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John Wallin's experience, dedication to key issues gives him the edge over an impressive challenger

This article has been updated from its original version.

The tenor of this year's Lake Oswego School Board race has seesawed between encouraging and disconcerting, collegial and accusatory.

On the whole, we've been impressed by the field — which includes incumbent John Wallin and challenger Kelly Calabria vying for Position One while Kirsten Aird runs unopposed for the seat being vacated by board chair Bob Barman — and we applaud the candidates for running (mostly) civil races. Calabria and Wallin — each with the help of a sizable coalition of supporters — put together compelling cases for why they should serve on the board, and we suspect that voters without ties to either candidate will have a difficult choice.

Calabria is a newcomer on the schools scene, but she's spent the majority of her life in Lake Oswego and quickly built an impressive base of support with a message that focused on improved communication and transparency from the school district. Throughout the campaign, she presented herself as an apolitical thinker who would work to bridge gaps as opposed to creating them — in contrast to Wallin, whose endorsements from organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and the Lake Oswego School Employees Association drew criticism from Calabria.

As the founder of the small business Kelly's Jelly, who also works as a real estate agent, Calabria would bring a proven business acumen, an engaging personality and a clear passion for education to the board if she were elected. She has demonstrated an ability to bring people together around a common cause — in this case, her election — and we admire her desire to bridge dated and arbitrary gaps like the one often seen between north and south of the lake.

But while Calabria has served on the Lake Oswego Citizen's Budget Committee and the Natural Resources Advisory Board, she lacks experience at the school district level and at times speaks in generalities that obscure where she truly stands on the issues. We also found her criticisms of Wallin as "the Salem candidate" to be a bit of a stretch, given his long and proven track record as a local volunteer and board member.

As an incumbent, Wallin has a clear track record that is easier to evaluate. Since he was elected in 2015, he's had a stint as board chair (from 2017 to 2018) and helped shepherd the passage of a $187 million school bond in 2017. He was also at the center of the district's recruitment of a new superintendent, and he says his proudest accomplishment was leading the effort to change secondary school start times in accordance with adolescent sleep patterns.

Wallin, who works as director of technical communications for AppNexus, has also been a champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, and voices like his are critical as the district continues to evolve in the wake of racist incidents at schools. He is equally passionate about safety and mental health resources for students, and his institutional knowledge would be key if the district's Learning Levy passes and funding is doled out specifically in those two areas.

We do hope that Wallin is sincere when he says he won't be influenced by sizable donations from the employees association and United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 555, and in endorsing him we're choosing to rely on his record as opposed to his donor and endorsement lists.

Wallin, quite simply, has earned a second term. But both candidates were impressive in their own right, and we hope Calabria will use this campaign as a stepping stone for future involvement with the district. Wallin and Aird — a most impressive candidate in her own right — are well-suited to help lead the district into a promising future.


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