The Richland School District is weathering the current economic crisis better than most of its counterparts.
School board members deserve a lot of the credit for maintaining programs and resources despite cuts in state funding.
And for the most part -- with one notable exception -- we think voters ought to reward board members facing challengers this year with re-election.
Guay v. Barth
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Sometimes it seems like Mary Guay lives for the Richland School District.
She has served on the school board for 12 years -- after doing an eight-year stretch in the 1970s.
"I care deeply about children, and I have nothing else to do," she told the Herald editorial board.
Guay serves on committees, volunteers and keeps an eye out to make sure the superintendent is on the ball too. (She says the new one "is doing marvels," by the way.)
Still, she ran second in the primary, receiving 43 percent of the vote while her top challenger, Brian Barth, got 46 percent. The third candidate dropped out before the primary but, her name was still on the ballot.
On election night, Guay said she was disappointed with the vote, but her spirits were as buoyant as ever when she met at the Herald with her challenger.
Actually, Barth compares well with Guay. This is a race between two well-motivated and capable people.
His view of the board is more analytical than Guay's. He's a former specialized teacher of Japanese children with five years of experience. He has five children. He'd like to improve basic education and worries that there is too much compartmentalization in the schools.
He turned to Guay during their joint interview and thanked her, "for your tireless effort" on behalf of Richland schools.
The district would be best served by Guay continuing in that role.
Donahoe v. Comfort
Rick Donahoe was appointed to the Richland School Board almost two years ago. He has been a thoughtful and consistent member. He is one who we would like to see retained on the board except for one small thing -- his opponent is Gordon Comfort.
Comfort is an impressive candidate. He's highly educated, articulate, and he knows the school system from the inside out.
Before he took the job as head of the local Goodwill Industries, Comfort was the principal at Richland High. He's also worked as a teacher and in other positions at various schools around the country.
He has a variety of experience -- actual in-the-trenches experience -- that would give the board a perspective it is now missing.
He also has ideas.
Most of the school board candidates in this area love the idea of Delta High (as do we). Comfort wants to keep the infant STEM school accountable. That's fair.
It's a good way to make sure the three districts in this venture are transferring the successes seen on a small scale to all Mid-Columbia students.
We also like Comfort's idea (which he freely admits he got from one of is primary opponents) for a Knowledge is Power Program -- open-enrollment, public schools focused on preparing underserved students for success in the nation's top colleges.
There is something to be said for institutional knowledge. But new ideas, especially the workable kind, can lead to better solutions. Comfort has the right combination of insider knowledge and outsider perspective.
Amidan v. Strickler
We've opposed about every stance Phyllis Strickler has taken on the district's book policy. Her sense of what's appropriate reading material for teenagers is a lot narrower than ours.
Frankly, if reading lists were the school board's only concern, we'd probably recommend her opponent in this race.
But the book policy is a small part of a school board member's job. On bigger issues, such as responsible stewardship of taxpayers' money and improving public education, Strickler is an effective advocate.
Public schools in Washington face tough times. Additional cuts in state funding are likely.
Strickler's 16 years of experience on the board will be an especially valuable asset in the trying times ahead.
Brett Amidan appears to be a smart and capable candidate. He has some exposure to the district, first as a student and now as the parent of three children in three different schools.
He's a statistician and research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and believes that his analytical skills can help find creative solutions to the district's problems.
Amidan would bring some new ideas to the board, but that's not the district's greatest need right now. The financial difficulties on the horizon call for an experienced leader.
The Tri-City Herald editorial board recommends Mary Guay, Gordon Comfort and Phyllis Strickler for Richland School Board.