Voters shake up Newberg School Board following string of controversies

NEWBERG, Ore. (KGW) — In Newberg, an early election count suggests that there will be five new school board members and all of them are endorsed by the Oregon CARES PAC. Three incumbents including Board Chair Dave Brown are losing in the initial results.

Although Newberg is a relatively small town, the school board stayed in the news for the past couple of years due to a string of controversies that started with an effort to ban gay and Black Lives Matter flags in schools in 2021. After that, the board fired one superintendent and hired another. There was a recall election with two conservative members on the ballot. The progressive board members resigned, citing a toxic work environment.

The district’s dealt with quite a lot, which is part of the reason why James Wolfer ran for the school board in the first place.

“You know, I’d love if, after all this … after these few wins that — no offense —  but we’re not doing news articles anymore and just get us out of the news and go back to being a normal, healthy school district that isn’t making national headlines for this or that controversy,” Wolfer said Wednesday.

It appears many in the community agree with him. As of Thursday morning, the latest results show Wolfer four other candidate backed by Oregon Cares winning their bid. The group’s largest donor is the statewide teachers’ union.

Scott Winter, a spokesperson for the PAC, said it formed late last year.

“We helped these candidates to get themselves organized, to develop their messages … It was to support these candidates and their efforts to seek some change.

Winter said that he didn’t personally expect a sweet, but that it was what they were hoping for.

“Well, we’ll see how they do on the school board after they’ve been there a while. School boards are really overrated as far as what you can get done,” said Dave Brown, the current board chair, who is currently losing his seat to Wolfer.

KGW asked Brown if he would have done anything differently over the last four years and leading up to the election.

“I was asked that question at lunch a while back and I said everything … and nothing,” Brown said. “I feel like Newberg had to happen. I don’t know why I feel like the Lord’s got a plan. But somebody had to throw the brick through the window and kind of get this conversation going.”

Brown also said that it’s a “complicated” time to be a school board member.

Wolfer said he’s ready to listen to all families in the community.

“The five of us, they’ve tried to paint us as the progressives or whatever, and it it’s really not. I’m an Independent,” Wolfer said. “We had a Republican, we had three Democrats and all of us had just said we probably don’t agree on some things politically, but that shouldn’t matter. The five of us could work together to return it to normalcy, and return it to being about a healthy school district that’s safe, physically and emotionally for kids.”

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