The guiding force for school board members in the coming years will be the basic education reform adopted by the state Legislature last spring. Where in the past the district valued stability, it must advocate change and have the courage to stand up to defenders of the status quo.
The irony is that the incumbent in the Position 4 race looks to be best-suited to help shepherd those changes.
Rocky Treppiedi, 52, has been a school board member for 12 years, but many people also know him as an aggressive assistant city attorney who has defended the city in several controversial lawsuits. He has been an opponent of more open government and increased access to public records, and that is troubling.
But in analyzing who is best for the district, it is important to separate his other public role from this one. When discussing education issues and challenges, Treppiedi is knowledgeable and voices the most concern for increased academic rigor in schools. He is a strong advocate for early education. Many of the changes he’s wanted to make have been delayed while the Legislature punted the basic education funding question from one year to the next. He has been insistent that the state “define it, then fund it.” When the state continually failed to come through with appropriate dollars for special education, the district joined others around the state in filing a lawsuit. Such actions finally forced the Legislature to act.
Treppiedi notes that stability was the chief reason the board hired Superintendent Nancy Stowell, but with the passage of education reform, he says the board will now expect her to be a “change agent.”
Austin DePaolo, 45, has worked for a variety of community organizations since moving back to Spokane. Before that he taught in New York’s Spanish Harlem. He is a graduate of North Central High School and is a consultant for the College Success Foundation. He is earnest, bright and polite – perhaps, too polite. He was reluctant to point out any district weaknesses, such as the math curriculum, saying he prefers to focus on the positives. He has gotten the endorsement of the Spokane Teachers Association. School reform is going to require leadership that is committed to changes for teachers and the administration. It’s questionable whether DePaolo would be forceful enough.
Laura Carder, 62, has run for City Council twice and lost. She wants to find out what they’re teaching in schools. A prospective board member should already know. She wants change, but it’s the wrong kind, such as teaching creationism in science classes.
We approach an endorsement of Treppiedi with trepidation, because of poor marks on open government. But he is the best choice for this position.