Tristan Irvin, Tigard-Tualatin School Board, Position 3 – Candidate Interview
By Michael Morrison, WCD Communications Team volunteer
MM: What motivated you to run for a seat on the board?
TI: I knew there would be open seats on the board this cycle and was tempted. But at the time, I felt I wanted to save space for more diverse voices to come forward. Later, as the filing deadline approached, it became apparent that the other candidates for the board seat did not share my passion for inclusion. I feel strongly that students from historically marginalized, under-served communities need a progressive voice supporting them. And, as an educator and parent with three kids in the district, I have a ground-level knowledge of the student experience and what we need to do better.
MM: Your campaign website includes an impressive resume in public service. How have your past experiences prepared you for a role on the Tigard Tualatin School Board?
TI: Having been in the arena of public service for many years, one of the most important skills I’ve learned along the way is perspective-taking. Whether it’s a conversation regarding fiscal stewardship, how to create equitable outcomes, or creating new park spaces in Tigard, the ability to acknowledge, and then discuss, different points of view is paramount. There are always issues and ideas that need work, and it is our responsibility to engage where and when we can. In the last 10 years, I have broadened my involvement in the community. My breadth of service speaks to my commitment to our school district. As an educator, my passion lies in child and education-centered dialogue, policy, and action. And as a school board member, I will be dedicated to amplifying student voices and creating space for important but difficult conversations.
MM: How should the school board go about activating its policies on equity and inclusion?
TI: I appreciate the equity work that has already been done. But in my experience, even the best-intended policies can struggle to get off the page and into people’s lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the objectives. The Student Success Act offers us services and support for our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. We have to do all we can to ensure that these policies are reflected in day-to-day interactions, curriculum, textbooks, every part of the student experience. I want to bring communication and transparency to this process so the board and the district don’t get lulled into believing this problem has been solved. We have a long way to go before we achieve the cultural shift that’s needed.
We are fortunate to have some very engaged student leaders in our district. As a school board member, I would work to ensure that their voices continue to be amplified. Beyond just engaging them around board meetings, I would love to see the Tigard Tualatin Student Union and affinity groups from all of the schools come together regularly with a “State of the Schools” report from their perspective. No amount of policies and resolutions matter if our students are not feeling, hearing, and seeing those words in action every day. We know that racism exists in ALL schools, we know, especially after last spring, that many female students express the clear existence of rape-culture at the high school level, and sexual assault reporting is at-best a flawed process. I am grateful to see that the district has very recently taken action in regards to the latter concern, and am hopeful that it will have a real impact for our students.
MM: Like many school districts everywhere, Tigard-Tualatin would benefit from additional state funding. How would you go about persuading lawmakers to give the district the financial resources it needs?
TI: We need to impress on the state government the importance and breadth of the holistic community benefits our schools provide. COVID-19 has revealed a number of vulnerabilities that extend far beyond the classroom. Food and housing insecurity are two of the most obvious areas where schools have demonstrated their importance to the community and its economy.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the money saved by under-funding education will cost us down the road. We need to secure the resources to provide expanded pre-K, and post high school education, by investing in early learning and strengthening our partnerships with Portland Community College or trade schools. The personal and social benefits of early and post-high school education are well documented as effective tools for improving the school-to-prison pipeline.
MM: How do your values align with the values of the Democratic party?
TI: As a lifelong Democrat and the child of Democrats, my values include Democrats’ community-oriented perspective. I believe that when we fight for our community, we’re fighting for ourselves. We can work for social justice and a minimum wage. We can strive to understand and dismantle historically racist policies and systems, and take action with bold strokes to address them. When the marginalized and under-served in our communities are lifted up, we are all lifted up. As a school board, we have the opportunity to affect significant change in our students’ and their families’ lives.
Learn more about Tristan Irvin, Candidate for Tigard-Tualatin School Board, Position 3, at her campaign website.