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Saturday’s highlights

Otis Orchards School principal Suzanne Savall hugs cousins Devon Nelson, 7,left, and Zachary Hughes, 7, as they return for second grade on the first day of school Thursday. Kindergarten teacher Stacey Brinkley awaits arrivals at left. SR photo/Dan Pelle

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone enjoyed a nice, extended weekend. Let's celebrate our shorter work week with a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. The Positive Change coalition that swept into power at Spokane Valley City Hall in 2009 is fracturing, with some supporting incumbent Gary Schimmels in this year's election and some supporting his challenger, Ed Pace. It's shaping up to be the race to watch in November.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by the Otis Orchards School in the East Valley School District for the first day of school last week. This is the final year of the district's transition to schools that combine kindergarteners through eighth graders under one roof. Lisa also has a brief look at the school year budgets for the East Valley, West Valley and Central Valley school districts.

The YWCA is preparing to open a new confidentail domestic violence shelter in Spokane Valley this month. They're looking for donations from the community to provide basic household items like pots and pans. This shelter will be able to house three single women and three or four women with children at a time.  

In three weeks, swoop down — online — on the county’s tax-delinquent properties


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Anyone out there want to buy the old YWCA building downtown, across from the Ridpath?

Circle Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 on your calendars. Those are Spokane County's first delinquent-tax property auction, done entirely online instead of at the courthouse.

Our earlier story (last week) disclosed all the key details. The county is using a Maryland firm, Bid4Assets.com, to manage and run the online bidding.

BIdders need to register with Bid4Assets and verify a valid credit card.

Among the offerings is the once-busy YWCA building at the northwest corner of Stevens and First (shown in the Google Streetview image).

Today, it's vacant and looking for a good owner.

The full list of the properties to be auctioned can be found online here.  Bidding price will start with the past-due taxes and fees, plus the $150 fee that the county must pay Bid4Assets. Anything above that reserve amount goes to the property owner.

Steve Tucker makes public appearance

"I'm 4," says Aidan Cameron to Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick at the YWCA Thursday. Kirkpatrick, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and County Prosecutor Steve Tucker read to children at the YWCA to support continued federal and state funding for early childhood programs.

Education experts describe children as sponges of learning, soaking up language and information from those around them.

 "They, like adults, learn languages best in an environment where learning enhances their self-esteem and reinforces their sense of who they are and who they are becoming," according to the International Children's Education.

A revelation Thursday by largely inaccessible Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker could serve as Exhibit A in that theory.

Tucker, who joined Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to support early childhood learning programs at the YMCA, shared a humorous vignette about his 3-year-old grandson's impressive vocabulary, including the toddler's unprompted uttering of this all-too-familiar phrase: "I am not availabe to answer that question at this time."

Trial continues in YWCA ex-director’s lawsuit

Monica Walters, the former longtime Spokane YWCA executive director who’s suing the organization, is expected to continue testifying at a bench trial today in Superior Court.

The trial began last week before Judge Jerome Leveque.

Walters, who was director for 13 years, left the YWCA in February 2009. She filed a lawsuit in April 2009, alleging breach of contract, disability discrimination and privacy invasion.

Deborah Booth, president of the YWCA board at the time, released a statement in February saying Walters resigned for medical reasons:

“Everybody loves Monica, but it’s time for her to get out of the hectic crossfire of all this and get some time for herself.”

Booth retracted the statement a couple days later, saying  “my suggestion that Ms. Walters resigned for medical reasons was not accurate.” Oops!

A lawsuit by Walters’ attorney, Paul J. Burns, says the board breached Walters’ contract by interfering with her ability to manage day-to-day operations, including making hiring and firing decisions, causing “severe, medically diagnosable stress, mental anguish and emotional distress,” the lawsuit states.

Walters said that the medical condition was a disability and that the YWCA failed to accommodate it. The decision to discharge her “constitutes unlawful disability discrimination,” according to the lawsuit.

Walters’ invasion of privacy allegation stems from the YWCA’s disclosure to the media that Walters had resigned. Walters is seeking damages for economic loss, mental anguish and emotional distress.

Walters’ testimony began Thursday; no testimony was heard Friday.