Melissa Potter, Beaverton School District – Candidate Interview
By George Hough, Washington County Dems Communications Team
WCD: How do your values and those of the Democratic Party align?
MP: That’s a good question. We are aligned in our basic premise that each voice is valued as we make our community welcoming and inclusive. While the Democratic Party understandably and rightfully has a more elaborate platform than a school board race, we both value education and ensuring schools are places where our students can feel welcomed, feel affirmed for who they are, feel safe and thrive.
WCD: If you are elected, what is the one specific project or goal you most want to accomplish?
MP: It is keeping students at the center of all our decision-making. That’s my driving force, and it will be my commitment to everything that comes in front of us as school board members. It’s getting past the politics, getting past the bureaucracy, and focusing on students. So, that’s my commitment to myself and to our community. It is keeping our students at the center of the conversation. I know some people are looking for a policy statement- and that’s it.
WCD: Which elected official do you most admire and why?
MP: My first one is US Representative Suzanne Bonamici. I have interacted with her professionally, and I really admire her work with education and her thoughtfulness in diving deeper into the nuances of what makes pockets of excellence excellent. I also appreciate hearing her ideas on how to broaden the impact of these pockets and scale these opportunities.
Another person I respect, because I geek out every time I read his newsletter, is State Senator Michael Denbrow. He writes informative newsletters that explain what is happening and his role. He has been a respected member of the Senate Education Committee for years. He actively serves our communities, on behalf of our students, in really positive ways. While I have never actually met him, I have admired his work and his advocacy for education, as have other people whose opinions I respect.
WCD: What do you feel is the most important responsibility of the position you are running for?
MP: Well, it goes back to what we talked about before; keeping the students at the center of decision-making is easily our most important work. We need to advocate for students based on evidence-based approaches. While it sounds easy, sometimes it is hard to do when adult fears/needs, politics or bureaucracy becomes the focus. We can overcome this by honoring the expertise of our educators and listening to the voices of our students and community.
WCD: How will you navigate animosity at school board meetings if it occurs?
MP: Our Board has done a good job of setting up protocols to ensure a fair, respectful and equitable process for community members to address the Board. For example, everyone who wants to speak is allocated two minutes to present their issue. The Board does not respond to presenters but assigns someone to get back to them within the week.
When a presenter or group of audience members exhibits anger or animosity, it is usually because they feel strongly about an issue or the needs of their children are not being met. As a Board member, it is my responsibility to listen and to put aside my own assumptions. I will honor the fact that they came before the Board and listen for potential areas of common ground that will improve outcomes for students.
Learn more about Melissa Potter, Candidate for Beaverton School District, Zone 3, at her campaign website.