The Oregon school board last Tuesday voted 5-0 for P.J. Kapfhammer to be president of the board.
Dick Gabel was president until he resigned recently due to health issues. The board also voted for board member Diane Gadus, who had been acting president, as vice president of the board.
“I love this district and have spent my entire life in this community,” Kapfhammer said in a press release issued by the school district. “The schools have been good to me and helped prepare me for success as a businessman. I am honored to be elected President of the Oregon City Schools Board of Education. We now have a new board and I am looking forward to providing the leadership necessary to move this district forward.”
Kapfhammer was elected last November to the board on a platform of transparency and change in the district. He was particularly vocal in his opposition to the board for approving raises for administrators, including Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar, at a time when the district was financially strapped and the board had eliminated busing for Clay High School students.
Since November, Kapfhammer has been caught up in verbal disputes with Gabel and Gadus about policy. Earlier this year, Gadus even filed a complaint against Kapfhammer, alleging he had said “I’m going to kick your ass,” following a particularly heated argument at a policy meeting. Kapfhammer denied it. After Gabel resigned last month and a new board member was appointed to the board, tempers cooled and board members took the rare opportunity to mend fences. In an effort to move the district forward and put the conflict behind them, Gadus on Tuesday made the motion to make Kapfhammer president.
“From the time I was elected to be on the board, making changes was always a top priority to keep our district intact,” Gadus told The Press after the meeting. “We’re moving in that direction, but with school funding the way it is, and with kids at the forefront, we need to move quicker.”
Gadus cited Kapfhammer’s experience as a businessman as one of the reasons she voted for him to be president.
“Sometimes, a business mentality is needed to move the district forward,” said Gadus. “The business of education is quite different than the corporate world. We need to keep that forward momentum. P.J. wants to initiate change just as quickly as other board members. Sometimes it takes the unity of everyone instead of the status quo mentality. Everyone needs to move forward. All board members want to make the changes, but the business environment responds a lot more quickly than an educational environment. To bring that together, there are no issues with relationships with board members. The issues we’re all facing have to do with our education system. We all want unity and that was important to show.”
Board member Jeff Ziviski, who also campaigned on a similar platform as Kapfhammer before he was elected to the board last November, said he was pleased by the prospect of a united board.
“The community wants change. For the board to start that process, we have to change. P.J. will lead us to the next phase to improve the district. In the last two months, he’s stepped up as a leader of the school board. He’s the perfect candidate to heal the board,” said Ziviski.
“Now, the board can work together and start improving, making decisions to move this district forward in a positive direction,” Ziviski added. “The community wants change and improvement now. The times of fighting are over.”
Kapfhammer told The Press after the meeting that the board is already “in tune” with each other.
“We don’t agree with everything, but we work through it,” said Kapfhammer. “We don’t get petty. We’re definitely on a different standard now. This board is working real well together. The district is going to find a better finished product - in our policies and in being accountable. The only place we can go is up, and very quickly. I think you’re going to see a board that listens and involves the community. We will have 100 percent transparency.”