Election Season

the axe magazine online issue 13

12 May 2021



THE CANDIDATES FOR SCHOOL BOARD by Natasha Dracobly & Soju Hokari




A Rocket! • A PSA!



Land Acknowledgement

Eugene School District 4j, South Eugene High School, and your Axe Magazine online would like to acknowledge that our institution sits on the homelands of the Kalapuya people.

In the Treaties of 1851 and 1854-1855, and the subsequent forced removals of many Indian people from western Oregon, some of the Kalapuya were moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation and some were moved to the Siletz Reservation. It is important to note that all of Lane County was an important trading and gathering area for camas and other resources.

During the Restoration Era, from 1977-1989, Lane County was designated at the Service Area for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians.

Eugene 4J District and South wish to acknowledge that descendants of the original and Service Area inhabitants of this land are still here today. They are thriving members of our schools and our communities. Countless members of other Tribes now also call our community and schools their home.

We wish to thank those original stewards of this land. We as outsiders on this land wish to remember that we need to take good care of this land and take good care of all members of our school district and community. Thank you for joining us.

Land acknowledgement courtesy of Brenda Brainard.

mission statement

The Axe is dedicated to the goals and ethics of journalism. As a student-run publication, our mission is to both inform the student body and spark discussion among the student body about the news within South Eugene High School and the wider community. We function under an open forum policy. We accept and may use in our publication the feedback and commentary of our readers. Email all inquiries: willis_b@4j.lane.edu.


School Board Elections, part 1:

Who is who?

By Natasha Dracobly and Soju Hokari

Illustration by Soju Hokari

A teacher with decades of experience in classrooms; a parent who didn’t feel heard by the Board; a current Board member and advisor of EC Cares; an educator and former teacher.

The Axe Magazine caught up with candidates on the ballot for next week's 4J School Board elections.

Remember to VOTE if you are eligible (and remind those in your household who are eligible) by May 18!

Position 2: Laural O'Rourke, Harry Sanger

Laural O'Rourke

Current Occupation: Management Analyst with Community and Economic Development at Lane County

Prior Governmental Experience: Lane County – see above

Having put five kids – including three with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) – through public schools, Laural O’Rourke knows the system inside and out.

“I have had to fight for every single bit of that IEP,” O’Rourke says. “It’s actually trauma-inducing how hard a parent has to fight just to support their child who has learning disabilities to get the help that they need at 4J.”

O’Rourke says that 4J stood out as a system resistant to giving her kids access.

“There is something going on here that is not OK, and it has to change,” O’Rourke says.

O’Rourke’s campaign runs on three main platforms: a focus on Career Technical Education (CTE); communication between the Board, schools and parents; and equity. As a Black woman who didn’t graduate from college until she was 40, O’Rourke says that she is in a unique position to offer the Board a less white and affluent perspective on 4J schools.

When O’Rourke’s oldest went through International High School (IHS), they went through it with an IEP. This combination really highlighted the inequities between the privileges associated with the former and the stigma attached to the latter.

“I felt upset as a mom,” O’Rourke says. “Like I was less than because I couldn’t do as much [for my child] as these parents with means do [for theirs].”

O’Rourke believes that 4J must increase support for those who are left out.

“If all of the students are needing tutors to get to this level, what does that tell you?” she asks.

But academics are not the only way to find success in school.

O’Rourke wants to expand the Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings in 4J high schools in order to provide real and valuable skills to students. O’Rourke remembers developing a skill for herself in high school – a beauty license.

“I wanted to have a skill where I wasn’t working at McDonald’s,” O’Rourke says.

O’Rourke envisions both an expansion of the current CTE program and increased access to the programs at separate schools.

“If somebody at Sheldon wants to take the cooking courses at South, they will be able to do that,” O’Rourke says. “We’ll have a plan for that to happen.”

Is busing students to different schools to take the classes they're interested in even feasible? Maybe not. But O’Rourke is not against rethinking the foundations of the school system if the alternatives will serve students better.

“This [current] district puts the needs of the District first,” O’Rourke says. “They do not put the needs of the student first.”

And O’Rourke wants to truly listen to the stakeholders as she does it. She says that the current Board does not communicate well with schools, students or parents. And unlike some, O’Rourke says, she wants to hear about 4J’s problems so that she can fix them.

“You can’t run a system well if you don’t want to hear about problems,” O’Rourke says.

O’Rourke supports the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms, and again says she will not compromise on something that she has heard from students is necessary for their well-being and readiness to learn.

When O’Rourke went through 4J in the 70’s and 80’s, she says that she did not – as far as she could recall – have a teacher who looked like her. She remembers feeling out of place in a relatively white learning environment.

“I was policed, I was watched,” O’Rourke says. “I had no idea. I thought I was an idiot until I grew up, left this town, and went to college somewhere else and was like ‘Wait – I’m not that bad at Algebra.’”

“You internalize it.”

O’Rourke hopes to be the voice that speaks for and values diversity in the schools. She says that the only way to increase the numbers of teachers of color is to value the conversations about race and equity.

O’Rourke is also critical of the current system where some schools end up with far more resources and attention than others. She names parent donations to individual schools as one example of something that gives schools in affluent neighborhoods an edge over others.

But O’Rourke thinks that this is not a simple problem to solve.

“You’re not just fighting the school district; you’re fighting parents,” O’Rourke says.

And even an equal distribution of funds, O’Rourke says, is not equity – it’s just equality.

“If you have a school that’s been systematically denied for decades, they’re going to need a lot more at the beginning,” O’Rourke says.

In the end, O’Rourke is dead set on putting the needs of 4J students first and supporting students to graduation and beyond. And she’s not afraid to break things in order to do that.

“Our last few superintendents – I wasn’t pleased about them,” O’Rourke says. “I thought a lot of it was pretty political, and we didn’t really have any movement but it looked pretty.”

“I don’t mind if it looks a little messy. I need movement.”

Harry Sanger

Current Occupation: Project Coordinator for LTD

Prior Governmental Experience: Various community organizations and planning commissions

Almost immediately, Harry Sanger hits us with his main campaign message. Schools, he says, should have been fully open last September.

“There were issues immediately [with distance learning],” Sanger says. “The school year began in September, and we were still in distance learning. There was no path to getting back to school.”

Sanger says that he went to a few Board meetings in the fall and spoke up about the problems. But he says he never felt heard.

“The level of transparency and accountability that I would like to see in my local government wasn’t there,” Sanger says.

That’s when he decided to run for the Board himself.

Click here to continue reading...

“I want my daughter in school,” Sanger says. “I don’t want her learning on a computer. We limit screen time. We always have. And now she spends hours and hours and hours a day … in front of a screen.”

Another big worry is about mandatory mask-wearing in 4J.

“What happens when a child is injured playing sports in a mask?” Sanger asks. “Who’s liable? Is that a liability the school takes on?”

Sanger may be running on a pandemic-related message, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other ideas.

Sanger wants to help not only students who are falling behind, but also those who are excelling in school. Talented and Gifted (TAG) testing, for instance, is important to him.

“4J is doing a disservice to the community if they’re not recognizing the students who are really academically inclined,” Sanger says.

But academics shouldn’t be the only focus. Sanger would like to see more financial support for CTE programs in schools.

“Academic success is not the only path to success,” Sanger says.

Sanger is highly critical of Oregon state laws allowing for minors to make medical decisions. Vaccinations without parental consent, for instance, are for him a no-go.

“If a school starts giving vaccines to minors without parental consent and there’s a serious adverse reaction, who’s responsible for that?” Sanger asks.

Only in extreme cases, such as abuse situations, should parents be excluded from medical decisions, Sanger says.

Sanger does not know how to deal with the lack of racial diversity in teaching positions in the district. But he does believe in diversity.

“It’s a valuable thing to include,” Sanger says.

Sanger does not know much about other high-school related topics either, but showed a willingness to engage with them. When asked a question about gender neutral bathrooms a few weeks ago, Sanger says he went and looked the topic up, and decided he was in favor. Sanger cites Grant High School in Portland, where all bathrooms are gender-neutral, as a model for 4J schools.

In the end, Sanger came back to his main issue – the reopening of schools. He says that while many people follow his campaign because they’re conservative, he is not fully onboard with conservative ideas. He just wants fewer masks, more school, and more choice for parents.

Position 3: tom di liberto, judy newman

Image courtesy of Tom Di Liberto

Tom Di Liberto

Current Occupation: Student Teacher Supervisor for the University of Oregon

Prior Governmental Experience: None

Tom Di Liberto has been a teacher for more than 30 years, teaching in both middle and high schools as a Spanish language teacher. He wants to bring that expertise to a Board that he says is lacking in first-hand knowledge of the insides of their own school buildings.

“So many times I scratch my head at some of the decisions that were made at the Board level, ” Di Liberto says.

Di Liberto cites large class sizes in particular as an example of an issue that is abstract to Board members but used to be a part of his job. He remembers “not being able to answer questions and give students help when they need it” and hopes he can help Board members understand the real impacts of their decisions.

Click here to continue reading...

One of Di Liberto’s concerns is the incessant focus on standardized testing in schools.

"The SBAC test ... was two weeks of [class] time, and I wasn’t teaching them anything; we were just dealing with this test,” he recalls.

Di Liberto says that while testing can be useful, the current system puts way too much time toward testing that could be put toward learning, and the process doesn’t provide teachers with timely results.

Instead of constant testing and measurement of students, Di Liberto says 4J should focus on mental health and learning supports.

“If you look at what’s missing or what kids lost [during the pandemic], that’s the wrong way to look at it,” Di Liberto says.

In fact, according to Di Liberto, Arts and CTE programs should be receiving much more attention. He says that doubling down on academic classes does not help students who are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

“I’m a musician myself, and if you had taken music out of my schedule when I was a kid, it would have just broken me,” Di Liberto says. “Those classes that often go by the wayside are the ones that often keep students in school.”

Di Liberto believes that one of the biggest issues facing the District is a focus on whiter, more affluent communities at the expense of minority communities. As an example Di Liberto discussed the differences between construction of new schools in North Eugene and South Eugene.

“The latest thing is that Edison and Camas Ridge [in South Eugene] got a swing school while their buildings are being reconstructed; however, Yujin Gakuen and Corridor got the short end of the stick,” Di Liberto says.

Di Liberto adds that even when the District sought the input of those at Yujin Gakuen and Corridor, they mostly spoke with administrators, not taking into account the direct experiences of teachers.

While Di Liberto does not think there is a simple solution, he believes that increased dialogue – including increased access for Spanish-speaking families – is a good first step.

Di Liberto is also focused on supporting teachers of color in a school system where almost 90 percent of teachers are white.

“Oftentimes [new teachers of color] are saddled with all these extra responsibilities [such as advising affinity clubs or coaching],” Di Liberto says. “They have to wear all these hats. Many of them give up.”

Finally, Di Liberto is interested in expanding schools’ involvement with mental health resources, both with more school counselors and with possibly more links with outside groups such as Planned Parenthood and Sexual Assault Support Services.

At the end of the day, Di Liberto says that the biggest reason he’s running is his expertise in teaching and his firsthand knowledge of classrooms and schools.

“I’m used to getting things done,” Di Liberto says. “[I have] very practical experience, and I think that’s what I can offer.”

Image courtesy of Judy Newman

Judy Newman

Current Occupation: 4J School Board of Directors Vice Chair and Senior Advisor of Early Childhood CARES

Prior Governmental Experience: School Board, work with public education through Early Childhood CARES

As the founder and former director of Early Childhood CARES, Judy Newman had years of public education administrative experience even before being elected to the school board in 2017. Now Newman, the only incumbent Board member seeking re-election this year, is looking to continue in that tradition.

“I’ve just always been passionate about education and social justice work, so I saw [the School Board] as another place I could contribute,” Newman says.

Newman believes strongly in mental and social-emotional health support in schools, and she mentions how the pandemic and the isolation that has come with it has made those issues even more relevant as students return to the building.

“These are times when your friend connections and social connections are so important,” Newman says. “During hybrid, I had wished and pushed for… less of the in-person academic and more social connection, because you can’t do that online.”

Click here to continue reading...

Newman supports the recent decision to remove armed officers from schools, but says that the work 4J must do towards racial equity has only just begun.

“[Removing School Resource Officers] is only the first step,” Newman says.

Newman would like to take a look at racial equity in 4J’s curriculum, provide professional development to teachers, and find ways to recruit and retain teachers of color. While the student body is less than 70% white, almost 90% of 4J teachers are white.

“We need to ask teachers of color what would make this a good place to work, what would make them want to stay here and would make them feel supported,” Newman says.

Newman adds that diversity on the Board is important as well, and would like to bring a wider range of experiences to the Board.

“Our Board is not very diverse,” Newman says. “We need to reflect our community in our leadership all the way through.”

But no Board, Newman says, will be perfect. She says a wider range of voices, including from committees such as the Equity Committee, are needed.

Newman emphasizes the importance of not only academic classes but also Career Technical Education (CTE).

“CTE is completely necessary to education and making sure all students know how to apply the skills they’re learning, know they’re relevant to life, just the joy of learning them,” Newman says. “For a lot of them, it’s the reason they come to school. And we want kids at school!”

Newman is excited about the new North Eugene High School building and specifically what it means for the North Eugene area.

“I think it’s a really important investment in the area, and we need to be making sure those facilities and programs there are every bit as high quality,” Newman says. “From the high schools to the CTE classes we put in there, [we need to make] sure the programs are as rigorous and plentiful there as well.”

In the end, Newman says that she wants to continue contributing to the 4J community.

“I have deep roots here.”

Position 3

Bryan Costa

Bryan Costa did not respond to requests for an interview.

Position 6: maya rabasa, dakota james boulette


Maya Rabasa

Current Occupation: Artist, Volunteer, Caretaker

Prior Governmental Experience: 4J Equity and Budget committees.

Maya Rabasa has been dedicated to 4J for a long time. She says her experience as a former teacher, frequent volunteer, and parent of a disabled student could add much-needed perspectives to the board.

“I pay attention partially because I’m a former teacher, but partially because I’ve spent so many hours on the ground in the schools,” Rabasa says. “That means that the policy that gets codified Wednesday night at a board meeting, I have a really intimate window into what it looks like when it has to get implemented Thursday morning.”

Rabasa hopes that she can help bridge the gap between the 4J community and the people making the decisions.

“[Communication] is something that I see lacking in our school board now,” Rabasa says. “I see people who are caring and have good intentions, but don’t have that intimate connection.”

Rabasa says her experience as an immigrant, and having learned English in school after moving from Mexico at a young age, has informed her perspective while working in the schools.

“One of the things you learn in school is that your sense of self-worth is a reflection of how others see you,” Rabasa says. “If you’re constantly made to feel like you’re this issue to be dealt with, instead of being seen as people who are going to succeed and that are valued, then it’s really detrimental to you and the success you have possible in front of you. And I haven’t seen that change. I’ve been at school for a long time and I’m still hearing students saying the exact same thing.”

According to Rabasa, the way 4J’s leadership views students, especially those in vulnerable minorities, needs to change, and she wants to bring those conversations into the spotlight.

“Recently our graduation scores came up and people were so excited -- ‘Oh, we’ve improved by 8 percentage points,’” Rabasa says. “But when you look across the board there’s still a significant disparity between our Native graduation rates, our Latinx graduation rates, our Black students, our disabled students, our housing compromised and economically challenged students, and that’s left out of the conversation. You just hear this celebration that scores went up. But they didn’t go up in the areas we most desperately need them to increase.”

On the subject of mental and social-emotional health, Rabasa says she thinks it should always be put first, but is currently more important than ever, and she is willing to push the people in leadership to make it more of a priority.

“We talk about math and language arts, but to me the relational health of students – with themselves, with their teachers, with each other, with their families, with the community – needs to be considered a number one need. Nothing else is going to fall into place unless that is prioritized.”

Rabasa is also concerned with inequities between North and South Eugene schools. As a parent of children who went to schools in both regions, she says that there are major differences between how those schools are thought of and allocated resources. One of the things perpetuating that inequity is school-specific parent- and community-raised funds. Areas that can raise funds most easily to support their schools are not usually the areas that need funding most, and that, she says, is exacerbating already existing inequities.

“[Community-raised funds] need to be distributed in a way that supports the schools that need them; it can’t just be my kids, my school, making sure my soccer team has the best cleats. It needs to be about all the schools.”

In the end, Rabasa keeps coming back to equity, in all its forms.

“On a district level, we need to focus where the greatest need is,” she says, “until all our schools – our students – are finding a similar level of success. That’s what equity is.”

Illustration by Natasha Dracobly

A Look Back On Quarantine Life

With the vaccine rollout kicking into high gear and life slowly returning to normal, South students take a look at how they changed during the pandemic.

By Henry Nieckarz

With the vaccine rollout kicking into high gear and life slowly returning to normal, South students take a look at how they changed during the pandemic. For many South students, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a completely different schedule and a drastically different pace for doing schoolwork.

“My daily routine shifted substantially during online learning,” sophomore Joshua Diem said. “The space that was once occupied by school, robotics and MMA is now almost completely free. This time is typically split between schoolwork, independent study, hobby work and friends, most of which unfortunately involves staring at a monitor.”

After COVID-19 cleared out many students’ pre-existing responsibilities and extracurriculars, some filled their newfound free time by pursuing hobbies and interests.

“With the absurd amount of free time that I suddenly found myself with, I was able to do a number of things that I had been interested in,” Diem added. “I learned the 3D modeling program Blender, [and] saved myself from having to take chemistry and precalculus in school by doing them independently.”

Story continued below...

Illustration by Natasha Dracobly

Along with increased free time, a recurring theme in students’ lockdown lives has been the impact of the prolonged isolation on mental wellbeing. Ever since the first stay at home order was issued, students have been forced to spend far more time away from their friends and peers, oftentimes leading to emotions of loneliness or sadness.

“The isolation has been a constant drag on my mental health,” senior Connor Moyce said. “I am quite eager to be rid of it.”

Sophomore Noah Wagner agrees.

“I'd love to finally trade the masks, isolation, free time, and sleep for human contact and normal activities,” Wagner said.

Despite the pandemic’s resounding negative impacts on students, many felt that their time in quarantine was not without silver linings, and that some good managed to come from it.

“As the pandemic has gone on for longer and longer I've tried to connect with friends online more and tried to hang out with my family,” sophomore Maren Ang said. “It's all felt like one long summer, but with schoolwork.”

Photo Essay:

to market, to market...

Changes to lane county Farmers Market

Photos and story by Naomi Saenger

Lane County Farmers Market’s temporary move to 5th Avenue between Oak and High streets was finished in early April and is now running smoothly. The move will allow construction to begin on the permanent location of the Market in Eugene's Town Square. The project is slated for completion to by February 2022. Walking through the market on a rainy Saturday morning was a calm and pleasantly familiar experience. The layout for the new location is more spread out, making shopping a fun and easy activity. A few shops placed around the market, including Tailored Coffee and Buffalo Exchange, are perfect stops after your stroll through the market.


Long march 5b rocket


By Lina Nakagome

On May 8, debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket, which carried the first module of China’s space station into orbit, landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. The April 29 launch of the rocket received much criticism due to the possibility that the debris could have landed on highly populated areas upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

In the event that this did happen, China would have to compensate those affected for the damage as they agreed to via the 1972 Space Liability Convention; Article 7 states that any State shall be liable to pay compensation for damage caused by their spacecraft. Bill Nelson, head of NASA, criticized China’s handling of the rocket, stating that “China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

While there were jokes floating around the internet regarding the opportunity to get hit and not have to go to work or school, many argued that the Western media’s portrayal of the incident was fear mongering. One Twitter user posted that “the U.S. sends dangerous air related weapons to other countries all the time” and that we should “keep that same energy with ALL countries.” Others warned that while China should have been more careful, the incident was not an excuse to be racist or xenophobic.


Citrus mag!

Citrus Mag, the online magazine that features creative work by Eugene youth, is producing a hard copy magazine for distribution in June. If you are interested in submitting creative work, or know someone who would be, email us at info@citrus-mag.com, or DM on instagram @citrus_mag_ . We are accepting photography, poetry, paintings, drawings, sketches, clothing designs, ceramics, music, makeup looks, fashion lookbooks, DIY projects, graphic designs, fictional writing, and any other creative work!


thank you for reading the axe magazine online!

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