Richland School Board members retain positions

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 5, 2013 

The leadership of the Richland School Board won't be changing after Tuesday's election.

Board Chairman Rick Jansons was handily defeating challenger Lloyd Becker with 73 percent of the votes to Becker's 27 percent, according to initial election results.

"It validates the direction the district is moving in," Jansons told the Herald.

Vice Chairwoman Heather Cleary also was ahead of challenger Ron Higgins, but by a tighter margin at 57 percent to Higgin's 43 percent.

Cleary said she was happy to be re-elected but "it's obvious that Ron got a lot of support."

Cleary has been on the board for the past eight years. Jansons has served since 2001.

Higgins is a former Hanford worker now working as a substitute teacher. Becker is a retired truck driver and working on his doctorate in health care management.

Jansons and Cleary said the district has maintained high academic performance during their time on the board. They also said they want to see through all the construction projects tied to a $98 million bond approved by voters in February.

Both challengers have said they are concerned about preserving local control of education. They have been critical of the Common Core State Standards, new math and language arts benchmarks, calling them a federal intrusion into education.

The district also lacks strong leadership and a large bond wasn't needed to address the district's infrastructure needs, Becker has said.

The election results were what the challenger expected, though, with Becker adding that he's not as well known in the community as Jansons.

But this won't be Becker's last foray into educational issues. He said he recently started an anti-Common Core Facebook group and may propose a ballot initiative to prevent aspects of it from being implemented, but he'll stay focused on Richland schools.

"I believe I'll probably run for another slot but it will be the same issues," he said.

Cleary said she thinks concerns with the Common Core as well as Higgins' visibility after a prior run for state superintendent possibly played into why her race was so much closer than that between Jansons and Becker. However, a large number of residents clearly think the district is operating well, she said.

"The people who've spoken with me said they're pleased with the direction of the district," she said.

Garnering more than 40 percent approval was an accomplishment, Higgins said and he's happy that he'll be able to keep teaching. However, he said he thinks he could have lead a better campaign.

"My intent was to educate voters on the issues and I don't think I did a good job," Higgins said.

Election results will be certified on Nov. 26.

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

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