2023 School Board Election Candidates


Aishiki Nag

During the 2023 TTSD School Board Debate, the five board candidates begin with opening remarks and introductions.

By Aishiki Nag, Staff Writer

     Tigard-Tualatin School Board has three open seats and the spring election has quickly become competitive due to the upcoming challenges. The district is currently struggling with a revenue deficit, lower performance levels on state benchmark tests, and safety threats. Each candidate has come to the table with their own ideas to help. 

     There has been a massive overturn in the last year, with the past board member Marvin Lynn who had resigned in a private session, and the past Board Chair Ben Bowman, who was recently elected as HD 25’s State Representative. There were interim interviews to temporarily fill Lynn’s position until the May 16th election, when the board unanimously appointed Crystal Weston. 

     During the 2023 School Board Debate sponsored by the current district, the public listened and evaluated the policy, background, and motives of the candidates running. Questions were on many topics including school safety, improving academic performance, addressing budget shortfalls, students’ rights, and classified and certified staff. They were given two minutes to address the questions collected by the community, and the youth-oriented questions by Youth School Board Representatives Aishiki Nag and Owen Ahlbrecht. 


Position Two – Kristen Miles

     Kristen Miles began as a pre-K teacher and eventually moved into serving as an administrator position in one of the largest districts within the State. She currently travels around Oregon advising school boards on professional development and assisting superintendents with collaborative governance. Her priorities for the district include good governance and collaboration with the community, supporting social-emotional health to strengthen mental health access for students, and focusing on inclusion, equity, and access for all students in the classroom. 

     Representative Bowman stated during his endorsement, “Kristen is a mom and an education expert with deep experience in TTSD–she will excel as a school board member. She will be a

fierce advocate for students. Our community is fortunate that Kristen stepped up to run.”

     Student Representative Owen Ahlbrecht’s question revolved around TTSDs’ long-term priority of cultivating an environment of physical and psychological safety in schools and asked the candidates what it had meant to them. Miles had responded, “[For me] it all comes down to that social-emotional health and learning piece when students feel belonging when they feel included, when they feel like they can show up as their true authentic selves, they can feel safe at school.” She had connected this back to her commitment to providing equitable access to opportunity and care in an educational environment. 


Position Four – Jill Zurshmide

Jill Zurshmide is running for re-election for her 5th term on the Tigard Tualatin School Board and wants to continue her thorough work in the district, working on recovering from Pandemic era learning loss, addressing the wide range of social and emotional needs for students, and maintaining a focus on the rigorous and diverse academic curriculum. During her time as a school board member, she has noted several remarkable milestones, including an all-time graduation record for Tualatin High School, with 95% of seniors receiving diplomas, as well as establishing the Spanish language immersion program from kindergarten through high school. 

     During the debate, Zurshmede was given a chance to speak on the adopted district strategic plan where she had focused on talent. She pointed out that only 24% of the TTSD workforce is diverse, and 48% of the student body is diverse, and she wants to work on creating better representation within classrooms. She stated, “It is important for a student sitting in a classroom to see a teacher who looks like them … I challenge those who are shaking their head at this, that maybe you haven’t been in the schools and talked to students about this, students of color, representation matters.” During this particular comment, Zurshmede received heckling comments from the crowd. 


Position Four – Gregory A. Horner

     Gregory Horner currently lives in Tualatin and works as an engineer, and has no former government experience. He is running for the school board position in order to cultivate a “different kind of district”, focusing on academics geared toward the shifting economy and the job market. In his priorities stated in the Washington County Voters Pamphlet, he had mentioned increasing parental rights within the district, teaching common principles to foster unity, and letting students advance when they have proven competence in a given subject area. He has shown a repeated urgency to hold students to a rigorous academic standard, with an emphasis on teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic. 


     During the opening round of the debate he stated, “I’ve noticed that in the decade-plus that I’ve attended, there has been a significant shift away from academic performance and focus, to more abstract ideas that are not resulting in children learning to be adults. I would like to address those in the District by reprioritizing those.”


Position Five – Crystal Weston

     Crystal Weston has extensive experience working with budgets and policies and served in various community roles addressing mental health, substance abuse prevention, affordable housing, child welfare, and the educational system. Her priorities for the school board include leading with evidence-decision-making practices using top-notch research, a strong belief in the potential of all young people and cultivating environments where they can thrive and delivering high-quality education.  

     When asked about ensuring equitable access to education she said that, “It can work, and we should believe that it works, and we shouldn’t blame some groups of people for failing to achieve an outcome that I know we can deliver”. She believes in the inherent potential of all the young people in our districts and wants to make sure that all students can succeed.


Position Five – Wendy O’Riley

     Wendy O’Riley is a graduate of Oregon State University, with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in psychology. She lives in Tualatin with her husband and son, and had recalled feeling disappointed with the school district’s performance, and had said “Enough is enough” and decided to join the fight. She is concerned about the requirements of students’ academic performance going down and wants to advocate for stronger graduation requirements. She doesn’t feel that students are prepared for a global stage in education, and wants to create stricter enforcement for academic performance. In her campaign biography for the Washington Country Pamphlet, she ends the paragraph by stating, “It is time for parents to remind the school board they work for parents, not the  other way around.”

     Student Representative Aishiki Nag had asked about the district’s commitment to protecting students’ educational rights to learn, and their commitment to protecting educational access, regarding the recent book ban in Canby. O’Riley had come out against book bans, however, she had mentioned creating an “opting-in” program, which would allow parents to review the materials taught in class in order to choose whether or not their student should be allowed to participate. She had stated, “I think parents would be a lot more comfortable, I know I would, if I knew what the books were and I had a chance to scan them over and go ‘you know that’s really not part of our religion or family values’”. 

     School Board elections are crucial in addressing student concerns and students needs, ultimately serving the student body. Many candidates are opposed to that ideology and undermine the power that students bring to the conversation. Student votes bring change and ultimately accountability to board members to collectively represent the student body so make sure to vote by May 16.