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Sunday, September 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

Spokane Public Schools nears ‘interim solution’ to filling safety, transportation position

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 14, 2019, 7:13 p.m.

Spokane Public Schools officials said Tuesday that they are nearing an “interim solution” to fill its open director of safety, risk management and transportation position. The district’s administrative building is shown here in 2017. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Public Schools officials said Tuesday that they are nearing an “interim solution” to fill its open director of safety, risk management and transportation position. The district’s administrative building is shown here in 2017. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Public Schools officials said Tuesday that they are nearing an “interim solution” to fill one of its most high-profile positions, the director of safety, risk management and transportation.

At the same time, the district hopes to make a permanent hire near the end of the year for a position that has seen unprecedented turnover in recent months.

“We will have an interim solution in the next few days to a week,” said Brian Coddington, the district’s director of communications and public relations.

The district is considering both internal and external candidates, Superintendent Shelley Redinger said.

Following the retirement last November of former Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk, the position was filled on an interim basis until June 30 by former communications director Kevin Morrison.

Morrison was succeeded on July 15 by former Durham Schools Services local manager Santos Picacio, who resigned two weeks into the job after he was confronted with allegations made last year in court records that he abused his wife and suffers from long-term mental health and substance abuse issues.

Picacio, 46, resigned after school officials had confirmed the authenticity of divorce records and asked him about allegations that he twice threatened to kill his wife; that he admitted to having sexual contact with a pair of 19-year-old twins in 2014 who were the daughters of church friends; and that he has tried to take his own life at least three times as he battles post-traumatic stress disorder following two tours of service in Iraq as part of the U.S. Army.

Those facts didn’t surface in the district’s background check, which was limited to criminal matters.

It’s unclear whether the district plans formal revisions of its procedures for conducting background checks.

“You learn something every time you hire somebody, so we’re continuing to review our personnel policies and our recruitment policies and practice,” Coddington said.

“You can never be too careful,” Coddington said. “But it’s a balance you have to strike, especially in this situation because there are some protections on the employment side of things, and we’ve got to be careful to work within employment law.”

While the state allows criminal background checks, it’s less clear whether civil documents can be obtained without permission of the prospective employee.

Picacio was hired by the district about six months after it acknowledged, on Feb. 1, that Spokane Public Schools officials did not conduct a Google search before they hired former Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Shawn Audie as a school resource officer.

Background searches became an issue after Ferris High School students took cellphone images of Audie placing his forearm on the neck of an African American student during a disturbance in the school.

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