I am Steve Winfree and I ask for your vote for the Board of Directors of the Sunnyside School District.
The Daily Sun News has invited me and my opponent, and friend, Mary Rita Rohde, to tell you, the voters, why we want to be a Director and to state our qualifications for the position. As you evaluate our priorities and qualifications, please keep in mind the requirements for the position. The role of a director is not to administer or operate the schools. Rather, it is to decide what is needed, and to work with the superintendent and staff who determine how to accomplish what is needed.
The School District needs board members with different expertise to give it perspective for goal setting and planning. The superintendent and staff have a great deal of expertise in educating children. What boards of directors provide, hopefully, is expertise in business, serving on other boards, and input from a community perspective.
It is important for board members to understand their primary role is to oversee the financial viability of the school district and provide policy guidance to the superintendent. It is equally important for directors to refrain from interjecting their personal agenda.
My opponent offers education experience. I offer experience in business and service on other boards. What both my opponent and I agree on is the pursuit of the best education we can provide our community’s children.
A brief background:
I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and graduated from high school there. I attended the University of Oregon, getting an undergraduate degree in accounting and business statistics, and, after military service, I returned to the U of O to get a law degree. I served as an officer in the USAF, where I participated in management of worldwide communication systems.
My wife, Linda, and I came to Sunnyside in 1976, after two years practicing law in Oregon. We raised our two sons here, and after high school, they attended and graduated from college. I am pleased to report that their education in the Sunnyside School District educational system prepared them well for college and their professional careers. I am a member of the Sunnyside Presbyterian Church and have served in leadership in the Church and on committees in the denomination. I served on the board of directors of the Lower Valley Hospice. I am an active member of Rotary with 35 years of service.
My business experience:
I have practiced law in Sunnyside for 37 years, most of that time with my partner, Paul Hart, as the Hart and Winfree firm, and now as part of the Halverson Northwest Law Group. Like many of you, I have managed a small business and invested in this community. My practice is generally commercial, real estate and estate planning.
However, my work most closely connected to the School Board position is that I have been privileged to work with the Port of Sunnyside and Sunnyside Community Hospital. For 37 years I have participated with and advised the boards of the Port and the Hospital on the very issues the School District faces regularly, such as: Open Public Meeting and Public Records laws; public financing; budgeting and finance; public construction projects; employment law and policies; planning and acquisition of real estate; and conflict resolution.
My work with the Port includes recruiting of businesses that typically look at the tax rates for financial feasibility and look at the quality of the schools and hospital because it affects the lives of their employees. The schools are the heart and soul of a community, and the success of our students is essential to both the students and the community.
My connection to the Schools:
My relationship with the School District relates back to the early 1980’s when I was asked to chair a citizen’s committee for improvement to the school facilities. From that time on I have co-chaired almost all of the bond and levy issues for the School District. For a number of years I have served on and currently chair a committee which helps review and develop school policies, especially regarding matters relating to kids, parents and teachers. I served on the Athletic Advisory Board governing extracurricular activities. Last, but not least, I have volunteered in a classroom for several years.
My priorities for the Schools:
First, I wholeheartedly support the District vision: All students will be successful. Everything we do must be done for the benefit and success of the students.
With that in mind:
I support the emphasis on professional development of teachers, principals and administration. The state has adopted the common core curriculum and, more recently, measures to promote and measure professional development. There is nothing more directly connected to the success of students than the professional development of their teachers. The District has in-service training days and professional learning communities within schools with frequent meetings to focus on instruction and student achievement. I support continuing to devote resources to this effort.
I will continue the prudent financial planning of levies and bonds which take advantage of the equalization money from the State for levies, and the participation from the State for capital improvements. The District has maintained a consistent levy rate over the last 30 years or so, which is very important for farmers and industrial development. The levy rate is also the second lowest in the county, which indicates we are getting good value for the money spent.
I support the emphasis on safe schools. The board and administration are diligently working to assure that schools are safe, not just from outside threats, but within the student population. I have been a part of Sunnyside Connects, consisting of representatives from the School District, the City, the Port and the Hospital, which has worked to coordinate efforts for gang reduction, health initiatives and forming a community coalition which is now Sunnyside United.
I do not have an agenda or plan changes. I believe the School District has been fiscally responsible, and I will continue to support that. I will not suggest the District should add resources or personnel without also telling you what will be cut or how revenue will be raised.
As I near the end of my law career, it is the right time for me to put the experience and skills I have acquired to the benefit of the community. I believe I can offer expertise not presently available to the School District.
It is the right experience at the right time. I ask for your support and your vote for School Board Director.