Richland organizer of school board candidate meet and greet explains invite list

RICHLAND, Wash. – On Monday night at John Dam Plaza in Richland, parents, kids and school board candidates gathered for a meet and greet.

Organizer Shelly Burt said it started as a home-gathering, but grew to be too big.

“Many of my friends in my group decided to run for school board so we thought let’s hold a meet and greet,” she said.

Burt said she and her friends have been fighting for schools to fully reopen throughout the pandemic.

Last week, Burt hosted a rally against wearing masks on hot school buses, which Sheriff Jerry Hatcher attended.

READ MORE: Parents raise concern over masked children on hot buses

The Richland mother said many people have asked for her input on the upcoming school board elections.

“‘Who should I vote for, for school board? Who’s running in Kennewick that is really stand up for the kids and get our schools open?’ These are candidates that I would endorse,” Burt said.

This was an opportunity to meet candidates with similar ideals to Burt, like Misipati Semi Bird who, if elected, would be the first African American school board member in Richland.

“I believe in empowering children, teaching resiliency, giving them the inner strength to succeed and I realize we have to do this through collaboration, and the whole purpose I’m running is to ensure families come first in education for a change,” Bird is running for the Position Three with the Richland School Board.

However, over half of the candidates weren’t on the original invite list and flyer, including Bird’s opponent, Elizabeth Van-Clark.

“A very public gathering like that I felt like it needed to have all of the candidates or at least give all the candidates the option of being there so that voters can hear from everybody,” Van-Clark said.

The former teacher said she did stop by the meet and greet, and found that many candidates have the same goals. Van-Clark believes there needs to be more communication and transparency from the school board, and if promises aren’t fulfilled, an explanation.

“They weren’t very transparent about why those promises made to parts of our community couldn’t be kept,” she said.

Both candidates said they look forward to sharing the platforms in the coming weeks before the August primary.

Van-Clark hopes future meet and greets involve everyone.

“When we all get together and we answer questions from the voters then they have more of an opportunity to compare our policies and kind of compare and contrast,” she said.

Shelly Burt said that she reached out to more candidates after realizing they wanted to be included, and everyone was welcome to speak.