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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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For Spokane School Board, voters can choose experience or new outlook

Haynes, left, and Treppiedi (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
Haynes, left, and Treppiedi (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Rocky Treppiedi wants one more term on the Spokane Public Schools board. Jerrall Haynes, Treppiedi’s 26-year-old challenger, thinks it’s time for a new perspective.

“I think right now, with the district being in such a transitional phase, it needs fresh blood,” Haynes said. “Spokane is in dire need of a little diversity in leadership positions.”

Haynes is an airplane mechanic in the Air Force and admits he’s inexperienced when it comes to school politics, but he doesn’t think that’s a bad thing.

While Treppiedi, 62, might have the name recognition and experience, Haynes is endorsed by the Spokane Education Association – perhaps the only bloc of voters that routinely pays attention to school board races. Treppiedi argues that the SEA endorsement is similar to running as an incumbent.

Treppiedi said he nearly didn’t run this year. However, Jeffrey Bierman’s decision to not run for re-election persuaded Treppiedi to stay on. Treppiedi is the longest serving board member and has been on the board since 1996.

“This is a time where you need experienced folks at the table with the senior staff,” Treppiedi said.

Haynes has raised about $4,800 for his campaign. Treppiedi hasn’t raised money or solicited endorsements.

“I haven’t run much of campaign,” he said. “I wish I had. It was the sort of thing where I should have. Time has gotten away from me. I’ve been busy being a full-time board member.”

In the past, Treppiedi served on board position 4, however, this year he opted to run for position 3. Spokane Education Association President Jenny Rose said she thinks Treppiedi switched because he didn’t want to run against Paul Schneider. Treppiedi said when he filed there were no candidates for position 3, making it an obvious choice.

For Treppiedi, changes at the state level helped him decide to run again.

“The Legislature is stepping up to the plate to fund education,” he said. “In essence, we’re rebuilding the district.”

Additionally, policies that he’s championed, like an extended school day, are being implemented. He said he’s also glad to see that class sizes will be reduced. However, he’s concerned with the district’s classroom space. He said the board is considering changing what grades are considered middle school in an effort to accommodate those changes.

Haynes’ primary focus is community building. He said he’s concerned with the lack of public input and engagement in school board issues.

“I see a lot of butting heads,” he said.

In an effort to ease strained relationships Haynes said he wants teachers to be more involved in board-level policy decisions. He also would like to see board meetings be held at different area high schools.

“At the end of the day, they’re the ones that have to implement the policies that we as school board members have to be making,” he said.

In his current term on the board, Treppiedi has been a vocal proponent for extending the school day and the creation of all-day kindergarten. He is a long-time attorney who served most of his career as an assistant city attorney for the city of Spokane. He had a reputation for providing effective defense of the city against lawsuits. But he was fired from that job in 2012 after his work defending the city against a lawsuit from the family of Otto Zehm became an issue in the mayoral campaign a year earlier.

Both candidates have concerns about the common core curriculum. Haynes questions how teachers will be evaluated. He advocates a combination of peer and student review.

Treppiedi said the problem with the common core curriculum is that it wasn’t initiated locally.

“The evilness in it was that it was imposed by the feds,” he said.

Haynes, who is a member of the NAACP, was encouraged to run while serving on the organizations political action committee.

Rose, said one of the union’s main criteria for endorsing candidates is their stance toward collective bargaining. Treppiedi has been a vocal opponent of the union and its walkout in the spring and threatened strike in the fall.

“What are you doing walking away from your job?” Treppiedi said.

Haynes said he opposes the creation of charter schools because of a lack of public oversight.

“If you’re going to be run by the public’s money you need to answer to the public,” Haynes said.

Treppiedi supports charter schools and said the court’s decision to declare them unconstitutional, especially after the school year started, was a mistake. However, he emphasizes that it’s a state-level decision that the board has little control over.

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