There are two races for the Springfield School District in the upcoming May 16 election — director position one and director position four. Position one has four contenders: Ken Kohl , Geena Davis, Violet Olszyk and Heather Quaas-Annsa.
Kohl has lived in the Springfield School District for 27 years. He and his wife have raised their three children through the district’s schools. Kohl has been on the budget committee for more than 16 years, and he tells Eugene Weekly that he decided to run for board director because “public service is important, and I value the work that the schools do.”
Kohl says the biggest issue facing Springfield schools is the low graduation rate. In a 2022 report, 23 percent of Springfield high schoolers are not graduating. “We haven’t reached all of the kids and found a way to keep them engaged in the schools,” Kohl says.
He says art and music are one way to provide opportunities to engage students. He says he also believes that the state provides “an umbrella of curriculum” that the schools should then be able to revise within the schools and classrooms to cater to their students.
“A big issue is not having enough help in the classroom, and then having to spend extra time outside of class, preparing and grading and reporting,” Kohl says in regard to teacher burnout. He suggests bringing in more teacher aids to classrooms to support teachers.
He told EW that he thinks charter schools have their place and that “they provide additional opportunities for some kids that will benefit them. I’m open to whatever will get a kid engaged and keep them in school and get them graduated.”
When EW reached out to Quaas-Annsa, the director of philanthropy at Community Supported Shelters, she said she initially filed to run for board to make sure “students like my kids would have their voices heard. And they would be provided with a learning environment that was going to respect their individuality and their uniqueness and their perspectives.”
She also said she specifically chose to run against “one particular individual” that had filed. “I am not really fond of having fascists in charge of anything And having someone with beliefs that are completely counter to my own, and to my family was terrifying,” she tells EW. “I don’t want them to be in a place of decision-making for my children or anyone else’s children.”
Quaas-Annsa says that while she did file and is technically a candidate, she is not actively campaigning and plans on endorsing Kohl.
“He’s well equipped, more than I am at this point, to be on the school board. I’m hoping to join the Springfield School District’s Equity Committee and get a little bit more knowledge under my belt about the specific concerns that Springfield has,” she says as she explains that she and her family moved to Springfield a year and a half ago.
“I plan on running again during the next election cycle, running in earnest in the next election cycle. So I’m not going away, and I’m going to be very involved in the school in some way, shape, or form,” Quaas-Annsa says. “I’m not going away. So look forward to hearing about me and hearing from me more in the future.”
After a racial justice march in the Thurston, Springfield area turned violent in July of 2020, Davis, who at that point went by the last name Shipman, was charged with fourth-degree assault for pushing a woman to the ground. The city later dropped the charge. In August 2020, Davis was videotaped pushing a Black Lives Matter protester down the steps at the Oregon State Capitol. The video can be found here.
On her candidate filing paperwork, she states she is currently a manager at a 7-Eleven convenience store. Davis did not respond to EWs attempt to reach her for comment.
Olszyk currently works as a caregiver at Gateway Gardens. She received a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Long Beach in Film and Electronic Media. She also did not respond to EW’s attempts to reach her for comment.
Springfield City Club posted on April 22 that Davis and Quaas-Annsa have since withdrawn from the race, however the Lane County Elections Office doesn’t maintain a list of people who have withdrawn from the ballot after the March deadline.