Richland School Board challenger questions district's leadership

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldOctober 20, 2013 

Rick Jansons says he is committed to staying on the Richland School Board. But his challenger in the general election, Lloyd Becker, said Jansons' leadership isn't what the district needs.

The men are vying for a board seat in the Nov. 5 election. Jansons, the incumbent, was elected in 2001. Becker said a lack of strong management has derailed the district, and it needs to be brought back in line.

Jansons said he is committed to seeing the district through projects paid for with a $98 million voter-approved bond and continuing to expand and improve upon the education given to students.

Jansons, who serves as president of the board, has lived in the Tri-Cities since 1990. He is married with five kids, two of them still in elementary school. A Navy veteran, he's worked on the Hanford project during much of his time in the region but also as a homebuilder. He was hired as executive director for Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities in August.

Becker, a retired truck driver, has lived in Richland on and off since 1996. He has three adult children who attended Kennewick schools. He earned an associate degree from Columbia Basin College in the early 1990s and bachelor's and master's degrees from Colorado Technical University, a for-profit university. He said he is currently working on a doctorate in health care management and leadership at the school.

Becker criticized Jansons and the rest of the board for how it handled the $98 million bond approved by voters in February.

He said the three central Richland elementary schools that will be rebuilt as part of it could have been used for longer if the district had planned properly. He added that the district could potentially use bond money to build a new school in West Richland instead, as the board had rebuilt Jason Lee Elementary School with the last bond instead of renovating it.

"We didn't need a bond this big," he said.

Jansons said he stands by the bond and said it was necessary to meet student needs. He said he and other district administrators met with Becker prior to the bond election to go over his concerns. Jansons said his opponent did not understand the different types of debt and revenue the district uses.

"I think there's a steep learning cure, and he's not on it yet," Jansons said.

Becker also warned that the district shouldn't adopt the Common Core State Standards, new math and language arts benchmarks adopted by the state. He said the standards are reminiscent of nationalized education systems used in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia and will open the door to pornography in the classroom and students being taught altered history.

Jansons said he has his concerns about the federal government's increasing involvement in education. However, the district still has control over how students meet the standards. The standards also have been adopted by the state, meaning districts must comply with them.

The past year has been a controversial one for the district. The board fired former superintendent Jim Busey in January for having an inappropriate relationship with a district employee. Busey is suing the district for improperly firing him.

The bond also has raised issues with some residents who were concerned the board wasn't moving quickly enough on specific projects.

Becker said his concerns with district leadership stemminh from before Jansons' tenure on the board. He said the board president hasn't been forthcoming about the board's activities, though he did not provide specifics.

Jansons said the district is working with its attorneys to resolve the Busey lawsuit. He said he is committed to overseeing the bond and making sure projects get done on time and under budget.

-- For more election stories, go to

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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