Board races getting started

By Dick Mason, The Observer May 06, 2013 11:42 am

Four vying for two seats on La Grande School Board 

By Dick Mason/The Observer

Two of the three races for positions on the La Grande School Board are contested. 

Incumbent Robin Maille is being challenged by Christopher Woodworth for the Zone 3, Position 5 spot, and Dayneen Koopman and Mike Gekas are vying for the Zone 3, Position 4 seat. 

Maille is completing her eighth month on the board. She was appointed to her position in late September to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Michael Berglund. He stepped down in August because he was moving to Cove.

Maille and her husband, Peter, an economics professor at Eastern Oregon University, moved to La Grande from West Virginia in 2008. Maille has a master’s degree in forestry from Yale University, a master’s in education from West Virginia University and a bachelor of arts degree in comparative sociology from the University of Puget Sound.

Maille was a substitute teacher in the La Grande School District in 2008-09, working at Central Elementary, La Grande Middle School and La Grande High School. Maille said she has enjoyed the time she has served on the school board.

“It has been very interesting. It has given me a much better understanding of the schools,” she said. 

Woodworth, Maille’s opponent, moved to La Grande three years ago from New Mexico. He has worked as a general surgeon at Grande Ronde Hospital since that time. Woodworth is a 1990 graduate of New York Medical College. 

Woodworth’s four oldest children are out of high school and he is home schooling his four youngest. He is home schooling his children because he wants to provide them with a Christ-centered education. His children do participate in varsity sports and musical performances at La Grande High School. 

Woodworth stressed that he is a supporter of
La Grande’s public schools. 

“I want to have strong public schools because the majority of our citizens do not have the option of home schooling or private schools,” Woodworth said. 

 Woodworth believes strongly in the value of vocational technical programs and said that as a board member he would work to restore vocational programs cut back in recent years because of budget problems.

Woodworth said he would strive to get along with others while striving for his goals.

 “I am a peacemaker at heart and understand when compromise is necessary,” he said in a written statement. 

Koopman and Gekas are vying to succeed incumbent John Sprenger, who was elected in 2009 and did not file for re-election to the Zone 3, Position 4 berth.

Gekas has worked as a union representative for the Maintenance of Way Employees Division of Union Pacific Railroad since 2006. Maintenance of Way employees are those who care for the railroad’s tracks.

Gekas earlier worked for four years in Washington, D.C., dealing with legislation related to labor issues. He lobbied Congress for a portion of the time he was in the nation’s capital. 

Gekas believes his job experience would serve him well as a school board member He explained that it has given him insight into how the legislative process works. Gekas said so much of what schools can and cannot do is now determined by the Legislature. 

Gekas also noted that his experience as a union representative would assist him when the board negotiates contracts with its teachers and classified staff, which are both represented by unions. 

Gekas has no children but he someday hopes to start a family.

“When I do have children and they are in La Grande’s educational system, I would like them to have the best education they possibly can,” he said.

Koopman, a mental health clinician, has worked for the Center for Human Development for 20 years. 

Koopman has connections to the La Grande School District, serving as an officer for Willow Elementary School’s PTA and is the parent of two sons and a daughter, all graduates of La Grande High School. Koopman, who earlier served as a Cub Scout den mother, wants to regain her connection to the
La Grande School District.

“I miss the involvement. The schools were such a good places for my children,” Koopman said. “They were an important part of my children’s lives and my life.”

She noted that she also was inspired to run because of her father, who was a member of the school board in Monument, where she grew up.

“I was proud that he served on the school board,” she said.

Koopman has a master of arts counseling in psychology degree and bachelor’s degree in anthropology-sociology from Eastern Oregon
University.