The two candidates for Spokane Public Schools’ only contested board race have starkly different views of what the state’s second-largest district should offer students and the community, although it can be hard to figure that out.
Challenger Sally Fullmer’s positions are found on a website that went live just last week. She has reported no campaign contributions and canceled her appearance at a scheduled forum on Sept. 30 hosted by the Spokane League of Women Voters. A church musician and piano teacher, Fullmer did not respond to multiple requests for an interview regarding her candidacy.
In contrast, Bob Douthitt, who’s served as school board president for six years, talked in an interview about his pride in implementing all-day kindergarten and trimming the number of administrators in the district.
The lawyer and former business owner thinks a more rigorous curriculum in all academic areas is long overdue.
Fullmer, 57, is making a second run for a seat after losing in 2011 to Deana Brower. Her website says she’s “deeply” concerned about Common Core, a nationalized curriculum adopted by 45 states, because it’s unproven.
According to her Facebook posts, she also thinks the district implemented full-day kindergarten too soon because it may not be for all kids. She believes board terms should be four years, not six, and school board meetings should be televised.
Her statement in the online Spokane County Voters’ Guide says, in part, “Vote for me if you want district administrators’ recommendations carefully evaluated, not just rubberstamped.”
Douthitt, 63, said he’s uninterested in status quo budgeting; he wants to continue to evaluate the district’s spending to determine the best way to use public funds. He said he also wants to see better evaluation of educational programs to determine their effectiveness.
“That’s one thing that our board has tried to take an active role in, decreasing the inertia of doing what we’ve always done,” Douthitt said.
He added that he’d like the district to focus on reaching students – “that last 15 or 20 percent” – who don’t thrive in a traditional school environment by creating more options.
Another change that needs to be made is offering “a stronger foundation at an earlier age,” he said. “Full-day kindergarten is one step; lengthening the elementary school day, assuring that all students receive 1,000 hours of education; and the third is improving curriculum. In language arts, this is where Common Core will really help.”
Although the candidates have many differences of opinion, Fullmer and Douthitt agree more funds need to be focused on classrooms.
Douthitt has raised more than $14,000 in campaign contributions.
Fullmer’s campaign website said the reason for her lack of campaign fundraising is “endorsements and money get in the way of the message.”
The mother of three raised more than $12,000 during her last campaign, about half of which was donated by former tire store owner Duane Alton. He has campaigned statewide against school bonds and levies.