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Blaine School Board seat a race of 3

One District 2 candidate faces charges

By Hailey Hoffman Visual Journalist

The Blaine School Board race for director of District 2 has already garnered significant public attention, for an unusual reason: Candidate Tana Perkins Reneau is facing 11 charges of rape of a child, assault of a child and incest. 

Also running in this primary are Ben Lazarus and Dean Berkeley. The two with the most votes will progress to the general election.

School board directors in Blaine are elected officials who serve on the board for four years. Directors oversee operations of the school district, the superintendent, the budget and curriculum. Each represents one of the district’s five geographic areas.

Blaine School Board meetings in recent months have been heated, largely due to issues related to budget cuts, the Northern Light reported. School board directors coming into the position will navigate budget woes and a sustained dip in enrollment that’s continued since the COVID-19 pandemic shut schools down. Blaine has recorded a nearly 10% drop in enrollment since the 2019-20 school year, according to the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

For Lazarus, 47, and Berkeley, 55, the budget is the core issue. 

“We really need to look at our budget,” Berkeley said. “The school needs to be run as a business to take best advantage of our dollar.”

photo  Ben Lazarus  

Lazarus said he decided to run for school board after attending a meeting.

“I felt like I could sit in the back row and heckle, or, put my name forward to sit in one of the seats, vote and make a difference,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus, who teaches aircraft mechanics and is a part-time mechanic at the Bellingham International Airport, said he wants to further support arts programs in schools and ensure they have adequate funding.

“I believe the arts are one of the keys to engaging our kids,” Lazarus said. “When they get into these programs, it draws them together in a way that a math course doesn’t.”

Reneau could not be reached for comment.

Both Lazarus and Berkeley — a retired firefighter who works for West Coast Engineering Group — spoke in favor of trades programs in schools. They both discussed the importance of providing avenues other than just college for students to explore post-graduation.

Lazarus said he hopes to improve communication and transparency of the school board, including how it works and what goes on in a meeting. With two daughters in the district, he said his understanding of operations was limited until he started going to board meetings. He believes if communication channels are opened with the community, and specifically, students, people will be happier.

photo  Dean Berkeley  

Berkeley said he believes the board and the district need structure and a narrowed focus. 

“We need a proper direction. We’ve got too much politics in our school,” Berkeley said. “We need someone who can sift through both sides and make a judgment call.”

Ballots will be mailed Wednesday, July 12 for the Tuesday, Aug. 1 primary election. Washington residents may register to vote online or by mail until July 24 for the primary election. Voter registration is available in person until 8 p.m. Aug. 1 The general election is Nov. 7.

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