Camas board seeks to fill 2 vacant positions

Former Camas School District board members say come open minded

The Camas School District Board of Directors is seeking applicants to fill the District 1 and District 2 positions on the board.

The seats became vacant when former board president Julie Rotz and board vice president Casey O’Dell resigned from their positions during a regular board meeting on Monday, Feb. 12.

Rotz, who served eight years on the board, and O’Dell, who served 17 years, had a tearful goodbye at their last meeting, and cited new job opportunities as their reasons for leaving.

Although the two are no longer on the board, they have some advice for the people who are thinking about applying: come with an open mind.

Rotz, who relocated to Florida with her family, said that going into a school board position without an agenda is a healthy look and will also allow members to have a more open mind and a better impact on helping the whole.

O’Dell agreed, and said, “Your best school board members are the ones that come in with zero agenda and are open minded.”

Rotz’s time on the board allowed her to open her eyes to governance and how it works internally, she said.

“It helped me to be a better educated parent and understand that if something happens in the school that (going to the board) is the best way to approach it and not automatically blame a teacher or school.”

“The (Camas School Board) is an incredibly great board to work with,” Rotz added. “No one has agendas and everyone is there for the students. They are open minded about things that come to them, and while we might come to a consensus its through a thoughtful process and that’s something I appreciated.”

However, no position comes without its challenges.

“One (challenge) is that you go into it and you want to do the best you can, but you can’t make everyone happy, so you have to go into things trying to do the best for the majority of everyone.”

Both Rotz and O’Dell recalled when Woodburn Elementary opened and the board had to approve new school boundaries to more evenly distribute school capacities.

Rotz said she remembers many sleepless nights and worrying about how the new boundaries would affect children and families.

“It’s challenging to understand that you impact people’s lives that way,” she said. “I don’t think people understand that those decisions weigh on board members as much as they do.”

O’Dell said that it was hard to explain the boundaries and process to the community, but a good part of that process was that there was a lot of community involvement.

The involvement from the community creates a larger pool of opinions that the board can now work with, O’Dell said.

O’Dell was born and raised in Camas and originally joined the board because he wanted to do something for the community, but was ineligible for city council or a commission because he had moved outside city limits.

At the time, O’Dell’s three children were also starting out in elementary schools in Camas and so he thought the board would be a way to contribute and stay involved.

As a board member, another challenge is interacting with parents who are upset about something happening in the district, O’Dell said.

“It’s important to listen to them and understand their concerns and then talk with them and explain to them the constraints that the district has,” he said.

Often, once you listen to someone they’ll either come up with their own solution or they’ll listen to you as you explain the situation and be able to walk away with a lot better of an understanding and they’re not as frustrated, O’Dell said.

The rewarding part of being on the school board for O’Dell was attending high school graduations, he said.

“It just brings all your efforts together watching all those students walk across the stage and stand with their success.”

Rotz, who had two children attend Camas schools, said that one of the best parts of being on the board was seeing the positive impacts on students.

“Being able to shake the hands or meet the students who graduate every year is an incredible experience,” Rotz said.

As a board member, you’re able to see students achieving, maybe winning awards or making a big leap, Rotz added. “You see someone growing and that they’re becoming better and are happy about it. That is something that is great about being where you’re at.”

Rotz said if you’re thinking about applying for the board, do it.

“If you come with an open mind and a blank canvas you will get the most fulfilling and rewarding opportunity,” Rotz said. “It’s the best way to approach it. I’ve seen other boards where they had people with strong ideas and they don’t mesh well that way.”

O’Dell said that serving on the board for 17 years has been the most rewarding community service that he could imagine ever doing.

The application for the board positions and a map of districts can be found on the Camas School District website and are due at noon on Friday, March 2. The applications can be submitted by email to gail.gast@camas.wednet.edu or in person at, 841 NE 22 avenue.

The interviews for applicants will be held on Monday, March 26 during a board workshop.

The selected applicants will serve in their appointed roles until they will need to run in the next election cycle in November 2019.