Two newcomers vie for Richland School Board. Here is our pick | Editorial

The Richland School Board will get a new member next year thanks to an open seat — and that member needs to be a galvanizing force.

After a rocky year that saw the abrupt exit of the interim school superintendent, Richland citizens are looking for more transparency from school district leaders.

A new school board member could play a pivotal role in making that happen.

Jay Clough and Kari Williams are competing for the post. Both are sincere, enthusiastic candidates who have children currently enrolled in Richland schools.

Williams emphasizes that her past experience as a public school teacher will help her connect district administrators and classroom teachers. She believes someone with teaching experience should be on the school board.

Meanwhile, Clough appears focused on cementing better relationships between the school district and the community at large. He also is pushing for more accountability from the school district.

If ever the Richland School District needed to extend an olive branch to its citizens, it is now. We believe Clough’s reach will be wider, and he is our pick in this race.

The school district is still reeling after Nicole MacTavish, who was hired to replace school Superintendent Rick Schulte, agreed last summer to walk away from the job. She took with her a sizable settlement.

District leaders decided to cancel MacTavish’s contract after she apparently got crosswise with the Richland teachers’ union and with parents, particularly over her handling of issues with the district’s special education program.

Clough and Williams both are concerned about how the district will recover after the debacle.

Williams’ focus on connecting with teachers in the district is admirable, and her cheerful disposition makes her easy to like. She likely would be an amiable leader who would follow her conscience.

But we think Clough will drive the school board harder.

He’s intent on improving communication between school leaders and citizens, and that broad approach will be helpful as school leaders try to regain the trust of taxpayers.

Williams, however, is a strong opponent.

She has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and human development and a master’s in teaching. Williams was an elementary school teacher, and is now a stay-at-home mother with five young children.

She has spent time helping in her children’s classrooms, and she has served on the Richland School District Instructional Materials Committee, where she said she fought for developmentally appropriate curriculum to match the community’s family values.

She also was a co-chairwoman for the Richland Citizens for Good Schools during the recent bond campaign.

When former Richland School Board member Brett Amidan left last summer to take an out-of-state job, he threw his support to Williams. He noted that she would add a “missing perspective to the board as a young mom” and that she is “very experienced in the education field.”

Williams also has the endorsement of the Benton County Republican Party, and she was the top vote-getter in the primary election. She likely would live up to her main campaign goal — which is to become a link between the school board and the classroom.

Clough, though, also is a parent who has spent time helping in the classroom. He’s been a volunteer for the Junior Achievement program and has taught English in China and Japan.

He has been endorsed by the Richland Education Association, so he’s earned the trust of teachers in the district.

A former Marine, he now works as a lead health physics technician on the Hanford site. He also served on the Reach Interpretive Center Capital Campaign Committee.

Both Williams and Clough will do a good job if elected. But if the Richland School District is going to rebuild trust with citizens, it needs a person who can be both an assertive voice and a team player — that’s Clough.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Jay Clough for the Richland School Board.


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Members of The Tri-City Herald editorial board interview political candidates, as well as advocates and opponents of ballot measures. The editorial board is comprised of experienced opinion journalists and community members, and is separate from The Herald’s newsroom. Conversations are on the record.

What does the recommendation process entail?

Whenever possible, The Herald editorial board meets with opposing candidates at the same time. The questions are largely focused on a candidate’s qualifications and goals, and the hour-long session resembles a conversation more than a scripted interview. The editorial board then discuss the candidates in each race and decides who to recommend. In the case of ballot measures, we strive to have representatives from both sides of the issue in the room at the same time so we can get past the political rhetoric and obtain firm answers. Board members seek to reach a consensus on our recommendations, but not every decision is unanimous.

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