Jun. 30—Although candidates for the Clarkston School District have some differences of opinion, they all agree that the school district should provide a safe learning environment focused on educating children.
There were 18 people in attendance at Clarkston City Hall at the candidate forum for Clarkston and Asotin-Anatone school districts, including Clarkston School Board candidates Rick Hanks, Rachel Rinard and Todd Snarr. Hanks and Rinard, along with Dan Randles, who didn’t attend the event, are running for position No. 1, which means there will be a primary with the top two candidates advancing to the general election. Ballots for the Aug. 1 primary will be mailed July 14 and will need to be returned or postmarked by Aug. 1.
The school board election for the No. 1 position is the only race that will be on the ballot for the primary. Snarr is running for the No. 5 position against Chris Bunce that will be decided in the general election in November.
Hanks, a Clarkston High School graduate, is retired and worked as an electrician for Clearwater Paper for 25 years. He would bring his experience of analyzing and troubleshooting problems to his role as a school board member. He wants to run for the position to benefit the students, the schools and the community. The three issues he wants to address are solving safety and security issues, the bond for building a new high school and improving the quality of education in the district.
Rinard was the only candidate at the forum who is currently a school board member and has been on the board for two years. She was born and raised in Colfax and has lived in Clarkston for 18 years. She and her husband own a business in Lewiston.
One of Rinard’s areas of focus was to get the community more involved and attend board meetings. She also addressed safety issues and the high school bond.
When asked about their number one priority, both Hanks and Rinard said safety was the main issue and it was also the main topic of concern from those in attendance. Rinard said that students need to feel safe, but also said that the board handles multiple things at a time.
Hanks was very passionate about the safety of students. He said that he went to a school board meeting and begged, even going down on his knees, for Clarkston High School to lock its doors. He said he’s gone to events at the high school or for different meetings and the doors are left open at the high school. He offered solutions, some that cost nothing and some that are more expensive, such as locking the door and installing cameras.
The active shooter situation at the high school in May that turned out to be a hoax was also brought up by candidates and those in attendance.
Hanks suggested providing better alerts for students, parents and media about situations at the school and improving communication with and between law enforcement as well as having an active shooter drill like Tri-State Health had in April.
Hanks also said there were communication issues between law enforcement agencies at the active shooter threat.
Rinard said that Clarkston had the fastest response time to the threat in eastern Washington. She attributed communication issues to the fact that multiple agencies from the county and city responded, but said actions are being taken to improve those communication lines. However, she was open to listening to Hanks about his solutions to safety issues.
“This is a top priority for us — my children are in that school also,” Rinard said.
Regarding the failed effort to approve a new high school, Hanks said the bond was expensive and was pushed by the school board. He believes that the high school doesn’t need to be torn down, although the facility needs to be improved.
“I want to get a good school built and modernized to today’s standards,” he said.
Rinard said that the high school bond was a two-year process that got the majority of votes, but not the super majority needed to pass. She wants to work toward getting the state and the legislature to provide more funds for schools.
Hanks also cited the school district’s report card from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction showing that 48% of students met English Language Arts standards, 28% met math standards, 47% met science standards and 73% of students graduated in four years.
“Does anybody, anybody, think that’s acceptable?” Hanks said. “We need to fix it.”
He used the example of his granddaughter, who was struggling in reading but was able to improve after receiving help for one hour twice a week. Hanks said that identifying students who are struggling in certain areas and providing them with the help they need can improve their education.
One area got all candidates in unison: the role of parents.
“Children belong to us, we’re the parents,” Rinard said. She explained further that teachers and the school district can guide students in education, but in other areas parents need to be brought in and have a say.
Rinard said in her time on the school board she made a motion to make it clear that parents were notified immediately if a child was going through a mental health crisis. As a parent she wants to be there and comfort her child through their struggles.
Snarr agreed and Hanks said he couldn’t have said it better.
Snarr also presented his agenda for his campaign for school board and focused on choice, transparency and solutions. He said the district needs to focus on fundamental education for its students. If students leave school not being able to read or do math, then the schools have failed.
For school safety, he said that kids are the “biggest watchdogs” and they should be encouraged to report issues they see.
Although he supports a new high school, he wants to keep the high school a high school and not a college or vocational school. He also wants the Yes CHS committee to remain in place and work to get business to support the campaign for a new high school, like having donation jars.
“Encourage (students) to go for goals and learn, that’s where you start to solve the problems,” Snarr said.
Brewster may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2297.