Pasco School Board getting new faces

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 5, 2013 

The Pasco School Board will be getting some new faces.

Challenger Amy Phillips had 62 percent of the votes counted Tuesday, or 2,838 votes, while incumbent Darrell Toombs Jr. had 38 percent, or 1,735 votes.

Another challenger, Steve Christensen, held a slight lead over incumbent Bill Leggett, 54 percent to 46 percent.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Christensen told the Herald. "I think it's exciting and we can do some great things for students in Pasco."

Board President Sherry Lancon will hold on to her seat, getting 2,997 votes, or 64 percent, to challenger Javier Ruiz's 1,708 votes, or 36 percent.

"I'm happy the community is giving me support," she said.

Lancon has sat on the board since 2007 and is the board's president. Toombs was appointed in the spring after the resignation of former board member Jeffrey Dong. Leggett is the longest-tenured board member, serving since 1997.

Ruiz is a supervisor for the regional office of the state Department of Social and Health Services. Phillips is a homemaker and also has worked as a general contractor. Christensen is an engineer at the Hanford site.

Incumbents stood by the board's accomplishments, saying Pasco students have steadily improved their academic performance throughout the years. That's despite the district contending with burgeoning enrollment and a population that has a large number of non-English speakers and low-income families.

They also lauded voter support of a $46.8 million bond in February, which will pay for three new elementary schools to ease overcrowding. The district also will incorporate new science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, curriculum at those schools to prepare students for future careers.

But the challengers said it was time for a change on the board, criticizing sitting members for not discussing more of the district's business publicly and challenging administrators.

Toombs said he would wait until seeing results after more of the ballots were counted before conceding but that even if he is defeated, he will remain active in Pasco schools and possibly seek a seat on the board in the future.

"I'm still in the district, I don't plan on going anywhere," he said.

Ruiz said he was hoping his race would have a tighter margin. He may seek a seat on the board in the future but he knew the odds were against him when he challenged Lancon.

"Name recognition is so powerful and she definitely has that going for her," Ruiz said.

Leggett could not be reached Tuesday night.

About 6,000 ballots have been counted with another 3,000 left, the auditor's office reported. The next set of election results are scheduled to be released at 5 p.m. today.

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

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