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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane School Board candidates weigh in on walkout

Voters who have strong opinions about the Spokane teacher walkout this week likely will find a school board candidate on their August primary ballot who shares their stance.

The Spokane Education Association voted last week to hold a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest the Legislature’s long delay in meeting a state Supreme Court’s demand to increase education funding.

Three candidates are running for the board’s position 3.

On one side is Rocky Treppiedi, who has served on the board for nearly 20 years. He is strongly opposed to the walkout.

“It’s a breach of their contract, which says they will not engage in this type of activity. It’s a pure disruption to our students and families,” Treppiedi said. “Professional educators should not take actions against their students. Doctors don’t take actions against their patients. Lawyers don’t take action against their clients.”

On the other side is Donald Dover, a former administrator at Washington State University.

“I’m really supportive of the walkout,” Dover said. “It’s unfortunate that it has had to come to this, but I empathize with the teachers wholeheartedly.”

Dover added that criticism from legislators that the teachers are breaking contract rules is like “the pot calling the kettle black.”

“For crying out loud, the state Legislature was found to be in violation of the state constitution for years,” Dover said. “They broke a rule. It seems only fair for the teachers to break a rule to get their point across.”

The third candidate, Jerrall J. Haynes, an aircraft maintenance craftsman at Fairchild Air Force Base, said he sees “both sides of the issue.”

“When I see the teachers do that, that’s a way of crying out for help,” he said. “That’s a serious statement they are making.”

Treppiedi said he decided to run again because he still has passion for the work.

He added that as funding improves and initiatives requiring lower class sizes are implemented, the district will have to invest to create more classrooms.

“The critical reason I’m running is because experience matters,” Treppiedi said. “Now you have to make sure that you invest that money wisely.”

Dover filed for the board, in part, because he thought Treppiedi needed a strong challenger.

“He’s done a lot of service to the board, but I just think it’s time for some new blood,” he said.

Dover added that the school board has been too slow in preparing for lower class sizes.

“I’d like to see a plan in action,” he said.

Haynes said he grew up in a single-parent household and a school board member played a large role in his life as a mentor.

That kind of interaction may be harder in a large district like Spokane, but the board needs “a better sense of community” and more open dialogue with teachers, parents and administrators, he said.

Ballots for the Aug. 4 primary will be mailed in mid-July.

Only two candidates filed for the other open seat on the Spokane School Board, position 4, so that race won’t appear on the ballot until November.

In that contest, University High School teacher Paul Schneider faces Patricia Kienholz, president of the Citizens Law and Safety Research Center.

Schneider said he supported a walkout in the Central Valley School District, where he works, in a vote that did not succeed because a quorum wasn’t reached.

“There is a message that needs to be sent to Olympia and that is we are tired as educators. We are doing a lot more with a lot less,” he said. “At the end of the day I hope the community understands that our teachers and our classified staff and our administrators are working very hard for our students.”

Kienholz had mixed thoughts on the labor action.

“If people make a decision collectively to protest then I think that’s what they should do,” she said. “If there is anything illegal going on, I don’t support that.”

Staff writer Jody Lawrence-Turner contributed to this report.

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