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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Local government

Incumbent East Valley School Board member challenged by man with minor criminal record

Candidate Justin Voelker and East Valley School Board districts. (Courtesy photo/SR image)
Candidate Justin Voelker and East Valley School Board districts. (Courtesy photo/SR image)
By Chris Ryder Correspondent

Incumbent East Valley School Board member Justin Voelker says his experience on the board, as a hospital executive and as a parent makes him the best choice in the November election.

He faces Nathaniel Rooney, 33, who works at ABC Economy Appliance, and says he’s diligent, punctual and articulate. He also, however, has a minor criminal record, including a DUI. Rooney has not responded to several requests for comment.

Voelker said he’s seeking re-election to help build upon the board’s successes, he said.

Improvements in curriculum and finances are among Voelker’s proudest accomplishments while on the board, he said. The district has seen significant improvements in test scores for sixth- and eighth-grade standard scores in math and English, Voelker said. He also wants to improve academic standing at the high school level.

In June, Voelker supported the district’s initiative providing every high school student with a Macbook. The laptops were given to students shortly after Labor Day.

Rooney has been critical of test-based academic models and thinks more funding needs to be directed toward other academic areas, like college readiness, according to the Vote411.org voter guide, created by the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

Rooney’s list of concerns differ from Voelker’s. The most urgent issue facing the district is finding funds for a new school and staff to accommodate a growing student population, Rooney wrote. A growing population of “choice students” outside of district boundaries opting into East Valley schools is contributing to larger class sizes that are endangering student and teach interactions, Rooney wrote.

Voelker also is concerned with funding, but for different reasons. He said the district faces the challenge of receiving enough money from the state Legislature, which recently boosted funding to schools. Voelker wants to put funding toward renovating aging buildings within the district.

Voelker stated his experience as a parent is ultimately one of his biggest qualifications and reasons for running.

“Being a parent definitely helps when it comes to the job,” Voelker said.

In Spokane County’s voter guide, Rooney wrote that he has many skills and traits that make him a good candidate: “A very perceptive and articulate team leader! Diligent and punctual! Skilled at training and networking! Willing to utilize constructive criticism from experienced management to provide the best quality work!” he wrote.

In February 2010, Rooney was charged with and pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run of unattended property. He was sentenced to one day in jail with credit for time served and was fined.

In December 2010, Rooney was charged with a DUI and for driving with a suspended license. He pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and the second charge was dropped. He was sentenced to one day in jail with credit for time served.

Rooney was charged with third-degree theft and selling drug paraphernalia in 2008. The theft charges were dropped after a period of 12 months without committing a violation. He was found not guilty of selling drug paraphernalia.

A news release from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the alleged theft accused Rooney of shoplifting a half-case of Budweiser, worth $11.39, from the Albertson’s at Millwood.

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