Candidates for CSD position 1 highlight campaign goals, address controversy

Pictured is Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, one of two candidates for the Corvallis School Board election for Position 1. The other candidate running is Dr. Bryce Cleary. The election takes place on Tuesday May 18. 

Elijah Dodd, News Contributor

When Corvallis voters mark their ballots for the May 18 Corvallis School Board election, they have a choice between two candidates for position one on the board—current chairholder Sami Al-Abdrabbuh and Dr. Bryce Cleary. 

Al-Abdrabbuh has been on the school board for four years, and will hold his position as chair of the board until the upcoming election. Al-Abdrabbuh said he’s running again to ensure the continued success of the Corvallis School District through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

“We’re not out of the woods with the pandemic,” Al-Abdrabbuh said.

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

If he gets re-elected, his top three priorities in the next four years will be to push for social justice, to make schools safer and to maintain the increasing trend in the graduation rate. 

“Public education is the bedrock of our democracy,” Al-Abdrabbuh said. “For me, I feel education is the place to make the most change for the future.” 

Al-Abdrabbuh said he wants to help make change for Corvallis’ future by prioritizing equity and social justice, especially within marginalized communities.

Al-Abdrabbuh is passionate about improving the infrastructure of Corvallis schools.  With the $200 million construction bond approved by voters in 2018, either chosen candidate will have to make major financial decisions during their term concerning the construction of two new schools in Corvallis and major renovations in every other school. 

In these renovations, Al-Abdrabbuh said he especially wants to address student health, wellness and opportunities for real-world learning.

Student graduation rates in the CSD have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching a high of 90% last year. Al-Abdrabbuh believes this is because of the recent efforts to focus on student’s basic needs, including supporting services like counseling and nutrition in Corvallis schools. 

According to Al-Abdrabbuh, with the current services to students, Corvallis is on track to see a 95% graduation rate in five years. In order to see continued success with these programs, he says his team will need to continue supporting students, securing their wellbeing and making sure their needs are met. 

Cleary, the opposing candidate, wants to focus on the academic performance of students above other matters regarding the future of the district.   

“As evidenced by my opponents’ connections with unions, political activist groups and partisan politics,” Cleary said. “I want to return the focus to education.”

Cleary points to an “organized smear campaign” against him as evidence of the board’s preference towards partisan politics over student performance. 

“Another piece of evidence that politics have taken over the board is the organized smear campaign that has been focused in my direction,” Cleary writes.

Cleary is referring to an opinion piece published earlier in the Corvallis Advocate this month by a former patient of his who claims he is biased against transgender and gender nonconforming people.

“I can say that I have many LGBTQ+ patients and I treat everyone with dignity and respect at all times,” Cleary said. “I am deeply saddened by rumors to the contrary.” 

Cleary was unable to comment further on the matter, citing legal advice not to do so. 

If Cleary gets elected, he wants to foster better communication between the school board and teachers, push for in-person full-time learning and prioritize student performance in math and reading.

“Teachers, staff, and administrators need to be supported and their voices need to be heard,” Cleary said. 

In office, he said that he would ensure better communication between the school board and the staff that run the Corvallis schools. In Cleary’s opinion, the school board also isn’t focusing enough on returning to in-person and full time learning. 

“Our baseline position should be in person class five days a week,” Cleary said. “We need an evidence based plan to keep the schools open in the fall.”

Most specifically, Cleary wants to prioritize academic performance in math and reading as a part of his platform. He views this as an effective way to promote equity in Corvallis. 

“The lack of focus on early math and reading skills is hurting our minority students the most,” Cleary said.

The Corvallis School Board elections take place on May 18, and candidates for positions one, four, five and six will be determined based on the outcome of votes.