Rick Donahoe for Richland School Board

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of a School Board?

The purpose of the school board is to govern. This means that the board establishes policies, approves budgets, sets goals and monitors performance, and hires the superintendent. The board does NOT implement. Implementation belongs to the superintendent and his/her staff. The board must work closely with the superintendent to keep up to speed with issues and overall performance.

Individual board members have no authority by themselves. By law it is the board, not individual members, that makes decisions and provides direction. Individual members are responsible to show up to meetings and be prepared. Board members must keep a broad perspective on issues. They represent the public but are also advocates for students. Board members must be committed to all students and effective teaching and learning.

To learn more https://www.wssda.org/LeadershipDevelopment/WashingtonSchoolBoardStandards.aspx

Why do you want to continue to serve on the board?

Parents take their most precious gift, their children, and send them to school for 6 to 7 hours a day, 180 days a year. The parents expect their kids to be in a safe environment, be treated with respect, and to learn. This is a huge responsibility for the school district, and the Richland School District has done an excellent job performing this job. But we can do better. I want to be part of this successful team and help lead it. We need to continually find ways to improve student learning.

Since moving here in 1994, we have had 3 of our kids graduate from Hanford High school, my wife has been a teacher in three of the Richland schools, and I have volunteered every year in the schools. I am committed to Richland schools. What is more important than educating and preparing our youth for the future? Having served on the school board since October 2009, I have observed first-hand the challenges and rewards that our educators deal with on a daily basis.

What is your passion about education in the Richland School District?

Students living in low income homes are not performing as well in our schools as other children. Their parents may be working two or more jobs. The children do not have the same resources or opportunities as other kids. Sometimes these kids are in charge of their siblings while their parents are working. Robert Putnam’s book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” explains the different trajectory for kids growing up in poverty as compared to other children.

In 2018, the district looked carefully at student performance and realized that we were not serving children in poverty well. I pushed strongly for a new district wide goal that was adopted. The new Priority Goal for Richland Schools is

“Expand Student Learning for All, While Reducing the Income-Based Achievement Gap.”

THIS goal is my passion!

What special strengths do you bring to the school board?

I was a middle school English/Language Arts teacher in Virginia. I know what it’s like to stand up in front of 130 students every day. Since then, I have gone on to become an engineer and project manager, a grant director and CEO of an international educational non-profit. I have worked in over 60 school districts across the country focusing on literacy. I have over 38 years of experience managing large budgets. I have supervised large organizations.

But perhaps my major strength is listening. I want to hear what your concerns are and then to find ways to collaborate on answers. Most issues can be best solved using a team approach.

What is happening with Special Education in our schools?

In 2018 the district brought in an independent organization, the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative Education Development Center, to conduct a special education review. This audit resulted in 18 recommendation requiring corrective actions. A draft plan was developed to address the audit.

Plans were made to start implementing the corrective actions in the spring of 2019. However, parents and teachers had significant concerns about implementing these changes. The school board listened to these concerns and decided to set up a task force to help determine how best to make the necessary changes. The Special Education Task Force (SETF) will be established during the summer of 2019. I have volunteered to be on this task force.

What is happening with all the new or updated schools?

In the last ten years there has been a 23% growth in student population. Because some of our existing schools were over 40 years old, we worked with our community and held two levies that the voters approved for construction for new schools.

The district has taken on a significant building program to replace old schools (Jefferson, Sacajawea, Marcus Whitman, Lewis and Clark) and build new schools (Leona Libby Middle School and a new elementary school on Belmont Avenue in West Richland). We will replace Tapteal and Badger Mountain elementary schools in the near future.

These new buildings have provided additional space for reduced class size which has resulted in additional state funds. In addition, through careful planning, the district was able to maximize state funding for the new schools.

What’s all this fuss about Chromebooks?

The district looked at the technology needs of students to prepare them to be successful in the 21st century. Our students need to know how to use computers as tools for their learning.

The district selected to use Chromebooks, small laptop computers that use Google Chrome's operating system. The Chromebooks link to the internet for their applications, making them lighter and smaller.

Chromebooks are being used as a 1:1 device for all students as a TOOL. They are not a replacement for teachers! The devices are used successfully in the classroom to aid in collaborative learning. Teachers are also able to monitor each student’s progress remotely without having to collect papers, take them home to grade them, and then pass them back out. Students can share information with each other, and teachers and students can work together instantly.

Students now have their own devices where they can perform research, conduct lab tests together, share data, take tests, work with their teacher and learn more effectively.

Talk to me about “Mindfulness."

Mindfulness https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/ is being personally aware and fully present of the current state of ourselves. Are we afraid? Are we daydreaming? Are we focusing on the task in front of us? Brain research is telling us that if we are aware of our feelings and thoughts, we can “take control” of ourselves and learn how to become better focused.

This starts at a very young age, before students come to kindergarten. They can learn self-awareness: “How are you feeling right now? Are you mad? What can you do to make yourself less mad?” We learn empathy and sympathy at these early ages.

As we grow older, we can learn through “Growth Mindset.” A “Fixed” mindset says, “I’m not good at math so I can't pass algebra.” A “Growth Mindset" says, “I haven’t learned everything about math yet, but I WILL learn it.”

As we grow, we also learn perseverance. We learn that we can overcome obstacles and be resilient. We are flexible and, with help from fellow students, we can figure out almost anything. We also start to take ownership of our learning: this is student agency. When I am in charge of my own learning, I “own it."

All of these habits contribute to successful learning!