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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Extra Credit

Q&A: Spokane Public Schools board candidate Rocky Treppiedi

Rocky Treppiedi, 62

Notable Experience: Served on Spokane Public Schools board since 1996. He’s been an attorney in Spokane since 1979. Works as an administrative law judge for the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Served as an assistant city attorney for the city of Spokane for many years until 2012.

Education: Earned bachelor’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Earned law degree from Gonzaga Law School.

Treppiedi (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)
Rocky Treppiedi (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)

Given the current budget shortfall of $5.6 million what programs would you take money from to make up the difference?

The board, the administration and I have been struggling with that since the first week of September. We plan to adopt the modifications to the budget on October 14th. I’m opposed to reducing academic services to students. We need to use the Strtegic Plan to guide our decision making. We can: delay some technology purchases and/or use a small amount of reserves for critical needs; use reserve money set aside for future curriculum purchases to make some purchases this year; increase user fees for those services that have become more expensive due to the contract settlement; avoid filling staff vacancies; reduce administrative expenses such as risk management and attorney fees.

Do you think the Washington Supreme Court made the right choice when it came to charter schools? Why or why not?

No. I agree with the dissenting justices. The initiative that authorized charter schools provides significant oversight of the charter programs, and our district has invested in significant review and oversight of the 2 programs that we authorized in our district. Charters, when properly authorized, provide a significant choice to those students and families within our district who seek an alternative to the programs we are able to provide.

What is the most pressing issue facing the district?

The district must be able to incorporate smaller class size in every elementary school before you know it. That means we have to ensure we have the personnel, programs, and classroom and building space available to make it happen as intended – in a manner that enhances the educational opportunity of every student. This is not a gimmick; the reduction of class size needs to be well planned and well implemented in order to properly invest our taxpayer dollars. This issue also forces us to consider the grade configuration in our middle and elementary schools.

Do you think Spokane Public Schools should continue to offer high school football, given both the cost and the danger of concussions?

Yes. The strong support of local levies over the years represents, in part, the community’s strong support of the district’s extra-curricular programs, including sports, including football. All sports have the potential for injury. The focus on the potential for concussions in football has led to better equipment and refinement of rules to protect athletes from injury, including concussions. Participating in any sport, including football, is a voluntary choice for students and their families. Sports provide kids with the opportunity to develop as a person that academics alone cannot provide.

If you’re elected, how will you ease upcoming negotiations with the Spokane Education Association?

Your question assumes (1) that the upcoming negotiations need easing, and (2) that any one board member can direct negotiations or set the tone. Here, we must differentiate between the employees – the district’s assets that deserve support – and the union leadership which has fallen prey to the destructive, unlawful strictures of the WEA and NEA who do not hold the children in the district as their priority. The WEA, NEA and SEA leadership set a strident, negative tone by taking an unlawful walkout in May in violation of a binding contract -- a slap in the face to the entire community that had recently supported the district in the levy election -- and then threatened the community again with an unlawful strike in September. The tone and position I have consistently advocated during my 20 years on the board is simple: respect the employees at all times, including during negotiations; negotiate fairly and in good faith based on market conditions and resources; be a good steward of the community’s tax resources; but don’t allow the union to believe striking is acceptable, and take legal action to prevent or end it. Perhaps the legislature needs to resolve the strike issue once and for all by adopting legislation that clearly authorizes courts to financially punish unlawful strikers. The union leadership knows it is unlawful and that closing schools disrupts every student’s education and is not viewed favorably by the public. Unless and until the union leadership abandons unlawful strikes as a “strategy,” as the SEA’s president views it, there isn’t anything any board member can do to “ease” whatever tension you believe exists in negotiations.

Do you support the sex education curriculum currently taught in the district? Why or why not?

Yes. First, it’s the law. Second, our district has an excellent committee of community members, staff, and students that screen the materials and curriculum to ensure it is taught responsibly and effectively. Third, students can opt out.

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?

I’m sure there are books or reading materials I would personally remove if I had the choice, but I’m not a one-man censorship committee. Considering the vast number of materials available, it’s extremely rare for materials to be challenged as inappropriate. When challenges occur, there is a clear procedure in place to review the matter and resolve it.

Should evolution be taught in public schools?

Yes. How would students know what the concept means if evolution and creationism are not taught and discussed in school? It’s like comparative religion: you can learn and discuss the principles without being faithful to the religion.

If you could change one thing about the district what would it be and why?

I would make much more use of ability-based class formation in elementary school. Ability-based grouping is used in professional schools, graduate programs, colleges, high schools, and to a lesser extent in middle school. It should be utilized in elementary school as well. Why? Because our system (like public education across America) teaches to the lowest common denominator, and by doing so we hold back students that should be moving ahead, not simply helping those who have not advanced as far as quickly. In my view, we continue to do a disservice to the many children that are not properly challenged on a daily basis.

Who was your favorite teacher? When and why?

I have several, but among them is Mike Wallace, an American History professor I had in college. He taught history using biographies of the people who lived during the period studied. We read one each week. It was a great way to personalize the issues of the time and to learn about the various perspectives confronting them. It created lively discussion each class; much better than studying abstract time lines and listening to lectures. He lead discussions enthusiastically (and “lectured” when necessary to fill information gaps). Each student seemed to make a personal connection with the subject matter due to his personal style.

Favorite recess game in elementary school?

I enjoyed every form of baseball, whenever and wherever possible.

Fondest high school memory?

Making several lifelong friendships. Also, getting accepted into colleges and making choices about where to go next and how to pursue my career interests. Our family finances were basically zilch, but I still had choices; all of a sudden, I could really look into the future and make plans rather than simply go to school every day. It was liberating.

Eli Francovich
Eli Francovich joined the Spokesman Review in 2015. He currently is the Outdoors reporter for the SR.

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