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COLLEGE PLACE — Melito Ramirez appears to have made history at Tuesday’s College Place Public Schools board meeting as the first Latino person to be appointed to the five-person school board.

Another applicant, Soledad Salazar, recently withdrew her application for the position for District 2 opened by the resignation of Robert Holm in August.

Ramirez is married to CPPS’ executive assistant to Superintendent Tim Payne, Kerri Ramirez. The couple has 18 grandchildren, “and they keep us plenty busy,” Melito said.

Ramirez resigned from his role as the district’s translator and interpreter in late summer. He continues to work for Walla Walla Public Schools and as an independent translator and interpreter.

Melito said coming onto the College Place board is a homecoming, as he’s worked in the district in various positions since 1981, when he first began working in education.

Being on the board will allow him to make use of that College Place-centric knowledge and experience plus his broader base of knowing how to help all students, Ramirez said.

“I feel this is the right time” he said. “I have the energy.”

Board President Doug Case said this morning that Ramirez’s previous work will be a great addition to the board and will provide an added viewpoint.

Ramirez said he’s known for being open with his thoughts and opinions and believes in being honest in response to a board question about whether he is “honest and open, or politically correct.”

When asked by board member Mandy Thompson if he believes “in the right to protect ourselves,” Ramirez agreed he does.

He also said he does not feel the rights of one student outweigh the rights of the majority, when that question came up.

Without consulting privately among themselves, Thompson, Brian Maiden and Case voted to appoint Ramirez to the board. Board member Todd Stubblefield was absent.

According to the district’s website, the District 2 term expires in November 2021; Ramirez can then choose to run for election to the board.

A number of things are at the top of his list as a board member, he said today.

“I would like to see what future is coming, the plan for growth. We have new housing coming in — is there a plan for expansion? I haven’t had those conversations.”

Ramirez said he worked as an interpreter with the school district’s community advisory groups over the summer, formed in response to an outcry of possible racism and discrimination at College Place High School, and he said he feels knowledgeable of the issues that were presented by Latino families last spring.

“I want to make sure we (the board) are following through with that.”

It’s equally vital to provide support and guidance for everybody, and always in a respectful way, Ramirez added.

“There is no correct answer other than that,” he said. “Just serve everybody with respect. But? When I am passionate about something, and I know it is unfair, you’re going to hear about it.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.