Oregon City School Board still divided on 4-3 split

BCBE Board Meeting

Oregon City’s new tradition is a 4-3 vote to select the chair and vice-chair of the school board, with this year repeating the 2021 post-election pattern.

Pamela White, an OC School Board member since 2019 who was reelected this May, was sworn in alongside three fellow progressive board members on July 10. By 4-3 votes, White was appointed as board chair and her running mate Heidi Blackwell was named vice-chair.

Although he voted for himself as chair, Michael Canchola, who served as vice-chair from 2021-23, said that he and White would both serve the district well as chair.

“Both of us have a heart for kids, and we will work collaboratively as we have in the past,” Canchola said.

But board member Debbie Hays called the new progressive majority “hypocritical” for appointing among newly elected board members. Hays was among the conservatives who took over the board in 2021 and upended the previous tradition with a 4-3 vote to select Mandi Philpott as chair.

Previous tradition stated OC School Board chairs served at least a year as vice-chair. With the political pendulum swinging back to the progressive column this year, a new tradition of 4-3 votes has been established.

Hays called into question the qualifications of new chairperson office holders, saying Philpott as an attorney knew rules for running meetings. Other school board members said that Blackwell holds a Ph.D. in education as qualification to hold the vice-chair position, while White’s four years in an OCSD public office exceeds any of the conservative OC School Board members’ two years.

Hays then called for the board to be “equally divided in regards to our thoughts and processes” in pushing for Canchola to at least remain as vice-chair.

“It’s going to be constant battle when we should be focusing on, foremost or most importantly, the children,” Hays said.

In a public statement following her appointment as chair, White said that the school board would remain focused on children.

“It’s an honor to be elected chair, and I will do my best,” White said.


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