With new schools opening and students still recovering from pandemic-era learning losses, Pasco voters will have some big decisions to make about their school board’s leadership.
Six candidates are running for three of the five Pasco School Board seats on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Candidates John Kennedy, Rosa Torres and Vincent Guerrero are all endorsed by the Pasco Association of Educators teachers union.
Steve Norberg is endorsed by the Franklin County Republican Party.
Steve Simmons is looking to get back on the board after resigning his seat last year to let his wife take a job with the school district.
After Simmons’ resignation, he reapplied but the board chose to appoint Rosa Torres to the vacant seat last year.
Now, the two are going head-to-head. Whoever wins will be elected to a two-year term to represent school district voters in a at-large capacity.
Both candidates attended Tri-Cities public schools.
“I sought out the appointment because I know first-hand the power of education and the impact it can have throughout your life,” Torres told the Tri-City Herald Editorial Board.
“I can bring a lot of things to the table for our school board. I bring strategic leadership, I have a business and finance discipline that I can bring to the board, I know how to work collaboratively,” she said.
A Bulldog who went on to graduate from University of Notre Dame, Torres currently works as a finance and accounting professional at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
She’s also worked in other corporate finance positions with Ford, Starbucks and Microsoft.
Simmons, a Kamiakin High School graduate, is an electrician and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in project management at Columbia Basin College.
He was first voted into office in 2021 and again in 2022, and has children in Pasco schools, one of whom is in special education.
He said he’s running again because he feels public education in Washington is headed in the wrong direction.
“I will help ensure district and state K-12 education policies and legislation is simple and prudent, builds individual self-reliance, prepares for the future needs of our state and communities, and provides appropriate funding,” Simmons said.
Simmons has served as a precinct committee officer with the Franklin County Republicans since 2020.
Director District 1
Vincent Guerrero was appointed to his seat earlier this year. Now, he’s trying to keep it but faces challenger Steve Norberg.
District 1 represents neighborhoods in southwest Pasco.
Born in Eastern Washington and raised by farmer parents, Guerrero has two children in Pasco schools and says district growth should be the top priority for the board.
“The area has seen tremendous growth and change in the last 20 years and a strong person is needed to help lead the district in its vision and goals,” Guerrero wrote in the Voters’ Pamphlet.
Guerrero says his skill set will help the board set goals, create policies, work collaboratively and build consensus.
Norberg has worked for more than a decade as a professor and regional forage specialist with Washington State University and its Franklin County extension office.
He’s served as a mentor with Forge Youth Mentoring, is an ex-officio with the Washington State Hay Growers Association and has been involved with the Benton-Franklin Fair and Rodeo.
“Pasco’s future lies with our kids,” Noberg wrote in the Voters’ Pamphlet. “My conservative values and leadership will help guide Pasco schools to ensure a healthy learning atmosphere and result in students that are well prepared for the future.”
Director District 2
Incumbent John Kennedy is being challenged for his District 2 seat by Gabriel Lucatero.
That district encompasses large portions of southeast Pasco.
Kennedy is an adjunct professor of history and American studies at Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities.
He’s involved with archival collections and research at the Franklin County Historical Society and Museum and East Benton County Historical Society and Museum.
“As a college instructor with 13 years experience, I understand the importance of ensuring our students have the educational tools necessary to thrive in a competitive economy,” Kennedy writes in the Voters’ Pamphlet. “Maintaining board support for robust and sustainable physical, social and emotional wellness for our students will remain a high priority of mine.”
Kennedy says he will continue to advocate for support and funding for strong career and technical education programs and STEM career development opportunities.
Lucatero is a parent of four sons and two daughters in the school district. He works as an estimator with Kustom US Restoration.
“I believe the future of our city depends on the ability of our district to bring excellence with equity to all students,” he writes.
“This means supporting teachers to do their best work with our kids every day. This means listening to and incorporating the input of teachers, families and community members when designing district policies. And it means holding district leadership accountable when test scores flat line (and) enrollment fails to meet projections,” he continued.
Ballots have been mailed to registered voters in Franklin County and must be postmarked by Nov. 7 or returned to a county certified drop box by 8 p.m. on election day.
Voters can still register to vote or make updates to their registration up until 8 p.m. on election day if they visit their local auditor’s office.