Editor’s Note: This is the last in our series of articles on the candidates who participated in a forum held at the Oroville American Legion Hall on Oct. 5. On hand to introduce themselves and answer questions from the audience were the three candidates running for Oroville School Board Position 5 – Debra Nesper, Bryan Zeski and write-in candidate Adam Breardsley. Most voters should have received their ballots in the mail.
Each candidate was asked to introduce themselves and then they were asked several questions from the audience.
Hello, I’m Bryan Zeski. I was in the Army for 22 years. So, while I was in the Army I also got married and we had five kids that we raised through five different states and South Korea. We raised them through five very different school systems. So, there is that experience there. So after 22 years I retired and I thought it’s about time to do something else.
So that’s when we moved to Oroville. My wife got hired as the science teacher at the middle school. So, we moved up here and bought a house. I was already retired and did bird watching and fishing and all that good stuff, but it quickly became apparent, you know what, there’s other things that need to be done.
I came in as a teacher shortly after school started. All grade levels at the high school and middle school. That’s when I thought, we have things we can do to bring more qualified teachers and keep them here. Toward the end of the school year last year, we had enough teachers who were leaving, and I thought hey maybe we should try and keep more. Maybe we could find a way to do that.
So, part of my platform is how do we look at keeping teachers around more. How do we get them the job security and confidence they’ll be here next year? After I started doing this, after I put my hat in the ring, I started talking to different teachers I hadn’t talked to before. Teachers who came from the community, teachers who had just left, teachers who had left a little while ago and teachers who had retired and still lived in the area. There was a common theme of, hey you know, Oroville’s great, the school is great, and the kids are great, but we have a little bit of a disconnect between the teachers and going up the chain as to what’s going on.
So the short version is, I’m here to help teachers and teachers are the backbone of the schools and that’s where we really make the difference in terms of getting the best quality education for our buck.
I’m Deb Nesper. I have been in this area for almost 20 years, my husband has been up in this area with family and friends since 1968/69. We’ve raised six kids, 12 grandkids. We raised our last kid up here, we had five of our six kids graduate public school, one from Oroville.
I have been a para sub and a sub teacher. I have been teaching at home as well as several different school districts. It just depends on the needs of my children and other children, that’s what I was doing.
So, I bring to you guys three out of the four schools that have been appointed by the government of Washington State. I have been versed in private, public and home school. There is a charter school as well that they offer in Washington state. So, I believe that I lots and lots to offer to our school district. And because I’m a grandparent and because I have been here for a long time and involved with the community, everything from Chesaw to May Day and sports. I see a lot of things that can be improved and I’m encouraged and that’s why I’m running for school board.
I’m Adam Beardsley, I’m your write-in candidate. We moved here in 1989 from Kalispel, Montana. My dad taught school at Oroville for 22, 23 years. I started grade school here, went through middle school. I graduated in 1999.
A really good buddy of mine had this bright idea and said why don’t we join the Navy. Let’s go be CBs. I said cool, let’s do it. When we showed up to commit, I was the only guy there. Apparently, he forgot to sign up so. I went through boot camp; my first duty station was in San Deigo. I’ve been on five of seven continents. I spent 22 years doing combat construction all over the world. My last duty station was Iwakuma, Japan. That was a real eye-opener for me so I was responsible for facilities and maintenance and sustained a $32 billion air station. When I got the job, I had no idea what I was doing. But 14 hours in front of a computer screen later I still didn’t know what I was doing. But I had the paper qualifications to continue it.
It worked out we did a lot of good things over there. My wife and both my sons were over there. They went to school there and I learned different aspects of the way the teachers teach over there compared to stateside.
Kids were important. I retired in 2021 and it was my wife’s turn to decide where we live since I had dragged her all over the place. So, we decided to move back here. Both my sons are in school, my nephews are in school and I have a couple of cousins in school, young cousins.
What I bring to the table, I have a real outside approach to things. I try not to deep dive into things and get lost. I think the kids, the teachers, and the administration all have to have a healthy balance. In order to achieve that we all have to be able to communicate with one another. Is it something that’s going to happen overnight? I don’t know but I think there’s ways to approach it and I’ll do my best to figure out how to get it going.
Please explain your involvement in each of the schools of our district:
Currently, I am the assistant football coach for the Oroville High School. I also help out with the baseball team in the spring, the Babe Ruth team also in the spring. Also, the Little League kids and the Pee Wee team, the little kids baseball.
My involvement as I explained earlier is I’m a substitute teacher at the high school this year and last year, across different grade levels, both middle school and high school.
Last year toward the end of the year they were short a junior high track coach. I said alright, I’ve never done track and field before, but we can do that. So, we did and we all had a great time. They said ‘hey, do you want to do this again’ so I look forward to being the track coach again next year.
Toward the end of last school year, they said they had a shortage of umpires. So, I looked at the umpire stuff, went online and figured it out how to be an umpire. I became an umpire for our school home games and also for the other schools in our area.
My experience has been primarily in middle school and high school, pretty extensive there. My experience at the elementary school is a couple of times we had games that we played there, volleyball and basketball. Not as much as I should have at the elementary school.
I’m involved in each of the schools in the district through the community – all of the children, all the parents and I’m involved in their life. And that’s how I’m involved in the district. I know children and grandchildren, all through the hills and down in the valley. Personally, going to the games and their recitals, whatever they’re involved with I’m like a grandma to a lot of them. So, that’s how I’m involved in our district.
A school board is a ruling body of five people, individual members don’t have decision-making authority. What skills, as an individual, would you bring to this decision-making body?
Since I have six children and I have 12 grandchildren and I have a husband that I get to deal with every day. That’s awesome. I believe that as an individual I can give my opinion and stand on it for the community. Because I have so many different children that I have dealt with I think that’s a huge skill in order to understand where everybody is coming from to hear their needs and help them come up with a solution. So I believe that’s a very, very, very high need because they can call and you can listen and help communicate. Communicate your ideas and listen to other people’s ideas and then we can all feel better and come up with solutions.
That’s a really good question, because school board members individually don’t have any power or authority to do anything. How much can you bring new ideas and have those as a school board member and how do you listen to what they have to say and come to a consensus on what’s best for the students and the district as a whole?
So, what skills do I have that are made for that? So, 22 years in the military, it requires a lot of skills, interpersonal skills, getting along with people, working as a team. And bringing people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds, bringing them together for a common goal. On the school board, the common goal is the students. Bringing that together, the skill set I bring is bringing together people towards a common goal.
A lot of my career was spent in situations, ideally just like the school board is. I’m very level-headed. Nine times out of ten I’m calm under pressure. I’m unbiased. I would just encourage communication back and forth until we can come to a consensus.
What is one challenge you feel you will see if elected?
That’s a really good question. I really don’t know how to put my thumb on that one. I guess I would say my biggest concern and the challenge we are facing is the school continuing to operate efficiently and effectively as time moves on. That we don’t lose the momentum that our school system has between its students and its teachers. I would like to see that continue to travel forward and not revert backward.
I can think of a few. I believe that declining test scores and facing that and how to face that. Encouraging that. Maybe incorporating academics in sports, to encourage academics and spirit of the children. Bringing out their spirit and encouraging them. I think that would really help with declining scores in our school district and somehow marry those two together to encourage them.
I think one challenge that will definitely come up and I know we can fix is how we strengthen the ties and the communications we had between the school district and the community. I know the district has been working on that. I know COVID kind of shut things down and now we have been rebuilding that and rebuilding the community and district communications and to have the community and district have collaborations as they go along. That’s one challenge we’re going to continue to have. And I think one way to solve that is we can get more people into our board meetings. There’s usually 15 to 20 people out there, it’s nice, mostly the same people that come and there’s some strangers that come in and out.
One thing we do have a lot of is we have a lot of students that drive or take the bus and they go for 45 minutes, an hour or an hour and a half sometimes. Some of our families are very rural, they’re out in the mountains and they have and the parents can come in to go to school board meetings. We have the technology; we have the tools – during COVID they were able to make the school board meetings and the school made it available to those families. We had Zoom right here. That’s one challenge we could make a lot of headway on in a very short amount of time.
Why does everyone believe there are conflicts between the school board and the public?
That’s a very good question and I don’t have an answer, it’s the first time I’m hearing of it.
I would think because if the public is not informed or not understanding how things are run then they may have some questions. They may want to jump at somebody. So, the communication from the school board may need to be a little better.
So, viewing that there may need to be a committee that would help each party know how to interact with the other and that would help the parents and the public. Whoever is interested in the child or the children. The children could come and be a part of the school board and learn more and that way the school board could learn and communicate easier with them. And the school board could learn too, how to communicate with the parents. That’s why we hear an earful, and that barrier needs to be broken down.
Conflict is probably a little strong. What we see is we have a little bit of a miscommunication. The public doesn’t see that there’s not a lot of transparency in the school board. It’s always the nature of the beast because the school board meets once a month and there’s no ability to address anything at that time. You wait for the minutes to come out and the next month and so there’s no real-time feedback.
So, at the end of the day, there’s not a lot of communication. There are ways to fix that, maybe another district has a great Facebook page and a good website. We could move that along. It might not be a case of conflict, but opportunities to communicate better, to bring more people, to get them involved. That transparency and getting everything out there leads to trust and when you have trust then everybody knows what’s going on. That’s how we continue to build the trust and transparency that may feel like conflict right now.
What do you say to the people within the district who work every day to make great things happen when they hear so many critical things from some candidates?
I would say go straight to the source and go to them when you hear something. If you don’t, you’re just hearing hearsay. If you don’t that just degrades the whole community. If you hear something go to that person and talk with them, meet with them, be around them. That way you’re going to understand that person or situation or whatever the issue is.
I can’t say I heard certain things from the candidates, but I do talk to people every day. I talk to teachers at the school, I talk to Dr. Hardesty and Principal Achondo. So, like Deb said you go to the source and figure out what’s going on. We talk to teachers we talk to the staff we give them a voice and the board.
The first thing I would do is say thank you for all your hard work. The second thing I would do is say how can we fix this? If there’s a problem, we must find solutions to that problem. If I’m the problem, find me and come and talk to me. Some people are uncomfortable doing that. If we need some type of moderator or someone to act as the middle ground or just to be there as a secondary voice or reason or something like that. I’m a huge fan of going right to the source and stomping it out.
Please share any knowledge of the role a school board plays in a district and what does proper governance look like to you?
The school board is five folks that have been elected of you all. Their job is especially the oversight and supervision of the superintendent. It’s sort of a management function of district policy as a whole. They give the district guidance, like hey we want to go there. That’s their focus, that’s where we’re going to go. They provide policy and guidance for the superintendent to make that happen. The superintendent his job is for the management down below at the different schools and to make procedures to make those policies happen.
At the board level our job is to work together, five people, decide what is best and the direction we want the school district to go and then we implement those policies, we supervise and hold those people accountable who either are or not doing those things.
The flowery answer would be to hire and supervise the superintendent and then something about the mission and strategy goals for the district. Another way to say it is everything is covered from the top to the bottom. We are oversight for the superintendent, whose oversight for the staff, the students and the facilities.
Proper governance for me would be we are held accountable for doing our job, just like we’re the superintendent accountable for his job who’s holding everybody else accountable to do their job.
I see the role of the school board as a service to the public, to the students and to the staff. Their role in proper governance would be to be transparent, be able to communicate, be able to come together to help the district and help the children individually as well as the whole. So, they come out looking and feeling and doing well as they reach adulthood. That’s how I feel about proper governance.