The Salish School of Spokane has an interim leader while its executive director recovers from a head injury.
Kim Richards, former board president of the school, has been named interim executive director for the 2018-19 academic year.
LaRae Wiley, executive director of the school and co-founder, suffered the injury in February after fainting while teaching a language class to teachers, as part of a training program. Wiley is expected to return to the school next year.
“She (Wiley) is slowly progressing, but she is also unable to really do anything at the moment,” Richards said. “She has a severe head injury, and she’s slowly getting better, but she’s not in a place where she can watch TV, read books or engage in anything that’s going to be too difficult on her brain; her brain needs a lot of time to heal.”
During Wiley’s absence, Richards said Chris Parkin, principal and co-founder of the school, had been doing two jobs until Richards came aboard in June.
“I left my position as a lecturer at Eastern Washington University so that I could help support the school in any capacity possible or necessary,” she said.
Richards said she got involved with the school in 2011 after attending a Salish class taught by Wiley at Native Wellness Night, a program from the Native Project. There, she discovered that Wiley and her husband, Parkin, had opened a school. Later, Richards enrolled two of her children at the school.
Besides being board president, Richards said she worked at the school for a year-and-a-half as a family service coordinator.
As interim executive director, Richards said her duties include working with the administrative team at the school on programming, schedules, grants and fundraising. She also will help teachers get into college and other teacher training programs.
“I am here in the capacity to help in anyway I can,” she said. “I’m just here while she is recovering and, like everybody else, I am hopeful that she has a speedy recovery, but in the meantime I’m here to support her and everyone else and our language revitalization.”
She said she is excited to work with students and become more fluent in Salish.
“My life is this mission and this mission is my life, and our family is wholly committed to this mission,” she said. “Our school is a community, we’re not just individual families but we’re also a community.”
Richards, a member of the Mescalero Apache and Santa Ana Pueblo tribes, added that the Spokane community should understand Salish is their language, too, and they are welcome to come and learn it with them and enjoy it.
Richards has a doctorate in ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley.