Our 3 picks for Kennewick School Board. Here’s why | Editorial

The five-member Kennewick School Board is losing two veterans next year — Ben Messinger and Brian Brooks. Both were elected in 2011 and decided not to seek another term.

Incumbent Ron Mabry, who also was elected in 2011, made the choice to run for Director 3. We are glad he did.

He is thoughtful and direct, and with two new members joining the school board and a new superintendent, Mabry’s leadership and his understanding of the state education system will be invaluable.

Mabry said he was on a learning curve when he first joined the board, but now he feels like he can apply everything he has learned so he wants to continue.

He said he isn’t afraid to disagree with other board members. For example, he initially opposed the board’s decision to post documents online during last summer’s teacher negotiations.

He wanted to give the process a chance first, and then see if releasing the bargaining details was necessary.

But he doesn’t complain when his opinion is in the minority, and appears to have a solid working relationship with other board members.

His challenger is Wende Carlisle. She has taken time away from being a physical therapist to be a stay-at-home parent for her two boys. She wants to get involved in the school district, but was not planning to run for office until she was encourage by a friend.

She said she had to make her decision very quickly, and decided to jump in. She is doing her best to get up to speed on the issues.

We are always grateful to those who are willing to serve, and to those willing to go through the election process in order to give voters a choice.

That being said, we suggest Carlisle take some time to attend school board meetings regularly and really prepare herself for a run at the board in the future. She has the makings of a really great candidate.

But Mabry already is, and the school district will benefit from his expertise.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Ron Mabry for Kennewick School Board.

Connors vs Langford

Michael Connors and James Langford are running for the open Director 4 seat on the Kennewick School Board.

Connors, of Skone & Connors farms, is a parent of four in the Kennewick School District, and became concerned last year when word spread there might be cuts to high school choir programs.

Students and parents implored district officials to keep the programs alive, and their pleas worked. Connors said that experience and, encouragement by family, helped him decide to run.

He works in sales and marketing for the family farm. Huge budgets don’t overwhelm him, and he is used to working with many different people with varying points of view. His business acumen would be an asset to the board.

Langford is a unique candidate. He admits he didn’t think he would make it out of the primary election, but has embraced the victory.

He is genuinely disappointed that students are not taught to memorize material he believes they should know by heart. Langford, a truck driver, isn’t against technology, but he does seem to long for the educational system he remembers growing up.

Langford’s heart is in the right place, but Connors’ background gives him a distinct advantage.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Michael Connors for Kennewick School Board.

Mastaler vs Sundvik

Voters will be the winners in the race for the No. 5 position on the Kennewick School Board.

Both Pat Mastaler and Diane Sundvik are outstanding candidates, and we had a difficult time choosing between them.

Mastaler brings 34 years of finance experience with billion dollar programs. His wife is an elementary school teacher in Kennewick, and they have three daughters who went through Kennewick schools.

He has been involved in the school district facilities committee, levy and bond committees, Junior Achievement and YMCA.

And if that isn’t enough, on his Fridays off he is a substitute teacher.

Sundvik, who also is a parent, recently retired after 29 years as a speech pathologist for the Kennewick School District. She said she has been planning for years to run for the school board.

She knows the day-to-day challenges facing teachers and students, and her perspective would be a plus for the school board.

Sundvik also has served on the Kennewick Education Association bargaining team, so she’s got a keen understanding of school finances. In addition, she has discussed education issues with state officials, and, as a teen student might say, “She really knows her stuff.”

We think both candidates would be candid and collaborative if elected, and we would like to recommend them both.

But since that isn’t possible, we are giving the nod to Mastaler.

The state’s school financing system is a complete mess, and it is causing problems across the state.

Budget issues likely will be the main issue facing the Kennewick School Board in the near-term, and Mastaler’s experience with billion-dollar budgets would be a huge help.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Pat Mastaler for Kennewick 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.