PENDLETON— Merle Comfort, a member of both the La Grande School District and InterMountain Education Service District boards of directors, has been named the 2019 Oregon School Board Member of the Year.

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Comfort was recognized Nov. 16 at the Oregon School Boards Association’s 73rd annual convention, held in downtown Portland. OSBA launched the Oregon School Board Member of the Year award in 2018 to recognize outstanding volunteers who make a difference in their communities.

“Here is a person who gives a huge amount of time and energy and is totally dedicated to the welfare of his district’s kids,” said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green.

Comfort has served La Grande schools from 1991 to 1999 and again from 2007 to the present. He has been on the IMESD board since the ESD was created in 2011.

“Merle epitomizes what a strong education leader is for rural Oregon,” said Dr. Mark Mulvihill, IMESD superintendent.

Comfort began his school board service before his only child, Denise Comfort, was born in 1994. Comfort planned to have children, and he wanted to make sure the schools were as good as they could be.

Comfort’s daughter graduated from high school in 2013, but he has kept going. He said he stayed on to help the district pass its first bond in decades in 2014. Colleagues credit Comfort for his leadership during the bond process, and he called it one of his proudest accomplishments.

“Until it passed, you have hopes and dreams,” he said. “When it passes, you see some of those hopes and dreams come to fruition.”

Comfort said the Student Success Act, passed in 2019, offers a chance to reverse the effects of three decades of property tax cuts. The act will raise about $1 billion annually for schools through a new business tax.

Nominees for the statewide Board Member of the Year award were considered for their advocacy efforts, leadership and support for student achievement. Comfort’s name will be placed on the OSBA website and engraved on a plaque in OSBA’s Salem office. He also will be able to register for OSBA events free for a year.

OSBA’s Green reminded school board members to keep an eye out for fellow members’ accomplishments and begin considering nominations for next year when they open in January 2020.

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(1) comment

Valley Parent

I don't think I've heard anything so funny. Who does he help? Which students? The school board is a sham. People get on the board so they can benefit their kids - send them on pricey baseball, volleyball or wrestling trips all at the tax payers and students expense. Or get on the Board so their kids can play sports. Maybe the media should start looking closer at what happens in La Grande. The academics in La Grande are and have been horrible and keep getting worse, but I guess the social media posts and biased local news can hide what really happens?

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