” and a “politicalization of the process” (56:20).
Director Maureen Miltenberger, when asked about her perspective, stated that she “agreed on the Jennifer Waggoner situation” (58:46). Yes, that is right, the “situation.”
While I know that I have a direct bias, I would like to point out that this individual, Jennifer Waggoner, has 1) been civically engaged throughout her life, and 2) is more than qualified for the role of serving on the budget committee.
At age 23, Jennifer received her Masters in Business Administration from Oregon State University. By age 27, she was the Chief of Staff for then Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, Lynn Snodgrass. Depending on your bent, some might call that “public service.”
Jennifer is a local small business owner, a proud mom, a community volunteer with the Rhododendron Court, and a Siuslaw High School Alumni. Director Armendariz has made it clear that political leanings are okay — as long as they lean his way.
Claire Waggoner Lynn
A Proud Daughter & 2017 Siuslaw High School Graduate
The board meeting described by Lynn began as a discussion of five applicants who had submitted their names for three open positions on the budget committee, two of which were set to expire in 2025, and a third position expiring in June, 2023.
After Board Chair Bob Sneddon opened discussion to the board for comments, Armendariz and Miltenberger made the comments in Lynn’s letter.
Waggoner has been vocal on a variety of district issues over the years, from masking mandates to teachers sharing political views in the classroom. This past October, Waggoner wrote about the inadequacy of high school locker rooms, while also discussing new rules regarding transgender student use of them, mental health counselors and family engagement with the district.
“Families are very discouraged but they don’t feel like they can get anywhere coming to the school board,” Waggoner wrote. “You should have heard the conversations at the home football game on Friday night. I straight up heard ‘The school board won’t listen to us.’ Change that! Engage our families.”
Waggoner did not share specific complaints of those parents in her correspondence.
While reviewing applicants, Board member Brian Lacouture supported Waggoner for a full time position, while member Kady Sneddon called her application “solid.”
Board member John Barnett had no issues with the candidates qualifications, but later addressed the comments by Armendariz and Miltenberger, saying he “definitely respected” their position on Waggoner, while acknowledging Waggoner’s history of comments.
“An olive branch has been extended several times, for her to be able to run for a board position, and that hasn’t been accepted or acted upon,” Barnett said. Because of the limited capacity of the position,“this may be an advantageous time for her to be able to see a little bit more behind the curtain,” which in turn could “help her to be able to be a little bit more cohesive.”
He then nominated Waggoner’s for Position One, the shorter of the three open positions. Armendariz seconded the nomination, and Waggoner was approved unanimously.
Waggoner was not present at the meeting to provide comment.
On Jan. 13, Siuslaw News received Lynn’s letter, and began reaching out to those involved, including Miltenberger, who spoke to Siuslaw News as an individual, not a member of the board.
According to Miltenberger, she had coffee with Waggoner, where they had “a very pleasant conversation,” in which she apologized to Waggoner for the board meeting comments.
“We covered a lot of ground as far as where each one of us is coming from. We reached a middle ground on how to keep communication up. - I would like to keep communication up with her,” she said. “And if there’s people in the community that have concerns, I would be interested in doing what I can.”
Miltenberger believed the board had a balance of points of view, and has been seeking community input, including an upcoming survey the school is working with Lane ESD. Current drafts of the survey include sections for parents and caregivers, students, and community members without children in the district.
To help encourage the honest, open and respectful discussion on the challenges and accomplishments of the district that both Miltenberger and Waggoner mentioned, Siuslaw News also invites all of those with a stake in the district to share their experiences with the district via letters to the Editor. Preference will be given to current students, their parents and caregivers, staff and volunteers. Only first person accounts will be accepted, and anonymous submissions will not be allowed.
Further publications guidelines, and a portal to submit letters, visit www.cognitoforms.com/SiuslawNews1/SubmitALetterToTheEditor.