Kennewick School Board: 3 take aim at seat

The times certainly will be a-changin' this year in Kennewick school politics.

Lynn Fielding, the school board's senior member, is not running for re-election for Position 4. He has served on the board since 1989 and has helped to shape district policy over the years.

Fielding did not answer multiple requests to comment on his choice not to run again.

Three candidates have jumped into the breach, one of them a veteran of Kennewick School Board races.

Uby Creek has twice before run for a seat on the board. Brian Brooks and Brian Bradford are new to school politics, although not to the district.

The two candidates with the most votes in Tuesday's primary will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

School board members are elected to four-year terms to lead the district of nearly 15,000 students. They receive $50 per school board meeting they attend, but no other compensation.

Creek ran against Fielding in 2007 and against now-board President Dawn Adams in 2009.

She is doing so again, in part to bring more diversity to the board, she said. The district has twice as high a share of Hispanic students today -- 30 percent, according to state records -- than it did 10 years ago.

Creek grew up in a migrant worker family and was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college. The 49-year-old has lived in the Tri-Cities since 1982 and is a parent educator for the Educational Service District 123.

She works with schools in Kennewick and Othello to get parents more involved in their children's education, by teaching them math so they can help their kids with homework, for example.

Creek has two daughters who graduated from Kennewick schools and are now in college.

She serves on the boards of several nonprofits in the Tri-Cities, including the Benton Franklin Early Learning Alliance.

Creek said her focus would be on lowering the district's drop-out rate and to be a "fresh set of eyes and ears on the board." But Creek wouldn't merely seek concessions for Hispanics, she said.

"I have challenged many (Hispanic) families to step up and give back," she said.

Creek was a teacher's aide and preschool teacher in Kennewick before she started at the ESD. She has been to "about 90 percent" of all school board meetings in the past five years, she said.

Brooks has not been to any Kennewick School Board meetings, he said. The 45-year-old physical therapist has lived in the Tri-Cities for 18 years.

He is a member of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and is the board treasurer for Columbia Physical Therapy, which has 14 offices in three states, he said.

That financial background gives him an edge in the most pressing issue the district will face, he said.

"I think we'll see slowdowns in funding across the board," Brooks said. "We need to be wise and prudent with spending."

Brooks has two kids in Kennewick schools and two who graduated from Kennewick schools.

"My kids will help me maintain focus on what's most important -- to prepare kids for the challenges ahead," he said.

Bradford doesn't have any kids of his own, but his sister does.

"I have a niece and two nephews in Kennewick schools," he said.

His initial impetus to run for the school board came from what he perceived to be a lack of attention his niece received in school, he said.

Since then, Bradford has broadened his platform. The 35-year-old said he could bring a better understanding to "contemporary issues such as school clubs and bullying."

The Kennewick School District this spring revised its policy to give more access to school clubs, including to clubs that represent gay, lesbian and transgender youths in schools.

Bradford moved to the Tri-Cities when he was 16, but left the area several times in between, most recently to go to Evergreen State College in Olympia, where he studied urban planning and computer science.

He just returned to the Tri-Cities and currently is not working so he can take care of his mother, he said.

Bradford served on the Ben Franklin Transit citizens advisory committee in 2003 and has written about transportation issues online.

He would push for school buses to be operated by a private company, he said.

Schools should focus on academic subjects, such as math and science, especially in the Tri-Cities, he said. If schools can prepare workers for jobs at Hanford contractors, those firms won't leave when the cleanup in the area is completed, he said.

Teachers ought to be retained based on merit, not seniority, he said.

w Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com