The school board this week will appoint someone to fill the vacant seat previously held by Betty Carstensen, who died Sept. 5 following a stroke.
Carstensen, 85, was finishing her fourth term on the board when she died. She was running for re-election on the Nov. 3 ballot.
“We rescheduled our regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday to Sept. 16,” said School Board President Jeff Ziviski.
“The law requires the board to act to fill the vacancy at its next regular meeting, which is held at least 10 days after the vacancy occurs,” said Ziviski.
The person who is appointed to the seat will fill the remainder of Carstensen’s term, which is through December 31, he said.
“Essentially, it’s a three-and-a-half month appointment,” he said.
Instead of five candidates running for three seats on the board this November, four will be on the ballot.
Carstensen was consistently the top vote getter when she was elected to the board.
Superintendent Mike Zalar called school board members on Saturday to inform them of Carstenson’s death.
“Her family found her Saturday morning at her home when they went to pick her up for some activity and they took her to the hospital,” said Ziviski.
“It was a shock,” added Ziviski. “It was totally unexpected.”
He last saw Carstensen, who was a board member since 1993, at a school board meeting on Aug. 19. She seemed healthy and in good spirits, he said.
“If I did as much as she did, I would be tired at the end of the day,” Ziviski said of Carstensen’s seemingly boundless energy.
“She acted like she was 40-years-old. She lived on her own, drove everywhere, she was completely with it,” he said. “I can only hope to be as active when I’m at that age.”
She was also one of the most active board members the district had in recent memory, said Ziviksi.
“By far, she was one of the greatest volunteers within the district,” said Ziviski. “She was in one of the schools every day reading or doing some activity with the children, anything she could do to help the children. The board is going to miss the experience, the knowledge and devotion to education she brought to the table. As a district, we’re going to miss her dedication to helping children any way she could by volunteering on an endless basis.”
Legacy of excellence
Zalar also remembered Carstensen fondly.
“The Jerusalem Township and Oregon school community have lost a great advocate for children,” he said. “As a board member, Betty provided steady leadership to the district for many years. She was a strong proponent of literacy education and spent many hours volunteering her time reading to elementary students. Betty lived a life that modeled the positive impact that education can have on a person.”
Zalar said Carstensen had “a servant’s heart.”
“Her only motivation for serving on the board was to help other people. She actively supported agricultural and environmental education at Clay High School. Betty also was a strong advocate for student involvement in extra-curricular activities. She enjoyed attending school activities such as boys and girls athletic events as well as band, choir, and the performing arts,” said Zalar.
“Betty was one of those rare individuals that everybody loved and respected,” he continued. “I personally have never heard anyone say anything bad about Betty. That is unusual in this day and age. I think this is because her character was above reproach and her motives were always pure. She leaves a legacy of excellence in this community that will continue through her family, friends, and all of the others whose lives she touched. Betty may be gone physically but her spirit will live on in our school community.”
Last year, the library at the new Coy Elementary School on Pickle Road was renamed the Betty Carstensen Library.
Carstensen was involved in the Oregon City Schools District for over 50 years. After she helped establish the first cafeteria at Jerusalem Elementary School in 1950, she concentrated on raising and educating her family on a 275-acre farm. Her husband, Bill, a farmer and former director of the Lucas County Soil and Conservation District, passed away in 1992.
Carstensen was also a member of the Lucas County Soil and Conservation District at the time of her passing.
Surviving are her daughter, Patricia; sons William, Richard, Charles and Robert; and sister, June Cox and five grandchildren.