MATTAWA — Jesse Chiprez was appointed to the Wahluke School Board by the Yakima Educational Service District and sworn in on Tuesday, Oct. 1 before a district workshop. Chiprez’s appointment fills the board of directors spot that has been vacant since Feb. 12, 2019.
When the position came open, candidates were asked to submit their application by March 6. School districts are required by law to fill a vacant position within 90 days of the board members leaving. No one applied, leaving the position still vacant.
On May 17, Chiprez submitted a letter of intent to be on the board of directors. He heard nothing. During a Wahluke School Board meeting on Aug. 13, he asked the board if they had made a decision.
“I admit that we have made a mistake in not getting back to you,” said Lorraine Jenne, Wahluke School District board chair, during the Aug. 13 board meeting. “Our attorney said it has to be filled in 90 days. We knew you were on the ballot. We decided to let the public make that decision.”
Jenne also stated that she had heard that there was going to be a write-in campaign for the position, which had figured into the decision.
Chiprez said he was concerned that the decision may not have been made legally, as there are rumors that school business is decided at picnics in favor of family, friends and family of school board members.
“It’s important to me that things are being done fair,” Chiprez said during the meeting.
Superintendent Robert Eckert replied that the school district had no legal requirement to make the decision at a board meeting and it had not been put on the agenda. Jenne repeated that it was something that they had spoken to their attorney about.
During the discussion, board member Maybeline Pantaleon stated that she had not made that decision because she was on maternity leave.
According to the law, after the 90-day period is over, it is up to the educational service district to fill any vacant school board positions. The school board is not required to act on letters of intent. The law implies interested parties should be directed to the educational service district. During the Aug. 13 board meeting or at any other time, that was not done.
In August, the Yakima Educational Service District heard about the vacant board position and Chiprez’ letter of intent. On Sept. 24, they appointed Chiprez to the open position. He was sworn in on Oct. 1.
“I think it is wonderful,” said Eckert, during a later interview. “He made an application to fill the position that Jerry Yorgesen left. The request came later so the board couldn’t make the appointment.”
Chiprez has lived in Mattawa his entire life. Both he and his children have either graduated from Wahluke High School or are currently enrolled in the school district.
While he was appointed, he will be on the ballot in November.
Chiprez hopes that voters will allow him to continue in his position.
“This is my home,” Chiprez said. “I am looking for what is best for our school district as a whole. I want to make it the best that we can and do my part.”
Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.