2 races for Pasco School Board seats. Here’s who we think should fill them | Editorial

In the Pasco School Board race for Position 1, voters have a choice between a highly respected six-year veteran and a challenger who we think someday would make a terrific elected official.

But, for now, we recommend incumbent Scott Lehrman because his knowledge of school issues is too deep to dismiss. He also has a reputation for caring about transparency and listening to constituents, and that’s important.

His challenger is Donna Watts, a solid first-time candidate. She’s a certified public accountant and an auditor, and that background would be helpful for anyone in an elected office.

She’s also a parent who wants to serve the school district, so she decided to dive in and run for the school board. That takes some gumption.

To her credit, Watts said she also is on the district’s High School Planning Task Force and is helping to research and develop recommendations for a third high school — a commendable way to get involved.

But Lehrman already has proven himself. He was appointed to the school board in 2013 after a former board member resigned.

The chemical engineer and nuclear safety manager and his wife have four children and three of them are enrolled in Pasco schools. His wife formerly worked as a teacher in the Kennewick and Pasco school districts, so he has an inkling about the teacher perspective.

He has weathered challenging times in the Pasco district, including a search for a new superintendent, a teachers’ strike and the passage of a school bond measure by just seven votes.

Through it all, Lehrman said he has learned a lot about public service, and the need to listen carefully before making decisions.

He emphasizes that during his time as president of the board from 2015-17, the district put a priority on becoming more transparent, including broadcasting the meetings live and later posting recordings of the sessions.

Lehrman has been a responsive school board member and he should continue on.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Scott Lehrman for Pasco School Board.

Campos vs Castellano

Pasco School Board Member Aaron Richardson decided not to seek another term, creating a spot for someone new.

Elections for open seats means both candidates are untested. This race has attracted Jesse Campos, a Pasco native with a long history of helping the youth of the community, and Steven Castellano, a candidate who moved to Pasco last year.

Castellano has many ideas on how to improve education, and he wants to share them. He is a big believer in after-school tutoring programs and wants to see those expanded.

It is clear in our conversation with him that Castellano sincerely wants to make a difference in the lives of children.

However, so does Campos — and he gets our recommendation.

Campos grew up in Pasco and has strong ties to the city and the school district. He has spent his life trying to help all kids, but particularly at-risk youth.

Currently, he is the executive director for the Tri-Cities Dream Center, an outreach program that tackles a variety of social problems, including homelessness and the allure of gangs for troubled teens. In the past, he was a branch director for the Boys & Girls Club and many other groups devoted to helping teens and even younger kids who need help getting their lives on track.

Campos also was appointed by Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins to chair the city’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Commission. His commitment to helping others is inspiring.

We want Castellano to feel welcome in Pasco, and it is great he wants to volunteer and make his new home a better place.

But Campos already knows the school district, and he knows Pasco kids.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Jesse Campos for Pasco School Board.


Behind Our Election Recommendations

Who decides the recommendations?

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.

Is the editorial board partisan?

No. In making recommendations, members of the editorial board consider which candidates are well prepared to represent their constituents — not whether they agree with us or belong to a particular political party. We evaluate candidates’ relevant experience, their readiness for office, their depth of knowledge of key issues, their understanding of public policy and their ability to work with the current board . We’re seeking candidates who are thoughtful and who offer more than just party-line talking points. The editorial board will endorse both Republicans and Democrats.

Why are the editorials unsigned?

Our election recommendations reflect the collective views of The Herald’s editorial board — not just the opinion of one writer. Board members all discuss and contribute ideas to each editorial.