Letters to the editor for June 2, 2014

By Baker City Herald readers June 02, 2014 12:11 pm

Anyone following the Baker School District knows we have been through a lot in the past few years. Boards of directors are comprised of people with different backgrounds, temperaments and agendas and go through periods of peace, as well as dissent.

Yet every board member provides clear thinking in some area of expertise. For the past three years, Mark Henderson has given the Baker School District board a strong orientation in practical business sense and clear thinking. While he is now leaving the board for new business opportunities, it is worth reviewing his good record of service on the board, since a review would not only say something about Mark, but also reveal important things about the board.

Mark came to Baker County in 2005 and read the newspaper stories about the Baker District facing decreased funding and increased expenses. He was concerned about his two boys, at the time in pre-K and first grade. Many people would just grumble and not do anything. But Mark decided to see how he could help.

He emailed Doug Dalton, financial manager for the district, to learn more and find ways to help. Mark soon found himself on the budget committee, a group of residents that goes over the district’s proposed budget and makes recommendations to the board. Even at that early stage, Mark showed he was knowledgeable, applying the common sense of a business owner combined with the compassion of a parent with children in the district.

When a seat became open on the school board in 2011, Mark hopped right in and put his name on the ballot even though he had never held elected office before. As a small business owner, Mark wanted to lend his insight to the financial aspects of the school district.

Not too long after that, the board was absorbed in turmoil, which lasted for about a year. Since then, with the help of each and every board member, we have progressed a great deal and are now a reasonably well-functioning board.

Because of his private sector background, Mark appreciated and supported Doug Dalton’s efforts to get the district back on a firm financial footing. Because of Doug’s efforts and the board’s support, the Baker School District remains in good financial shape, able to keep and expand afterschool, sports and arts programs even as other schools are forced to cut back. I know that for Mark it is a source of pride, and it should be.

Beyond his financial acumen, Mark has provided important insights to controversies such as moving the kindergarten location. Even in heated issues like carrying guns on campus, Mark has the ability to get beyond the emotions and focus on the facts. I think this is due in part to Mark’s education in engineering, making him a very thorough thinker. There have been several topic areas where he’s caught something on the board that other members didn’t get. 

While we can’t really replace Mark’s unique blend of expertise and insights, we still have to fill his position with someone just as committed and passionate about our schools. At our June 10 meeting, the four remaining board members — myself, Kyle Knight, Richard McKim and Kevin Cassidy — will vote on the replacement.

If anyone is interested in serving on the board, they should send a statement of interest to Norma Nemec at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it The chosen board member will serve out the remainder of Mark’s term, which expires June 30, 2015. We’ll consider everyone who applies and while they’ll have some big shoes to fill, Mark has shown that anyone with a sincere heart and sharp mind can make a positive difference in the Baker School District.

Andrew Bryan is chairman of the Baker School Board.