Paul Schneider, 40
Notable experience: He’s taught in public schools for 18 years, including one year at Shadle Park High School and the last 11 years at University High School.
Education: Graduated from Gonzaga Preparatory School in 1993. Earned a bachelor’s from Western Washington University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Washington.
Given the current budget shortfall of $5.6 million what programs would you take money from to make up the difference?
To call what happened in past couple of months a shortfall is questionable. The district was given millions from the state and has more in reserve to meet the needs of our programs and our valued professionals. That said, my priorities will always be to finance and fund programs that DIRECTLY impact kids and cut in areas that do not. A couple of examples would be to evaluate current administrative overhead costs and perhaps the cost associated with the over-testing of our kids as areas where we might find savings.
Do you think the Washington Supreme Court made the right choice when it came to charter schools? Why or why not?
I think the Supreme Court made the correct decision. Charter schools take money from the public and place those dollars into a less accountable private system. While Spokane Schools did a very good job getting a in front of the voter initiative I think full public accountability is necessary. That said, let me be VERY clear that I support school choice. I understand that traditional programs do not always serve the needs of all kids and we need to provide as many creative opportunities as possible in our district to support all learners and their families.
What is the most pressing issue facing the district?
There are several. Contract negotiations are going to be front and center in a matter of months and as a board member I promise to bring stake-holders together to begin to bridge the trust divide. Beyond this, I think we need to focus on the 15% of kids who are not graduating on time and ensure they have the support necessary to be successful. I think it’s important however to note that I don’t prioritize kids. ALL of our kids deserve our best ALL of time. My job as a board member is to juggle the needs of all of our kids and their families and ensure they have what they need to be successful.
Do you think Spokane Public Schools should continue to offer high school football, given both the cost and the danger of concussions?
Yes. High School football programs (and indeed all extracurricular programs) are integral to successful schools. Kids need to have a host of programs that allow them to connect to their community and find meaningful relationships beyond the classroom. Our coaches and advisors provide incredible learning opportunities and life-lessons that extend the learning in our classrooms and they provide such valuable mentoring to our students that to lose them would be to lose much of the heart and soul of our schools. The coaches, administrators, parents and students who participate in our sports and extracurricular programs work tirelessly to keep our kids safe. I know first hand that providing a safe environment for competitive sports is their highest priority. We need to be vigilant, provide appropriate training, equipment and support but we need to continue to fund our extracurricular opportunities for kids.
If you’re elected, how will you ease upcoming negotiations with the Spokane Education Association?
This will be my first duty as a board member. I would like to identify (with our superintendent and current board members) a third party who could help guide discussions around trust and collaborative decision making. This lack of trust is the greatest obstacle to forward progress. I would add that as a new board member I would encourage both current board members, district administration, union leadership and general membership to redouble their efforts to bargain in good faith, find middle ground and commit to repairing any damage done.
Do you support the sex education curriculum currently taught in the district? Why or why not?
To call the program sex education is wrong. The district’s Human Growth and Development curriculum is a comprehensive, age-appropriate look at how we grow and change physically and emotionally. I support comprehensive and well-rounded approaches to human development and sexuallity that allow students and teachers to explore in a responsible and safe environment, the many social, physical and emotional changes our students will face in their lives.
Are there any books currently in libraries within the district or on class reading lists that you feel are not appropriate to be used in schools?
No. Ideas should not scare us nor should be they be censored in our schools. If we can’t explore controversial ideas in our classrooms in the hands of responsible educational professionals than where will it happen? Censorship is a dangerous and anti-democratic impulse that schools should not embrace. That said, the district has in place a policy of responsible access to materials. Their adoption and evaluation of materials recognizes that there are developmental limits that should guide our reading choices. I do support this and trust our professionals to ensure our kids are accessing age-appropriate materials that support their learning.
Should evolution be taught in public schools?
Yes. Evolution is settled science and belongs in our science classrooms.
If you could change one thing about the district what would it be and why?
I would like to change our schedules. Our school day and year long calendar are based on a 19th century model. We need to create more flexible opportunities for our kids and their families that meet our 21st century needs.
Who was your favorite teacher? When and why?
Three stick out. Doug Banks in 8th grade inspired me to teach. Tony Maussione in my junior year of high school ensured I would teach history. And Jack Delahanty pushed me to be a better student and person than I ever thought possible. There are so many others too that have guided and supported me. I wish I could name them all!
Favorite recess game in elementary school?
European Handball with Mr. Banks.
Fondest high school memory?
Theater with Jack (my drama teacher) and monthly lunch with John Traynor (my principal). These two men, aside from my own father were the greatest mentors I could have asked for.