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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

East Valley positions teem with candidates

K-8 transition hot topic in EV school board races

When it comes to school boards, incumbents often go unchallenged come election time. This was the case two years ago in the East Valley School District when the two incumbents ran unopposed, but an effort was made with a write-in candidate.

But after an overhaul of the organizational system – the district has been transitioning to a K-8 system – two positions on the board have three candidates each. In District 3, incumbent Heidi Gillingham faces off against Justin Voelker and Marvin Moore.

In District 5, three new candidates are vying for an open seat: Deanna Ervin, Mike Novakovich and Stormy Frederickson. Incumbent Roger Trainor withdrew his name from the race.

District 3

Heidi Gillingham

Age: 44

Occupation: Mother, wife, community volunteer and mail clerk

Children in the district: Two; a senior and an eighth-grader, plus two stepchildren who graduated in 2005 and 2007

Public office experience: Gillingham was elected to the school board in November 2009.

Q. Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A. I always volunteer and get involved in my community and with my children’s activities. I’m not one to sit on the sidelines and complain. I want to help find solutions and strive to improve things. Serving on the school board is a way for me to make a positive difference. I hope to serve another term while I still have children in the district.

Q. What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A. The process of the transition has been hard work for everyone involved. I firmly believe that the hard work is paying off and will continue to pay off in academic gains for our students. I support the K-8 model, with the enrichment center, 100 percent. I believe that the problems with “middle schools” are due to the system, not the teachers, not the kids, but the environment that is created when you take all the 13- to 15-year-old students in the district and throw them together with staff who don’t know them, then expect them to focus and pick up where they left off academically. Eliminate that environment. Keep students at the same school through eighth grade to focus on their math, reading, English and science with the smaller groups, where staff knows them. As they are ready, add in the enrichment piece.

Here, the district can provide unique electives and opportunities for students across the whole district without interfering with their basic foundational education. In addition to music and P.E. choices, students have electives that were not offered in the old system. (Examples: basic finance, biomedical science, leadership and community service, technology, wood shop.) Sports will also provide the exposure to larger groups throughout the district. Starting with intramurals in the fourth grade and moving into districtwide by seventh grade.

The bottom line is academics. By taking care of that first, then stair-stepping students into the larger community with enrichment and sports opportunities, as freshmen in high school, they will have a solid academic foundation, will be more confident, and will have the maturity to successfully make the full transition to high school.

Q. Do you have any specific plans for the district?

A. Fine-tune the K-8. Continue to develop and improve the enrichment center and sports programs. Support a variety and high-quality academic programs from intervention and special needs to advanced placement and career and technical education. Find more effective ways to clearly communicate district facts and highlights to the entire community.

Marvin Moore

Age: 79

Occupation: Retired schoolteacher, 27 years in the East Valley School District

Public office experience: Current board director for Foothills Rural Association. Former board director from Eastern Washington to Washington State Education Association. Past president of East Valley Education Association. Delegate and floor whip for Eastern Washington to a national presidential election convention.

Q. Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A. Due to the failure of the recent bond issue and after observing the lack of trust by patrons and parents of the current board’s decisions, it is my hope to help rebuild and regain that lost trust. A former chairman of the education department at Eastern Washington’s education department once stated, “East Valley was the lighthouse for education” in this area. That label has disappeared. It is my hope to help us return to that greatness.

Q. What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A. Having been educated in a first-through-eight school system, I have not seen that to be an unfounded program. The current East Valley board should have planned better for the transition.

Decisions, fiscal management and hiring practices should be based on one premise – what is best for kids.

Q. Do you have any specific plans for the district?

A. To regain the trust of parents and patrons by communicating and having public input before taking unapproved actions in hiring administrative personnel as well as installing major programs without public approval. Some things must take place without public approval. However, without public approval, failure will take place.

Justin Voelker

Age: 38

Occupation: Chief financial officer at Valley Hospital

Children in the district: Two

Public office experience: None

Q. Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A. I believe in a commitment to academic excellence, and I want to see every student in the East Valley School District succeed. I believe my experience in the private sector and in the community can provide a new and fresh perspective. Having lived in the district for the last four years, I’m concerned about the direction the district has taken over the last two years.

Q. What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A. In my opinion the K-8 transition has not been planned or implemented effectively. I believe that a careful analysis of objective state of Washington data needs to be made to see if this transition is working. If the new model is not working, judged by objective data, then hard decisions must be made quickly for the benefit of all stakeholders in the district. The key is to provide all students in the district with the best education, and prepare them for success in the new global economy.

Q. Do you have any specific plans for the district?

A. My plan is to provide a disciplined framework for strategic decision-making at the board level. It has been my experience over the last several years that decisions appear to be made hastily, and without sufficient understanding of the impact on the day-to-day lives of parents, students, teachers and other stakeholders. In order to achieve long-term success for the students of the district a more in-depth decision making process must be enacted.

District 5

Deanna Ervin

Age: 35

Occupation: Branch manager for a local credit union

Children in the district: One third-grader and one in eighth grade

Public office experience: First election

Q. Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A. I am passionate about giving back to my community. I feel East Valley could benefit from strong leadership and someone who understands finance. Since I understand both, I would like to use these skills to help my community be the best it can be.

Q. What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A. I prefer the structure the district previously had with the 6-8 middle school. I felt it created a better environment for the adolescents who are in the in-between stage making the transformation from child to teenager. I am not completely opposed to the K-8 structure, but do not feel that our facilities are adequate to provide the right environment for this structure to be successful.

Q. Do you have any specific plans for the district?

A. My primary focus is to be the voice of the community on the board. I am focused on hearing from school staff, students, parents and non-parent community members to hear what their concerns are, what their ideas are for how to make our district be the best it can be and then take this information to the board to see if we can put together a plan that will be successful as well as be something that the entire community can get behind and support.

Stormy Frederickson

Repeated attempts to contact Fredrickson were unsuccessful

Mike Novakovich

Occupation: owner of Piccadilly Crossing in Otis Orchards

Children in the district: daughter Zoe is a freshman at East Valley High School. His three oldest, Nick, Jaren and Darbi all graduated from East Valley.

Public office experience: Has never run for public office, but has served in the Scouting program and the council for alcohol and drug abuse.

Q. Why do you want to be on the East Valley School Board?

A. My desire to run for school board was a result of seeing what I perceived was a lack of communication between our school board and the public it serves within our district. I attended numerous meetings where the public and parents were asked their opinions on various changes and programs only to realize that their minds were already made up. The meetings turned out to be more sales pitches than information gathering.

Q. What is your opinion of the transition to K-8?

A. I am not in agreement on the transition from our district to a K-8 program. While there are valid arguments and benefits to this program, I don’t think they outweigh the negatives. Trying to swim upstream in this case, I think is ill advised due to public skepticism and financial burdens facing our district. I think the board moved too fast and too far without first garnering more public support for the idea.

Q. Do you have any specific plans for the district?

A. I think the main point of emphasis in our district needs to be regaining the trust and support of not only parents in our district, but the general public. I think this is obvious due to the ineffectiveness we have seen trying to pass a (bond). I perceive that we have the funnel turned upside down. In my view, the district should work like a funnel. We need to seek a wide scope of ideas, concerns, wishes and opinions from the general public, students, teachers and parents. It would then be the school board’s job to analyze those concerns, “funnel” them down and make decisions on which ones need to be moved on to the superintendent.

The superintendent would then use his expertise to enact said desires into viable programs based on policy, federal and state funding and specific needs for our district. Using this method would make most everyone feel included and allow us to function at a much higher level. I fear at this point we are doing the exact opposite, thus losing the partnership we need to have with those we are here to serve.