Business owner, David Ligatich ran for and won Position 7 on the Gresham-Barlow School Board. David is new to politics, but he is not new in his understanding of what makes organizations work. He plans to bring his leadership and business experience into his position with the school board. I spoke with David by phone and asked him about his motivation in running for school board and what he hopes to accomplish.
What motivated you to run for school board?
Honestly, in the beginning, it was my son. My son is a highly intelligent young guy. He opened his first retail store at 14 years old in downtown Gresham. He’s had straight As for five years. He has a business mind. He was coming home from school saying that some of what he was being taught by a couple of teachers just didn’t seem right. I asked him to explain to me what was going on. He felt like other kids were looking at him as someone that wasn’t conforming to the pronouns, sexuality… so much of what has been touted in the schools. I asked him to start taking pictures of the curriculum. It appeared that what was being taught was more preaching and not teaching. And what was being preached didn’t match out values. Change happens from the top down. I made a promise to him that I would run for school board and win and help make what is going on in the schools an even playing field for all of the kids.
One of the biggest things I learned in this process was that the curriculum is not readily available to the parents. You have to sign up for a time, you have to go downtown, you have to rifle through all of the curriculum. Why is it not readily available online? Why can’t I just go to the Gresham School District’s webpage and just click on it as a parent? Making this curriculum readily available would serve two purposes. If my child is failing a class, I can go in and look at the curriculum and help him. Second, I can look at what is being taught. If it doesn’t align with out beliefs I can call the school and opt out of that.
Another concern…looking at the statistics of where we are in reading and math, being so low….we are sending these kids out of the schools unprepared for the real world. They aren’t ready to get a job, become an entrepreneur or follow where they want to go in college. We are not training these kids going out into our communities to be able to sustain our communities and be productive.
One of the weakest areas, is teaching children how to handle finances. I made arrangements to provide the Dave Ramsey financial curriculum for the Gresham Barlow schools. But the superintendent said they couldn’t make it work in the curriculum.
My goal is to be on the board, be a productive board member in the community that I love, make decisions and help by voting in some common sense back into the school system.
What are the major things that you are responsible for as a school board member? How much impact can you have on the the things you are concerned about?
There are five things that a school board does:
Budgeting, negotiating with union, leadership for the school district, hiring and firing superintentendent and making policy.
These are all things that I do on a daily basis as a business owner. We have a variety of backgrounds and point of view on the school board. There is an opportunity to learn, understand one another and work together.
How will you be approaching your role as a school board member?
Obviously as a board member, I will be in the meetings with other board members. Outside of that I have already toured a couple of the schools. There’s opportunity to sit in on classes and gain firsthand knowledge about what is actually going on in the schools. As a business owner, I am constantly gathering information about what is working and not working. We need to gather information about what is happening in the schools and provide that information to the parents about what is happening and what needs to be done.
My biggest concern is test scores. Why aren’t we producing good numbers? We need to get these students ready for the real world.
What do was key in winning your campaign? Do you have some advice for other candidates?
I hired a great consulting group. I wanted to make sure everything was done legally, that donors were local in Gresham. Every vendor was local in Gresham. Every dollar came from local business owners or citizens. We ran a positive campaign. We had a lot of influence with business owners in the community who are concerned about common sense practices. We had a tremendous amount of support.
What practical steps could PCPs and voters take in changing the culture of our education system?
Vote! Voter turnout was dismal. If you want change, vote for the best candidate that represents you and you actually need to vote. Or you need to step up and put yourself in the position to be on that board and create change. Yelling and screaming at school board meetings does nothing. Put yourself in a position of power to make change. Run for school board. Vote. Exercise your right to see curriculum and tour the schools. Be willing to have a conversation. Spend time with your child. Get feedback. Help your children navigate the situation.
Contributor, MCRP Publicity Committee