Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Do I Differ From My Opponent?

Hopefully you have been reading my blog, and like what I have had to say.   But one question that a lot of people have been asking is:  "You sound great, but why does that make you a better choice than your opponent?"   So I thought it would be good to highlight a few specific issues voted by the school board in recent years where I would have made different choices than my opponent did.
  • I would provide real options to the students of Hillsboro who are not well-served by their current school.     The school board staged a vote in February to participate in the state's Open Enrollment law, which allows students to transfer between districts if the receiving school has space.   But it did nothing to stop the private agreements Hillsboro has with all the major neighboring districts to not poach each others' students-- which effectively negates the Open Enrollment policy.
  • I would give individual teachers the freedom to innovate in their classroom, without board-level micromanagement.   You may recall the "balanced grading" and "grading for learning" policies the board tried to impose a few years ago, which after causing chaos in our district's classrooms, led to a parental uprising and were eventually repealed.   While I would allow teachers the chance to try new ideas on a small scale, I would not impose radical educational method changes from the top down.
  • I would consistently ensure education funds end up in our classrooms, rather than in non-education uses.   Recently the board voted to exempt low-income housing from some property taxes, under the rationale that the state school fund had promised to reimburse the losses, so the district "would not lose" money.  But this a transparent accounting shell game:  if the state school fund reimburses the losses, then the money is lost to schools in general for the state.  While this may be a worthy cause, the proper place to fund it is the state legislature.   In these financially tight times, the school board is behaving irresponsibly if it moves education funds to other areas.
These are just a few examples, of course.   From my other blog articles I'm sure you can recognize many other areas where my ideas fundamentally differ from the current board majority.  

Top Reasons To Donate To My Campaign

As you have probably seen in the previous blog post, I'm now accepting donations.   As you know, every citizen in Oregon effectively gets $50 for free, through the Oregon Political Tax credit, to donate to a campaign of their choice.  Why shoud you choose to spend this on me?
  1. The Hillsboro School Board is a critically important election.   This isn't just the city of Hillsboro- HSD is a "megadistrict", the 4th largest in the state, covering over 20,000 students and over $200 million in budget.   Sitting in one of 7 positions on this board has been said by some to be comparable in influence to a State Representative.   It is unlikely that many other positions elected in this odd year will be of similar importance. 
  2. I have a real shot at winning.   In 2009, I lost by only 56 votes, out of over 9000 cast, to a well-connected insider.    With a fully funded campaign, I'm hoping to do much better this time!
  3. You have no doubt about where I stand on the issues.    I think you'll agree that in this blog and my newspaper columns, I have stated and documented my views on real school issues more clearly and directly than any other candidate.  
For all these reasons, please follow these instructions and donate to my campaign.   Thanks again for your support!

How To Donate To My Campaign

Yes, after the strong urging of some supporters, I have formed a PAC and am now requesting donations!   If you are in Oregeon, remember that due to the Oregon Political Tax Credit, a donation of $50 per person is effectively free to you.

To donate, you can either:
  • Send me a message through email ( ) or call on the phone (503-312-1665) with some way to contact you, and I'll get back to you to arrange a time for me to stop by & pick up a check.
  • Send a check to my PAC address.  For legal reasons, please include a letter with your name, address, occupation, and employer with your donation.
Friends of Erik Seligman
89358 Cranberry Lane
Bandon, OR 97411
Thanks for your support!

My Revised Campaign Statement

After a thorough revision with the help of some experts, I've submitted the new statement below for the voters' pamphlet.    Tell me what you think!


ERIK SELIGMAN: The Parents’ Choice for Hillsboro School District Board:

·     Past experience teaching at college, middle and high school levels
·     Past experience volunteering as English teacher to Hillsboro area immigrants
·     Host of free educational podcast, “Math Mutation”, rated 5 stars on iTunes
·     Intel Engineer
·     Parent and 18-year resident of the Hillsboro area

"Erik Seligman has a passion for innovation in public education. As a parent of two girls, I’m supporting Erik because he puts the needs of our children ahead of bureaucracy.” -- Jose Orozco, Cornelius City Councilor, (DEMOCRAT)

·     Stop the Cuts to Our Classrooms: Board decisions must be based on real data about what is truly working.  Erik will cut administration costs and protect our classrooms. 

·     Support Innovation and Give Parents Choices: Bureaucratic rules often wear down great teachers. Erik supports giving more freedom to successful teachers and school leaders. He also supports giving parents more choices, so they can find the program that best serves their child’s individual needs.

·     Honest And Open Communication: As a contributor to the Hillsboro Argus, Erik has criticized the district for making decisions behind closed doors and treating parents and the public arrogantly. Erik is dedicated to open dialogue and a transparent public process.

“Erik Seligman has repeatedly opposed cuts to our public schools and supported reforms that would save teacher jobs and improve educational outcomes. As a CPA and mother, I’m supporting Erik because he has a plan to give parents more choices and stop the cuts.”  –Katie Eyre, former state representative, (REPUBLICAN)
Learn more about where Erik stands at, or email him at

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How Are Hillsboro Schools Doing?

One question that has come up a few times when I explain my campaign is:  how are Hillsboro schools doing anyway?    "Your ideas sound nice, but I read the district newsletters and it sounds like the schools are doing great.   Why are you trying to fix something that's not broken?"    So I thought it might be nice to look at school ratings from a variety of sources.   Here's a quick summary of what I found:
  • State report cards:   Very coarse grained.   HSD looks pretty close to state averages overall in most categories.    Most schools Satisfactory, 9 Outstanding, 2 In Need Of Improvement.
  • School rating websites:   At School Digger  HSD ranks 61st best district in the state,  vs Beaverton at 19, Tigard-Tualatin at 26.    At GreatSchools  HSD rates 6/10, vs 7/10 for Beaverton & Tigard-Tualatin.   
  • US News High School rankings:  Liberty HS is #15 in OR / #1231 nationally.   Glencoe is 19/1569.   Century & HillHi didn't make top 25.
  • 2011 Federal Ratings:  A little more gloomy here.   6 elementary schools on "troubed" list, one other that must offer free transfers or tutoring.  All middle schools & all high school except Century also on troubled list.  Also, "Oregon high schools’ on-time graduation rate remained mired at 68 percent for the class of 2012, the same as the year before, when Oregon ranked fourth worst in the nation."
  • Voting with their feet:   How many kids have been removed from their local pubic schools by their parents?   Hard to find how many Hillsboro children attend private schools, but at one website listing this by city, we can see roughly 1000 students in the city of Hillsboro have opted out of HSD altogether to attend private schools.  (HSD is larger than that, but not easy to properly account on this page.)  We also have 140 or so kids on City View Charter's waiting list-- clearly a set of families feeling they are not best served by their local public school.   I also have trouble finding a good estimate of the number of homeschoolers in HSD.
  • Real estate agents:   This qualifies as anecdotal, but I've been told pretty universally by Intel new hires that real estate agents direct them to buy homes in the Beaverton district, rather than Hillsboro, if they have kids.
So...  what's the conclusion of all this?   We should qualify the discussion with the fact that ranking a heterogeneous group of schools is not easy.    It's hard to perfectly compare different districts:  in particular, Hillsboro likely has more challenges integrating new immigrants than the other nearby large suburban districts, which can partially explain its much lower rankings at sites based on test scores.   But as the 4th largest district in Oregon, I would really hope to see us doing better than just the 15th best high school.

I think we can say based on these data points that there is certainly room for improvement in Hillsboro's schools.   Personally, I love the city of Hillsboro (I live on Main Street, right in the heart of our downtown), and it pains me to hear new co-workers tell me they must live elsewhere for their children's education.   While there are certainly many successes and positive developments, I'd really like to see Hillsboro become a destination district where people come to live because of its top-quality school system.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The School Board Matters to Private/Homeschool Parents Too!

Too many of our neighbors ignore the school board races. In many cases, their rationale is that they don't have children in the public schools-- they are using private schools, homeschooling, etc.-- so the "school board doesn't matter to them". But the school board does matter to everyone, regardless of whether your children are in the public schools! Here are the biggest reasons, in my opinion, why everyone should care how their local public schools are managed:

  • Our nation's future is in the hands of all children, not just yours. Even if your own children are in a private or home school, there are many children whose parents don't have the income or free time to choose this option. These children, just like yours, are critically important to the future of our nation-- don't you care that they are properly educated?
  • You care about many government services that help people other than you. I'm sure you voted on the recent veterans' benefits initiative without being a veteran, right? And you support laws that help crime victims, without being a victim yourself, don't you? Similarly, we should all strive to offer the best possible public education to the children who need it, even if your family is not directly affected.
  • The public school system has some control over homeschoolers, and students may transfer between different types of schooling . The relationship between public schools, private schools, and homeschool can be complex and bureaucratic. It's important to make sure that the public school system is run by people who understand and support all the various options parents may choose for educating their children, and aren't on a crusade to punish citizens who defy the public schools. This is especially true of homeschoolers, who are officially monitored in many ways by the public school system.
  • The public school system controls and spends hundreds of millions of dollars of your tax money. It's your money that is being spent, regardless of whether it is spent specifically on your kids. Don't you want it to be spent wisely?
Please keep these issues in mind, and think carefully about that May ballot you receive in the mail. It's very important that you put people like me on the school board, who understand the various schooling options you may choose (my daughter is in a private school), and don't punish you for choosing the right alternatives for your family.   And aside from any direct effects on your family, you need to encourage wise stewardship of your tax dollars, and help to ensure that the next generation of children is successfully educated.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Easy Ways To Help

If you like what you've seen on this page and would like to help, here are some simple things you can do (email me at if planning on any of the following):
  • Let me put a sign on your lawn.   Just email me your address.
  • Endorse me.  Email me at confirm you're OK with me putting your name up as a supporter.
  • Talk to your friends or neighbors about my campaign.   If you don't know your neighbors well, just email me & I can send you a list of likely supporters near your address.
  • Volunteer to phone possible supporters.   Again, just email me and I'll get you a list.
  • Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper supporting my campaign.   You can send letters to the Hillsboro Argus at , or the Hillsboro Tribune at this link.
Thanks for your support!

My 2013 Campaign Statement

As a certified teacher, an engineer in Hillsboro's high-tech industry, an 18-year resident of the Hillsboro area, and father of a six-year-old child, I am uniquely qualified to help steer Hillsboro schools in the right direction in these difficult times.

My experience and dedication to education is shown by:

- Local government service on the Hillsboro School District Curriculum Committee and on the Washington County Commission for Children and Families;
- Experience teaching at the college, middle school, and high school levels;
- Experience as chair of an engineering industry subcommittee designing international standards;
- Experience as a volunteer English teacher to immigrants to the Hillsboro area; and
- Host of a free educational podcast, "Math Mutation", rated 5 stars on iTunes.

Our children's education is essential to our future. I feel the priorities of the Hillsboro school district need to be directed towards these critical goals:

1. Results Orientation. Tough choices must be based on real data about what is and is not effective to achieve our educational goals. I will work to find the most cost-effective ways to provide a quality education.
2. Freedom To Innovate. Teachers need the freedom to take advantage of new ideas that may make them more effective. In addition, we must encourage flexible options such as charter/magnet schools and cross-district transfers, creating new opportunities to meet the unique needs of every student.
3. Clear And Open Communication. Through my blog at and occasional Argus columns, I have been continually informing the public on important education issues. I will continue this open dialogue with you as a member of the school board.

For all these reasons, please vote for Erik Seligman for the Hillsboro School District Board of Directors. If you have any questions, please email me at I deeply appreciate your support.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Improving The Textbook Selection Process

At this week's Hillsboro School District Curriculum Committee meeting, district staff presented the status of the middle school textbook adoptions.   As you may recall from this blog, this topic has been under discussion since last year.   Previously I had been a bit skeptical of the process, because a committee of teachers was being told they would have to make a decision based on looking at the textbooks in the office + hearing a presentation from each vendor... without ever using the texts to teach a class!

But this week we found out that the district had been trying a new piloting process:  each of the candidate textbooks was used for 2 weeks in real classes, and the teachers were asked for impressions afterwards.   It's good to see that there will be some real teaching experiences feeding into the process now.   This helps fill an important gap.   No matter how good a text seems in theory, there's really no substitute for actually using it.

Before we get too excited, I'm sure it's occurred to you that this is still a bit thin.  2 weeks of experience to decide on a text that we may be stuck with for most of the next decade?   However, I am glad to see that at least some classroom experience will be feeding into the decision.   As I see it, the new piloting process in a positive development in the district's textbook adoption procedures, and I hope to see further efforts in this direction.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Opportunities from Hillsboro's Online Academy

The Hillsboro Argus has published another of my guest editorials, this time talking about the new opportunities the district is giving up by refusing student transfers:


Many of us have been excited to hear about the opening of the Hillsboro Online Academy, a new alternative school in Hillsboro.

As a member of the Hillsboro School District's Curriculum Committee, I was recently given a tour of this new school, and was impressed with their organization and level of academic rigor. In its first year, the school attracted twice as many students as expected, and demand is likely to grow rapidly as they demonstrate success.

I was especially happy to see this due to the opportunities opened up by the state legislature in its 2011 education reforms. Under the new laws, a school can choose to accept transfer students from any district in the state, and they will bring most of their tax money with them.
Thus, when a district creates an innovative new program, not only will it help local students, but the district itself can gain a financial reward: a truly innovative school will become a profit center for the district, due to out-of-district transfer students. This is especially true of cost-efficient online schools. So an expanding Online Academy could contribute significantly towards solving HSD's budget woes.
Unfortunately, this is not an opportunity in Hillsboro currently -- because our district has entered into an explicit agreement with all the major nearby districts not to poach each other's students. (Yes, this is still the case, despite the board's deceptive February 2013 vote to "participate" in the state law.)
Why would they do this? Public schools are used to having a geographic monopoly, where each district is guaranteed perpetual control over students in a predetermined area. It provides a nice sense of security and stability to current employees, and they claim they need this guarantee for proper planning.  Yet millions of businesses all over the world -- including private K-12 schools-- live without this guarantee, subjecting themselves to marketplace competition, in order to receive the potential rewards of quality and innovation.

Apparently our district is terrified that the possibility of success also means the possibility of failure. Perhaps Hillsboro's offerings will not be the best, and we will lose students and tax money to neighboring districts. But what kind of message is this sending to our children? Should we always support the comfortable stability of continued mediocrity, over the risks of failure and potential of success that come with competition?

Sure, there is always the possibility that the district will lose money if it fails to deliver on its promises of quality and the students go elsewhere, but in such a case, I would argue that the district deserves its loss.

However, based on what I've seen, I think it's much more likely that the reverse would happen: Hillsboro's Online Academy would be a magnet for students all over northwest Oregon, and bring in a significant infusion of money to offset our budget woes and prevent teacher layoffs.   Entering into agreements that prevent this possibility is a disservice to all students in Hillsboro, as well as those in the surrounding areas that might benefit from our innovation. As we prepare to elect new school board members this May, we need to demand that they repudiate the multi-district agreement and truly carry out the spirit of the state education reforms.