Kennewick School Board challenger says he offers new viewpoint

Tri-City HeraldOctober 23, 2013 

— Kennewick voters will have a choice between continuity or a new viewpoint when casting their ballots in the Kennewick School Board race in the November general election.

Board President Dawn Adams, the longest-tenured member, says her record speaks for itself and it’s important to have stability on the board.

“I think I’ve demonstrated my leadership skills,” she told the Herald.

Challenger Brian Bradford said he wouldn’t be upset if Adams was re-elected in November.

However, he thinks his less traditional path through his education and life could lead to innovation or improvements in the district.

“I think I would offer a fresh perspective,” he said.

Adams was born and raised in Kennewick on a farm south of town. She has a master’s in computer science and previously worked for Parsons Technology Development and Fabrication Complex in Pasco before it shut down last year. She is currently working as a consultant. She is married and has four sons, all in college. She has been on the board since being appointed in 2001.

Bradford spent most of his earlier years on the west side of the Cascades before moving to Kennewick at age 16, but has lived in the area on and off through the years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Evergreen State College in 2011.

He has been back in the Tri-Cities since then, working primarily as a caregiver for family members until his own health problems emerged. He said his health would not affect his ability to serve on the board.

Adams said the district has maintained high academic standards, sought to meet the diverse needs of students and been fiscally responsible while she’s been on the board. She pointed to the pending rebuilding of Eastgate Elementary School with leftover bond dollars as a sign of the district’s good fiscal management.

Maintaining a sustainable budget while continuing to meet the needs of students remain Adams’ priorities if re-elected. The district will face the challenge of a growing population — particularly of low-income students who move frequently or don’t know English when they first arrive for school — but all need the same opportunities.

“Not everyone will go to college, but the door needs to be there,” she said.

Bradford said he was motivated to run for the board two years ago when he felt his niece, who is autistic, wasn’t getting proper attention from her teachers. He said his ideas about education also were formed by his own experiences, such as regimented teachers who caused him to drop out and instead earn a high school equivalency degree.

He has a lot of ideas should he be elected to the board, such as pushing to form a busing cooperative with the Richland and Pasco districts as a means of cutting costs and stressing functionality rather than aesthetics on future building projects.

Bradford said he also wants more options for after-school activities and said he was dismayed that Vista Youth Center, an independent organization that catered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, had closed.

“If I were on the school board, I would not have let that happen,” he said.

The candidates have differing views on the future role science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in education.

Adams said she’s been a big supporter of STEM-focused Delta High School, cooperatively operated by the Kennewick, Richland and Pasco districts. She said she anticipates the district taking a STEM approach with a future elementary school as Pasco and former Delta High principal Deidre Holmberg are doing with its three new elementary schools.

“I called Deidre and told her I want to look over her shoulder,” Adams said.

Bradford said he was bothered by the idea of having a separate school for a STEM program as it creates exclusivity and could also hamper student socialization.

“STEM should be co-located with traditional programs,” he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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