PASCO — A retired teacher and coach will be the newest face on the Pasco School Board.
Jeffery Dong was picked Wednesday to replace Saul Martinez, who stepped down in June to join the Pasco City Council.
"I have always felt very close to the Pasco School District," said Dong, 65, during his interview.
The educator spent 40 years at Pasco High School teaching history, coaching tennis and serving as a club adviser before retiring in 2007. He's stayed involved with the district since then by attending school events and volunteering, he said.
"I always say I retired from the paying job but not the non-paying job," he told the board with a laugh.
Dong was one of five people interviewed Wednesday. Each candidate answered questions for about 25 minutes on everything from what they believe are characteristics of an effective board member, to ways they think the district can improve.
Dong said he thinks the board works well together on behalf of kids and that the community has a voice in the system. He also listed the district's diversity as a strength. About 73 percent of Pasco students are minorities and 4,800 are learning English as a second language, according to information from the district.
Dong said a key issue in coming years will be swelling enrollment. The district has grown by 5,600 students in the last decade -- enough to fill a new school every year, according to district information.
"We need to provide facilities for that growth," Dong said.
When asked about his educational philosophy, he referred to his time as a Bulldog.
"In my 40 years at Pasco High School, I always thought (the district's job) was to make sure our students come out of the district well-educated, well-rounded and well-balanced, and that they leave here feeling they've been prepared enough for what they're going onto," he said.
The other candidates for the post were: Ruben Peralta, a former Pasco teacher who now owns an insurance agency; Joseph Smart, who owns Smart Electric; Robert Lindsay, who works for HAPO Mortgage; and Noemi Ortega, a U.S. Census official.
Board members met behind closed doors for 30 minutes after the interviews were finished and then re-convened in public to make their pick.
Board President Sherry Lancon said all of the candidates were strong. She praised Dong's years of service and commitment to the district and said, "He's a great fit for the school board."
Dong will have to run for election in 2011 to keep the seat. He will be sworn in during the board's next meeting on July 27.
* Sara Schilling: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org