By Susan Hauser
Lynne Saxton got the call first. Last November, newly elected Gov. John Kitzhaber was putting together his transition teams before taking office, and he was asking both Republicans and Democrats to advise him on how to reorganize Oregon’s education system to best serve kids from birth to adulthood.
Ron Saxton, Lynne’s husband, got a call from Kitzhaber a few weeks later, asking him to help, too. But he was hardly an afterthought. Like his wife before him, he was a logical choice.
Now several months into Kitzhaber’s term, this powerhouse Republican couple is fully committed to helping the Democratic governor revamp education in Oregon.
“We’ve both put a lot of effort into trying to push improvements in education,” says Ron Saxton, former Portland School Board chair and 2006 Republican candidate for governor, “and we’re excited that the governor has taken on the leadership to try to make it happen.”
Lynne Saxton, CEO of ChristieCare, the 152-year-old Clackamas County mental health service agency serving children and families, leads the governor's Early Learning Design Team, whose mission is to identify ways to assure that children are healthy, stable and ready to learn by the day they enter kindergarten.
Ron Saxton, executive VP of Jeld-Wen, the Klamath Falls-based window and door maker, is on the Oregon Education Investment Team that is chaired by the governor.
On April 5, Kitzhaber introduced SB 909, which creates the Oregon Education Investment Board. If the legislation passes both houses and is signed into law this session, the new board will replace both the State Board of Education and the State Board of Higher Education, while changing the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elective office to a position appointed by the Governor.
For education in Oregon, a radical new landscape is taking shape.