Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Candidates for Lakeland School Board take different stance on levies

Candidates running for Zone 2 on the board that oversees the Lakeland Joint School District have opposing views on levies that divided the North Idaho school district earlier this year.

The levies failed to pass in a March election but were approved by voters in a second attempt in May.

Ramona Grissom, vice chair of the Lakeland School Board, opposed the levies.

Her opponent, Cherish Hansen, supported them.

Grissom is finishing her first term, but she said she hasn’t been able to focus on some of her goals as a result of the pandemic.

“Most of my time as a trustee was spent serving during a pandemic, so I didn’t get to make many decisions that weren’t based on COVID-19 or somehow related to the pandemic,” Grissom said. “Unfortunately, this made the atmosphere inharmonious and fueled by conflicting opinions.”

If elected again, however, Grissom hopes to create a “clear vision” for the community.

She hopes to add more programs for students involving music, construction, aerospace and shop.

In order to keep up with the growth that is happening in North Idaho, Grissom believes maintenance within the schools should be another top priority.

“I advocated for the update to Lakeland Middle School, Athol Elementary and Spirit Lake Elementary, and I would like to see some of our other facilities updated, too,” Grissom said. “Our community is growing and our district will need to grow with it.”

Hansen believes the first step is building trust and communication between the school, parents, teachers and students.

If elected, she said her first step will be to create more involvement.

“There seems to be a great divide right now,” Hansen said. “Parents are worried about what their kids are learning, and teachers feel mislabeled and unappreciated. Schools are the cornerstone of our community, and we should be working together with healthy respect and teamwork.”

Hansen first noticed missing communication when the two levies failed on March 14 with about 27.8% voter turnout. The district asked voters a second time, and they approved of the levies on May 16.

“The failure of the levy became a huge concern, as it threatened to lose funding for our elective teachers, smaller-sized classrooms, all athletics and extracurricular activities, and more,” Hansen said. “Then, I learned that some of our board members did not support the levy.”

Grissom voted no on the levies in May. She said the levies did not represent what voters wanted.

Transparency within the district would be Hansen’s ultimate goal if elected.

Hansen also has doubts about the health programs within the district. The district had a contract with Heritage Health that allowed health care at school for students and had been discontinued and then reinstated.

“Gratefully, the board agreed to reinstate the contract with Heritage Health, but has canceled another program that would help with student mental health,” Hansen said. “This is important to me, as our district has suffered the loss of several students to suicide in recent years.”

With the experience from her past four years as a board member, Grissom believes her dedication to keeping students in school learning has proven her capability for the position.

“Despite the challenges, my utmost priority has been to ensure that our students’ education remains uninterrupted,” Grissom said. “I am not a teacher and I have no affiliation with education unions like my opponent. Instead, I make decisions solely guided by my role as a taxpayer, a member of the community and an elected representative of the people. I take pride in serving the community with impartiality and ensuring that our students receive the best education possible, regardless of any challenges we may face.”

Hansen believes her hands-on involvement is what the board needs. Having a tight-knit community with good communication is important to have within the district, Hansen said.

“I care about our community,” Hansen said. “My husband and I, along with friends, coaches and teachers, have worked together for a long time for our kids.

“I am not here to accuse and tear down. Rather, I work with people, listen and look for solutions.”

Editor’s note: Levies requested by the Lakeland Joint School District were rejected by voters in a March election. The date of the levies were incorrect in an earlier version of this report.

Samantha Fuller's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.