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Board challenge – Watts takes on Cramer for North Santiam seat

North Santiam School District board member Erin Cramer is being challenged for a second term in Position 2, Zone 2 by Amy McKenzie Watts in the May 16 election.

Cramer was elected in 2019, while Watts is making a second try for a board seat.

Three other incumbents are running unopposed in the May 16 election: Mike Wagner (Position 4, Zone 3), Mark Henderson (Position 5, at-large No. 1) and Coral Ford (Position 6, Zone 2. 

Three other board members, Chair Alisha Oliver (Position 7, at-large No. 2), Laura Wipper (Position 3, Zone 2) and Mackenzie Strawn (Position 1, Zone 1), do not face the voters until 2025.

Cramer is the director of medical clinics at Santiam Hospital. Watts is a web designer and former sixth grade teacher at an outdoor science school in California who also has served on the Stayton Planning Commission.

Watts said she has gained far more experience since her earlier run.

Amy McKenzie Watts
Amy McKenzie Watts

“When I ran before, it was the first time I ran for any public service position,” she told Our Town. “Now I serve on the Stayton Planning Commission, am an elected precinct committee chairperson, and have been attending board meetings for the last two years. With the experience of running for the NSSD school board previously and from holding other offices, I have gained confidence in my qualifications and positions.”

Cramer described his first term by noting that “as a board, I’m really proud of how we grew together into a cohesive team of people foremost interested in doing what’s best for kids, rather than the politics of the day.

“As a district, we’ve worked to advance our kids through support of excellent teachers, updated curricula, and expanded offerings such as CTE, the arts, and alternative education that really try to provide great pathways for preparing all of our kids for what their next steps will be.”

Watts said her key goals were to “empower parents, keep kids safe, and ensure quality education [by] engaging the parents and the rest of the community by listening to and acting on their input. I especially want to reach the under-represented and under-served portions of the community.

“It takes a team to have a successful school system, and I want everyone to have the ability to be heard and to be involved. When I have attended the school board meetings, most times there are very few parents or other community members attending.”

Erin Cramer
Erin Cramer

In looking ahead Cramer noted the importance of hiring Lee Loving as superintendent. Loving is finishing up his first school year at the helm after taking over when Andy Gardener left the superintendent in Albany.

“We selected a successor to a very successful long-term superintendent,” Cramer said. “We have new leadership, and it’s good leadership, learning about our communities. Economic uncertainty and the aging infrastructure of our schools underpin our conversations frequently.

“Restoring the faith and trust of a large number of our citizens is important too, and the board is well positioned to support all of the staff in our district who work so hard every day to develop the academic, social, and emotional learning and intelligence of our 2,000-plus students.”

Watts said that she hopes to ensure better communication with the public and to get students more involved in district work if elected.

“Along with encouraging open dialogue between parents and community members and the board members, I would find guidelines  acceptable to our smaller community rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach from other districts to handle the challenges we will face in the future,” she said. “I would advertise meetings better and seek out more public input by personally and publicly inviting all to get involved in an open dialogue with the school board.

“I also would create rotating-member student peer accountability and review groups for junior high and high school for discussing curriculum and student issues. The focus would be to increase the input of the students and build the students’ leadership skills, goal ownership, and self-responsibility.”

Cramer, meanwhile, closed by saying,   “I appreciate the opportunity to serve the community in this way. NSSD has played an outsized role in the growth and development of both my sons, and I’d like to think my participation on the board over the past four years was beneficial to the team and to the community. I enjoy the work and being part of such a success, and hope the voters feel returning me to the board is the best decision for the kids and the community.”

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