May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Meet the Candidate: Laural O’Rourke

6 min read
Laural O'Rourke is running for Eugene School District 4J School Board.

Laural O'Rourke is running for Eugene School District 4J School Board.

Michael Kinnison: Hello KEPW, my name is Michael Kinnison. I’m a campaign manager for Laural O’Rourke for 4J School Board, and I’m here with our candidate, Laural O’Rourke. She’s running for Position Two for the 4J School Board and we appreciate the time to meet the KEPW listeners. And so we have a few questions and that Laurel’s going to answer and share her perspective with all of you.

Laural, would you like to introduce yourself and talk a little bit about why you’re running for school board?

Laural O’Rourke: [00:00:38] Hi, my name is Laurel O’Rourke. Why I’m running to the school board is that I have five children that went to 4J schools. Three of them had IEPs, which are Individual Education Plans. That mean that they have a learning disability of some sort. I’ve had to struggle to, to get their needs met with their learning disabilities. So some of the reasons I want to be on the school board is that the work that I do every day, I work for Lane County Community and Economic Development. I’m a management analyst and the work I do, every day I look at problems that are facing our community. And I look for solutions and I figure out ways I can make things better.

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I don’t necessarily expect everyone else to make things better on their own. I like to help with that. So I’m hopeful that the, with my knowledge and my ability of the work I do, I’ll be able to help with that on the school board. I care a lot about this town. I’m from here. I was went to four day schools a while ago and I, I like, knowing that we are a wonderful community and that we, but we probably have some work to do on, at the school board communication between staff, between teachers, between parents, between administrators. I want everybody to have a voice and I don’t think everyone has a voice right now. I want to—there are probably more questions about around my platform, so I’ll wait for that, ‘cause I have a lot. Thanks.

Michael Kinnison: [00:02:23] Thank you. Can you tell us what you think is the most important issue facing the district?

Laural O’Rourke: [00:02:27] This term will be getting kids back in school safely. I was concerned when teachers were called back into school before they had completed all their immunizations. I’m concerned as a parent that COVID is going up. They believe this is a fourth surge just beginning. And for some reason, as a parent, I thought that all teachers would be immunized like they had to be. And I have since learned, that’s not the case.

So I was going to send my son to hybrid schooling. And now I have chosen not to because I would like to make sure he’s fully immunized before he goes back to school because I’m concerned about his safety. I’m concerned about our family, but also, we have grandparents in the area. We want to keep everybody safe.

That’s a big, that’s the biggest concern right now for everyone. I put it on a personal level because we’re all thinking about it that way, but it’s, on the school board, we have to think about it the whole community and what it means for Jay and how, of course we want kids back in school.

I have five kids. I only have two at home still, but yes, I did not make the decision lightly to not send him back to hybrid schooling this month because it’s been hard and I know it’s hard, but I also, I have, I just recently worked for the Health Department. I was part of Lane County Health and Human Services.

These numbers are real. The sickness is real. This is not opinion or fear-based as I’ve heard some call it, this is, we need to keep our community safe and our teachers safe and our staff safe and everyone safe. And if we can hold out just a little bit longer, I’m hopeful that we can get everybody back in school safely, like a hundred percent for the next school year in September.

Michael Kinnison: Thank you. If elected, how would you approach your role differently than your opponent?

Laural O’Rourke: I don’t know if I’d be completely different, I don’t know how Anne Marie [Levis] approaches her role. She’s not my opponent anymore. Actually, she was the one who had, I guess I thought of the person who has had the role before me. She, I guess this would be a good place to say that I have a lot of respect for Anne Marie, whose position that I’m going for right now, because she was my opponent and she pulled out of the race because she recognized that the board would be, would benefit from having somebody on it who has the lived experience being a black person from this community, and there is no replacing that. And I would be the only minority on the board, I believe. Maya, who is also great, she’s also a candidate right now, she was born in Mexico.

But anyway, I don’t know everything about everyone, but I do know that for myself there has been the voice that has been missing that stands up. ‘Cause I understand at a profound level what it means to be marginalized. I grew up in this community. I was policed in our schools, meaning I was watched very carefully to the point where I didn’t really believe in myself until I was into middle age, because I had to learn from our amazing youth that my black life matters. I didn’t learn it from my peers.

So I do bring a different perspective and a different view. And it’s not just because of marginalization and understanding. It’s also because I, the work I do every day, is helping those that have high needs. And I do that by choice and I don’t do it because I don’t think, ‘What a hard job.’ I do it because I’m really good at finding solutions. And I love helping people that I feel like there is no solution, feel pretty lost, that society has thrown away. And I look for those solutions and at the same time telling them that they matter.

And I believe every single kid matters, not just the ones that are going to college, the ones that perhaps want to go into a technical trade or something like that. I believe that every single kid matters right now. We really, we really only look, if you go on 4J’s website and kids going to college, even their CTE (career technical education) says, and you can go on to a two- and four-year college. There are a lot of kids that don’t want to go to college and that’s okay.

We also need amazing, more amazing tradespeople. I worked labor, and I have a deep respect for the people who do that work. And I would like us to have to see every kid where they want to be, not where we say they need to be, but where we, where they would like to be. Yeah, that’s what I would say how I’m a little bit different from some.

Michael Kinnison: [00:07:57] Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters?

Laural O’Rourke: [00:08:02] I would just like to say thank you for this opportunity. And my name is Laural O’Rourke and no, not a lot of people know me, but you can, if you have any more questions. My webpage is So that’s L A U R A L F O R 4 And there’ll be some more information on there if you’d like, and you can also reach out and contact me as well. I’m on Facebook and Instagram too. Thank you.

Michael Kinnison: Thank you, Laural. Thank you KEPW for this opportunity. Thank you.

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