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Tuesday, April 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Three first-time candidates drawn to vacant Nine Mile Falls School Board position

From left: Kirsten Foose, Mary McAdam and Eric Olsen (Courtesy)
From left: Kirsten Foose, Mary McAdam and Eric Olsen (Courtesy)

None of the candidates for this year’s Nine Mile Falls School Board election are running to replace anyone.

Three candidates filed for the director No. 2 position vacated by Debbie Williams, who is moving out of the district. Meanwhile, incumbents Mac Mikkelsen and Bill McBride are running unopposed for director positions No. 1 and No. 3.

Mikkelsen and McBride have been on the board since 2011, and Williams began her tenure in 2007. All three candidates in the three-way race – two of them parents and one a retired Nine Mile Falls teacher – said they have been happy with the board’s performance and wanted to offer their perspective without taking away someone’s seat at the table.

“I’m not really running to fix something,” said Kirsten Foose, 41, who is the director of operations at CHAS Health and has four children attending Nine Mile Falls Elementary School.

Each candidate said they have a unique perspective and set of skills they want to offer.

Foose said she believes her experience as a manager in health care administration would naturally complement the work of a board of directors.

“I’m creative and collaborative; I have a good amount of experience and education with everything fiduciary – so managing budgets,” she said.

Eric Olsen, 50, a major for the Spokane Police Department, wants to focus on school safety with his background in law enforcement. He has two daughters in the district.

“I was working the day of (the) Freeman (shooting), and that was extremely close to home,” he said. “It shook my family members to the core.”

He wants to increase preparedness for active shooter situations at Nine Mile Falls schools and form a school safety committee to make recommendations to leadership after a comprehensive study.

If Olsen is elected, Nine Mile Falls would join the Reardan-Edwall School District as the only all-male school board in Spokane County.

Mary McAdam, 64, would bring nearly 40 years of teaching experience in the district to the board. She retired two years ago.

“Since I was in the district before there was a high school and after there was a high school, I’d like to take the district and see what else we can do,” she said.

McAdam said she would advocate for improvements to Lakeside High School and more funding from the Legislature for public schools.

“The state (Legislature) has blamed teachers (asking for raises) for the funding crisis and they need to fund education,” she said.

Despite the fact there will only be one new face on the school board in 2020, the candidates see big changes coming to the district – namely, growth in population.

Superintendent Brian Talbott said the district is already preparing for a development of about 50 new homes near Lakeside Middle School, as well as a proposed 475 lots for single family homes at the former Sun Dance Golf Course.

Foose said the growth will be a good thing for the district, since it will mean an increased tax base. Olsen agreed, but he said he wants to ensure the district doesn’t lose its identity as a close-knit community.

A big part of addressing that growth, the candidates said, will be in pushing for revisions to Lakeside High School or a new school altogether. Two bonds for major renovations to the school failed in 2015, and a $33 million bond to build a new school failed in 2016.

The high school opened in 1990 and was built in the shape of an eagle – the school mascot. While a lack of science lab space was partially addressed by a 2016 grant for a portable lab building, Olsen said the number of entrances and other safety issues are a primary concern.

“It was made to be cool as opposed to functional,” Olsen said. “… And not necessarily safe.”

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