If the past two elections are any indication, citizens are becoming more engaged in Spokane Public Schools issues, and candidates are more willing to challenge the status quo. This year, six candidates filed for the Position 5 post that will be vacated by Garrett Daggett. Paul LeCoq has dropped out and thrown his support to Sally Fullmer.
Candidate interviews have produced keen insights into the proper role of the board and some pointed challenges to school administration in the areas of budgeting, curriculum and overall student outcomes.
Larry Vandervert served on the school board from 1973 to 1975, before leaving to pursue a doctorate degree. He was a psychology professor at Spokane Falls Community College for many years. He is intelligent and thoughtful on a philosophical level, but he did not attend the recent public budgeting sessions and hasn’t attended school board meetings. He says the biggest difference between him and his opponents is his view that the school board should be safeguarding the overall strategies of the district and holding the superintendent accountable for meeting those goals.
That philosophy mirrors that of Robert Griffing, a self-employed defense contractor and coordinator of the Airman Ministry Center at Fairchild Air Force Base who says it is not the board’s job to manage or direct the ways in which the district pursues education goals. The board, he says, should not become a co-administrator, and the superintendent should not be treated as a board member.
This is quite different from the approach of Sally Fullmer, a professional musician and former teacher who advocates a specific back-to-basics math curriculum to improve the district’s low scores on standardized tests. She is critical of administrative salaries and wants to move more money to classrooms. She was heavily involved in the controversy over relocating Jefferson Elementary School and is part of an effort that is considering suing the district over its decision.
Rod Roduner, a former employee of The Spokesman-Review, declined an interview with the editorial board.
Deana Brower ran for the board two years ago. She was an impressive candidate then and has strengthened her knowledge and insight with heavy involvement in school issues. She taught high school in California and has been a very busy community volunteer since her family moved to Spokane. She is chairwoman of Citizens for Spokane Schools and is a member of the district’s Middle School Advisory Committee.
Brower has been endorsed by the Spokane Education Association but says she is not in lockstep with the union’s views. She believes merit should be a significant factor in the hiring and retention of teachers. She has two children in the district’s schools. Fullmer has one. No board members currently have children in the schools, so that perspective is missing.
This race provides interesting viewpoints and contrasting philosophies, but Brower’s passion and steady engagement on education issues make her the best choice for the board.