Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

Richland School District 400 Director No. 5

4-year term. No salary, but some districts offer small per diem for evening meetings. School Board members, or “directors,” are the elected governing body of the school district, serving four-year terms. The school board’s governance responsibilities fall in four major areas: Vision – a focus on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – prudent financial planning and oversight, as well as diligent and innovative policy-making; Accountability – specific goals and a process for evaluating, reporting and making recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – championing public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers. The School Board sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district superintendent and certificated teaching staff and personnel. One of its critical duties is the adoption of the district's budget and proposal of any school levies to be placed on the ballot to the people. The board sets policies and approves all spending via the budget. It also sets salaries for school district employees.

Click a candidate icon to find more information about the candidate. To compare two candidates, click the "compare" button. To start over, click a candidate icon.

  • Candidate picture

    Rama Devagupta

  • Candidate picture

    Jill M. Oldson

Biographical Information

What unique qualities about yourself, your experiences, and your education separate you from the other seekers of this office?

What, in your opinion, are the three most pressing issues facing your school district at this time?

How would you address the one at the top of your list?

How would you balance educational opportunities between schools?

How would you assure the safety of all students in your schools?

What are the issues that need to be addressed to provide racial equality in the schools?

How should technical training be offered in the secondary schools?

How can the schools provide adequate education for homeless, immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking children at all levels?

Phone (509) 627-3580
Town where you live Richland, WA
Experience (300 characters max) • Co-Secretary, Badger Mountain Elementary PTO • Reflections Chair, RSD-PTA • Science Fair Chair, Carmichael Middle School • Parent Rep, RSD Science Adoption Committee • Parent Rep, RSD Instructional Materials Committee • Team Manager, Destination Imagination: Carmichael Middle School, Lewis & Clark
Hello, I’m Rama, a proud mother of two RSD graduates. With my many diverse life experiences, I wish to give back to our community and ensure every student has the opportunity to excel in Richland schools and pursue their dreams.

I earned my PhD in Chemistry from Texas A&M University. I was a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. I volunteered in our schools and served on several RSD committees.

I am an experienced middle and high school teacher in neighboring KSD and adjunct at CBC. I taught at Three Rivers HomeLink and was a long-term substitute at Hanford High.

As a life-long learner who seeks excellence, I worked hard and earned National Board Certification in 2017. In summer 2018 and 2019, I did scientific research at Pacific National Northwest Laboratories with a $15,000 Murdock Partners in Science Grant Award.

I practice and teach Heartfulness meditation and relaxation. I am also an artist and freelance writer. My latest article was published on The Teaching Channel blog in June.
These are difficult times for our district: both the state’s impact on our current budget situation and district decisions taken during the past couple of years have created distrust in our community. Therefore, in my opinion, the three most pressing issues facing Richland School District at this time are as follows:

• Transparency in the relationship between Richland School District administrators, teachers and support staff, parents, and students. Reestablishing trust and confidence that all students will have an equal opportunity to learn and grow.

• Helping make sure that RSD is a good steward of the community’s taxes.

• Making sure that hiring for administrative positions is purposeful with an eye on long-range planning, and setting policies and procedures to facilitate access to programs that will follow best practices and create opportunities for student success.
To create greater transparency and reestablish trust, school board members must not take things for granted. We must maintain communication channels to create an atmosphere filled with transparency and respect.

If elected as your community representative, I will be a proactive education advocate. I will reach out to student leaders, parents, teachers, para-educators, listen to all voices, and fight for the success of all students. I will bring the necessary facts to the table and educate other board members if needed. I will work hard and collaborate to create a healthy teaching and learning environment filled with trust and respect.

Clarification: No school board member works single-handedly. We don’t have a say in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day workings of schools. School board members set the vision, mission, and strategic goals for the district. We hire and evaluate the superintendent, oversee the budget, and collaborate with other board members in setting policies and procedures
The heart of education is to ensure that each student will succeed in life. To ensure balanced educational opportunities between schools, we must remember that students from different neighborhood schools have different needs.

If elected as your representative, I will study student data on demographics, special programs, free/reduced lunch; work to gain a proper understanding of our students’ educational needs; and become educated on how local, state, and federal dollars are allocated to each building.

One thing is certain: given the same amount of dollars, it is not necessary that we implement identical programs in each school to create balanced educational opportunities. I will advocate for site councils led by building principals work with certain autonomy to determine their budget priorities for allocating resources and attracting experienced teachers. I will also advocate for results based budgeting.
We are living in challenging times. We must overcome divisiveness and strive for unity. Schools cannot solve all problems in society. Even the best teachers don’t have time to fulfill the mental and emotional needs of all students in their classrooms. Educators get overwhelmed teaching the curriculum and trying to meet every child’s learning needs.

Parents must be more proactive in teaching kindness, empathy, respect and caring for others, and the value of thinking about the larger community. Parents must also teach essential skills like how to use language filled with positivity and resolve conflict through nonviolent communication.

To assure that all students feel safe in our schools, I will focus on setting policies and procedures with clear guidelines so students can accessibly report issues that make them feel unsafe. I will encourage professional development for teachers to address social emotional learning, and advocate for funding for more SROs and mental health counselors.
In order to discuss racial equality, we must be aware of RSD’s demographic data from the WA State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

• 2000: 11.5% students were students of color.

• 2017: Numbers increased to 29.1%.

• 2000-2014: No data on teachers of color.

• 2017: 6.3% teachers of color.

The data shows a disconnect between the life experiences of many students and their teachers. Research by The Seattle Times (12/14/2018) shows that lack of diversity in teachers “can have lasting effects on high school completion, discipline rates, and test scores for students of color.”

Hiring qualified teachers of color will be a long-term goal to bridge the gap. We must create community partnerships, promote volunteers in the classroom, and provide professional development for teachers so they become culturally responsive educators. If I am elected as your representative, I'll bring diverse life experiences to the table and also be a positive influence for all students
RSD currently offers classes in Career & Technical Education (CTE) and encourages work-based learning in high schools. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to take vocational courses at Tri-Tech Skills Center (jointly run by the 3 school districts). However, these offerings are limited in scope. We need to do a lot more.

First and foremost, we must appreciate that our society is like a rainbow. Each individual is uniquely qualified and can find their niche in life. In the past few years, there has been too much emphasis on college readiness. We should not push all students into higher education and STEM careers if their hearts are not in it. We have a number of jobs that will give students financial security and fulfillment.

We need greater access to technical training for many of our students. I propose that the RSD work with other school districts to increase funding for Tri-Tech, expand course offerings, and work with local industries to promote a variety of apprenticeships.
As per OSPI, the number of non-English speaking children has risen in RSD: 7.4% in 2000 to 22.22% in 2017. We estimate that the numbers of immigrants and refugees have also grown.

We have several students experiencing homelessness in our district. Each of them is an individual with a heartbeat. Even a single homeless child is one too many. The OSPI data in percentages doesn’t do justice: 0.9% (=139 students) in 2013, and 2.6% in 2018 (=286). Such numbers are unacceptable.

Schools must promote inclusivity and educate students about the challenges faced by their peers. It is our job to ensure they do not slip through the cracks. We must support professional development so educators get trained to better understand perspectives surrounding life in poverty, social justice issues, war, hunger, famine and floods. Teachers can then bring culturally responsive teaching into the classroom and help all students build healthy and meaningful relationships, which will lead to academic success.
Phone (509) 546-1303
Town where you live Richland
Experience (300 characters max) I have been involved in the Richland School district for 0ver 15 years as a parent, volunteer, and past employee. I have a graduate, and I one son who will be at Richland High. Serving on the board the last year has given me insight on what is working and what needs to change.
I have lived in this committee for 23 years, 15 of those years I have been involved in the Richland School District as a parent, PTO president, volunteer, committee member and employee. In June of last year, I was appointed to the board after losing the 2016 election in a coin flip! After appointed I became involved on a state level with the Washington School Directors Association, attending conferences and currently participating a yearlong leadership program with about 20 board cohorts from across the state as well as serving on state committees. I have been active in legislative issues visiting both Olympia and Washington DC to discuss funding and educational issues. My daughter graduated from Richland High last year and my son will be attending Richland High in the fall. My husband and his brother and two sisters also went through the Richland School District. I grew up in Montana on ranch in Montana and received my BA in Psychology from California State University Fullerton
1)Fiscal Responsibility - We need to ensure we are spending tax payer dollars in the most efficient way and still provide and outstanding education for our youth implementing the guidelines and direction of our community. 2) District trust and confidence - There have been several changes on a state and local level that has caused a lack of trust in our district and across the state. These added with what I feel was a lack of proactive communication from the district created at perfect storm. On a positive note it got our community involved and vocal. This is important for our district as the community are the people we are here to serve. Our mission and values need to be represented by the desires of the community. 3) Lack of transparency and accountability - Because we have an incredibly supportive community and a strong teacher base I believe that our district has become a bit apathetic regarding communication and sharing district details.
The school board has three primary responsibilities, budget, supervising and hiring a superintendent and district policies and procedures. Fiscal responsibility is one of the most important aspects of being a board member. The money should follow the values of the community. School districts have a limited amount of funding, so it is imperative that we listen to our stakeholders. All of them from parents, community members and taxpayers. It is our job to ensure that we are providing the best possible education in our community and doing our due diligence to make sure we are accomplishing this in the most cost-effective manner. My suggestions on this is to look at best practices and also utilize the staff that we have invested in for training to share this information with others in the district. I believe that with expanded collaboration and the pooling of knowledge we can cut back on waste and still provide the best education possible for our students.
Richland School District has approximately 13,000 students K-12. We have very diverse neighborhoods within our district some elementary schools with 100% free and reduced lunch to as low as 10% free and reduced lunch. These elementary school funnel into 4 middle schools and 2 high schools. Each school needs to be looked at individually and evaluated on the needs of the students it serves. I believe that as a community it is important the we provide the same opportunities for our students regardless of the school they attend. Our low-income schools receive additional state funding for various programs, but these do not cover all the costs associated with providing these students with the same opportunities. Programs need to be implemented to provide enrichment, this includes extra funding for field trips and activities that other schools may get provided by their PTO/PTAs. If we want to reduce or eliminate the achievement gap, then we must level the playing field.
One the main things we need to focus on is the social and emotional learning of our students starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Many of the problems facing our schools and safety issues stem from mental health issues. Suicide and mental health issues are at an all-time high. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for high school students. These mental health issues put our students in danger in a variety of way. Either taking their own lives or the lives of others. I believe it is imperative to provide dedicated mental health workers in all of our schools the current funding model allows for one school psychologist and nurse for approximately every 1500 students. I believe we need to provide additional funding to ensure that we have an adequate number of individuals to serve the needs of our students. Building safety is also critical and as new schools are build we are ensuring these features are included.
I believe that we need to address all equality issues in schools regardless of race, religion, gender or beliefs. Public education is a fundament right to all our students. I also believe this a case of equity not equality. Making all things equal does not offer the same opportunities for those that have less of an advantage to start with. These issues need to be addressed in looking at each and every child as an individual with strengths and talents regards of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Policies and procedures need to be in place that do not differentiate our students bases on anything other than their own unique characteristics. These are not just issues being faced in school this is an issue worldwide. We need to teach kindness, empathy, and acceptance starting at a very early age.
This is a very important topic to me. I believe that we are leaving many students at a disadvantage in not providing them with the opportunity to look at all options available to them. Not every child is college bound but it is our responsibility to provide them with opportunities so that they can be contributing members of society and pay their bills. We need to spend time finding out what our students are passionate about and fuel that excitement. One of the first things I would like to promote is giving students the opportunity to explore different career options. We have a very supportive community with a large gamut of career options. I would like secondary students to have the opportunity to job shadow any career they have interest in, be that a lawyer, dentist, doctor, welder, mechanic, HVAC, teacher, etc. We need to capitalize on the skills that excite our students. By getting them excited and invested we will improve the graduation rate and success of our students.
There are currently state laws in-place that protect these children and additional funding is available to ensure they receive a good education. In addition to this each district need to ensure that they have the resources in place to assist these students. McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a ruling that ensures that special accommodations are granted to homeless students and these apply K-12. This ruling ensures that any homeless child receives the same opportunities as those living in a stable home. English speaking students that fall into the above groups receive assessments that determine at what level their education should begin. It is critical to district that ALL students have the same opportunity to learn. There is still a gap in the non-English speaking students. ELL teachers (English Language learners) are not always provided with the tool box they need to help these students.