Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Kevin Cassidy and Andrew Bryan have taken their roles as school board members to a higher level.

They not only represent the Baker School District as board members, but for the past several years both men have represented all of Eastern Oregon — and at times, all of Oregon — as representatives from the region in their respective roles with the Oregon School Boards Association.

This year Cassidy, 48, a 1988 Baker High School graduate, is president-elect on the OSBA Board. He will step into the president’s role next year and will remain a Board officer the year after that in the position of past president.

Bryan, 53, serves as the Eastern Oregon representative on the association’s Legislative Policy Committee.

He is the longest tenured member of the 5J Board. Bryan was appointed to fill an unexpired term in July 2010 and was first elected to a four-year term in 2011.

Bryan is completing his second full term on the Baker School Board this year.

Cassidy began his service on the 5J board in July 2013. He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2017. His term will expire in 2021. Both he and Bryan have served as Board chair over the years.

The two recently returned from Washington, D.C., where they participated in the National School Board Association’s 2019 Advocacy Institute. As an OSBA Board member, the association paid for Cassidy’s trip, and Bryan received a scholarship to attend.

Participants took part in a four-day symposium, advocacy training events and meeting with hundreds of school board members from throughout the country, an OSBA press release stated. The event culminated on Jan. 29 with the nearly two dozen members of the Oregon group meeting with the state’s congressional delegation.

Both Bryan and Cassidy said the focus for the Oregon school officials was to bring what’s working in education to the attention of the lawmakers and to emphasize the need for adequate funding to continue those programs.

Cassidy said as Congress is considering the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which helps fund special education programs, the advocates urged not only a reauthorization, but a modernizing of the Act to better address the changes that have come about in special education services since IDEA was established in 1975.

And they urged full funding of the Act, which was intended to cover up to 40 percent of the average cost to educate a child with disabilities. Today, the funding is at 16 percent of the per-pupil cost, Cassidy said.

The OSBA advocates also spoke with congressional leaders and their staff members about the need to stabilize funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which since 2000 has provided funding for essential county services, roads and schools to replace lost timber revenue in rural communities. The Act expired in December.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo have introduced a bill that would establish a trust to ensure that the Secure Rural Schools funding continues, Cassidy said.

The trust would eliminate the need for congressional representatives of the affected counties to have to fight for the funding each session.

“It won’t be as high as it was,” Cassidy said of the funding. “But it will be consistent. It’s a push to stabilizing.”

School safety was another concern expressed by the advocates.

Cassidy said the OSBA representatives asked the congressional delegation to consider how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be enlisted to help provide training and to improve response time of local agencies during school emergencies as they take place throughout the state.

See more in the Feb. 6, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.