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

Reardan-Edwall School Board candidates consider levies, curriculum

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Two members of the community have stepped up to try to fill a vacant seat on the Reardan-Edwall School District board after incumbent Jeff Anderson announced he would not run again.

No one filed to run for the seat during the usual candidate filing week in May, so a second candidate filing was opened in July. Brian Benham and Lane Collier signed up within an hour of each other. Benham said he had tried to file for the seat in May, but accidentally completed the wrong paperwork.

Benham spent most of his life in Cusick, Washington, until moving to Reardan four years ago. He has worked in information technology and is the service desk manager for a local managed service provider. Benham said he’s always been involved in his community and was a youth coach for the Pend Oreille County Youth Sports Association and served on the Pend Oreille County Fair board.

After moving to Reardan he joined the Reardan Athletic Booster Club board.

“I just try to help out the kids where I can,” he said.

Benham applied for a vacant school board position last year, but was not selected. He said he’d still like to serve even though he hasn’t lived in the community for an extended length of time.

“I feel like someone from outside the area has an important viewpoint,” he said. “It’s always good to have a different set of eyes.”

Collier was raised in Spokane Valley and currently works as a locomotive engineer for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. He has lived in Reardan for 17 years. He said he decided to run for the school board because he has been disappointed in recent statewide assessment test results. Those results show that only 25 % of fifth -graders have grade-level knowledge in math, Collier said, and results in other subjects aren’t much better.

“I’m very disappointed in the test results lately,” he said. “They were kind of down before COVID and post COVID they haven’t recovered.”

Collier said the district needs to examine what and how it teaches.

“Something’s got to change with the educational process and the programs we’re teaching to better prepare our students for the real world,” he said. “I think we just need to get back to basics. I’m not a big fan of this Common Core math.”

One of the most important needs in the district is the small and aging schools, Benham said.

“We’re outgrowing our facilities,” he said. “The middle school is having to overflow into the elementary areas and the high school area. The high school is aging.”

In 2022 the school district asked voters for a $4.2 million capital levy to pay for tennis courts, a new track and a wrestling and fitness center. The levy narrowly failed with just a few percentage points under the 60% supermajority required.

While sports is an important aspect for small communities, Benham said he’d like to see the district focus on the school facilities.

“Realistically, in the near future, we’re going to have to look at a remodel or rebuild of the high school,” he said.

Collier agrees that the high school needs to be remodeled. The problem is that the sprawling district covers parts of Lincoln and Spokane counties and that can make it difficult to pass levies, he said.

“Historically, they have a hard time passing those,” Collier said. “Lincoln County generally votes in favor and Spokane County votes against. That’s going to be the next big hurdle financially.”

Benham said his three kids enjoy going to school.

“The district as a whole has been doing pretty well with their policies,” he said. “I feel the culture at the school is very inclusive and fits my values.”

He recently joined the district’s levy committee and the district plans to ask voters to renew a maintenance and operations levy in February 2024. That levy is key to funding day-to-day operations in the district, Benham said.

“If we can’t get this levy passed, there could potentially be budget cuts and lost jobs.”

Like Benham, Collier said he doesn’t have any experience holding an elected position.

“I feel like I take a common, straight approach to things,” Collier said.