Don Zuern

Don Zuern

LONG BEACH — The Ocean Beach School Board welcomed its newest member Thursday night.

At a March 7 special meeting, the OBSD board appointed Don Zuern to fill the spot left vacant by Kim Patten.

“I’ve looked at that position for 10 years, ever since we moved here. I didn’t run because I have the utmost respect for the job Kim was doing,” Zuern said. “I figured I would wait until he stepped down to apply.”

Zuern is a longtime community member on the Peninsula and an Ilwaco High School graduate. He is a 30-year employee for the City of Long Beach; currently serving as the city’s water and sewer supervisor.

“I believe there aren’t bad kids, there are good kids in bad situations,” Zuern said. “I want to see these kids succeed.”

While interviewing, Zuern emphasized his community roles. He serves on the Evergreen Rural Water Board, coaches little league and is a member of the Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department.

“You can’t make a difference sitting on the couch. The only way to get involved is to do something,” Zuern said.

The interview

Patten’s term was scheduled to end in November 2019. Zuern will be sworn in at OBSD’s next board meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at the district office, 500 S Washington Ave. He will serve on the board for the remainder of Patten’s term, with the option to run for election.

Karen Stephens, who serves as secretary for the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce and Village Club, was Zuern’s competition for the board position.

“I would like to see our schools be five-star,” Stephens said. “They always have been in my eyes.”

Stephens said she’d like to see the district focus on building safety, and adding technical classes.

Zuern echoed similar sentiments, saying he thinks the board should focus on school safety and technology. Hilltop Middle School and helping students from “economically challenged” backgrounds are also concerns of Zuern’s.

“I don’t think kids are exposed to as much opportunity as there really is out there,” Zuern said.

Board members thanked Stephens and Zuern for their interest in the position, noting the difficult choice they faced.

“You’ve left us with a wonderful dilemma. I don’t know whether to thank you or to be mad at you,” said Board Chair Michael Robinson. “In a way, it’s a win-win choice.”

Interim Superintendent Scott Fenter spoke highly of the board to the two candidates. Fenter is serving OBSD for the school year after retiring from Onalaska School District.

“I would have done another six or seven more years if I had a board like this,” Fenter said. “I didn’t have that, and it’s why I retired.”

The decision

Zuern ultimately was chosen for his role through a three-to-one vote by the council. Board member Michelle Binion voted for Stephens.

“I think you made the right decision. Don is very qualified,” Stephens said, before thanking the board and wishing Zuern good luck.

Zuern’s previous board experience and work with the school district were two factors which helped him stand out, according to board members.

“Thank you for the opportunity,” Zuern said. “I hope I don’t let anyone down.”

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or aevans@chinookobserver.com

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