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News >  Education

Differences, money drive Spokane school board candidates as election approaches

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 23, 2019

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Public Schools board candidates Nikki Lockwood and Katey Treloar are drawing lots of financial support.

They’re also drawing a clear divide on the issues as they move into the final two weeks of the race for a six-year term at Position 1.

It’s the same story in the Position 2 race between Kelli MacFarlane and Jenny Slagle, whose views are widely divergent on security and discipline and who are competing for a six-year term.

In the contest for Position 4, which is for a two-year unexpired term, Kevin Morrison’s in-district experience is countered by Erin Georgen’s strong identification with working families.

Position 1: Nikki Lockwood vs. Katey Treloar

Lockwood, who has raised more than $21,370 so far, has made it clear she’s in favor of a supplemental levy should the Legislature fail to give adequate help in redressing the district’s financial woes.

Lockwood also is against arming personnel in schools.

“The data is clear both locally and nationally that policing in schools disproportionately impacts over one-third of our kids who are students of colors and students with special needs,” Lockwood said.

Treloar, a former teacher who has raised $17,351, disagrees on both issues. She’s against the levy, but supports hiring armed police officers who would be permanently assigned to a specific middle school and high school.

Beyond the issues, Lockwood and Treloar offer different perspectives on what it means to be inclusive.

“As a board member I promise to put our kids first, all kids,” Treloar said this week. “That means advocating for special ed, general ed, gifted, English language learners, behaviorally impaired, developmentally impaired, homeless, abused, traumatized, and hungry students.”

Lockwood, who is Latinx, said she “represents the diversity of our district and will add a missing voice to our school board. I will work every day to make sure that every child thrives and all families are listened to.”

Lockwood, who placed first in the primary by about 1,500 votes, adds that Treloar’s position on policing “shows her lack of interest in the diverse community she would represent.”

Treloar counters that Lockwood is inflexible in her opposition to armed officers.

“I am a big-picture, system-wide visionary,” Treloar said. “I promise to approach all decision-making without an agenda or preconceived notions.”

Lockwood points to her greater involvement in education-related issues, including the budget, sex education, special education, and behavior management and discipline reform.

Position 2: Kelli MacFarlane vs. Jenny Slagle

Slagle has raised $11,440, or about 10 times MacFarlane’s total.

The ideological divide is even greater.

MacFarlane emphatically favors an armed professional presence in all schools, while Slagle is against the idea.

On the subject of a supplemental levy, MacFarlane is opposed while Slagle wants to “see where the budget ends after this school year” before considering a levy next fall.

Their biggest chasm lies in the issues of diversity and discipline.

For MacFarlane, her experience as a teacher in El Paso taught her that “there was no racial divide because I treated them as individual students – and that’s what we need to do.”

Discipline would be aided and students reassured, MacFarlane said, by the additional security she advocates.

MacFarlane is a career teacher, and though most of that career was spent elsewhere, she contends that “my opponent doesn’t have any idea of what is happening in the schools in Spokane, beyond her own experience at her children’s schools.”

“I have been in the classrooms and truly understand the complex issues that we are facing with District 81,” MacFarlane said.

However, Slagle has local board experience – including several years on the district’s diversity advisory council – in addition to sending four children to Spokane Public Schools.

“As a parent, I’ve invested many years of service to our schools through fundraising, class volunteering and parent-teacher group organizing,” Slagle said.

She wants to see more conversations about disproportionate discipline of African American, Native American and special needs students and others.

“We must continue to work to improve relationships and student success by deepening restorative discipline practices, culturally responsive training and MTSS programs, which now includes social-emotional learning,” Slagle said.

Position 4: Erin Georgen vs. Kevin Morrison

Georgen hasn’t raised much money – only $2,600, compared with almost $11,000 for Morrison – but she’s brought plenty of passion to the race.

She also finished a thousand votes ahead of Morrison in a three-way primary.

“For far too long, the voices of working families and struggling parents have been absent from the meetings where many vital decisions are made,” Georgen said. “I believe that Spokane Public Schools has taken a lot of positive steps on policies over the last several years, but in many ways it also failed to supply the schools with the staffing and resources to make those policies a reality in every school.”

Georgen cites her background in civic advocacy, the U.S. Coast Guard and as a single parent.

“I can represent the many families who depend heavily on schools for their family’s day-to-day success because I understand personally many of the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome each day,” Georgen said.

Morrison probably knows the ins and outs of the district better than any candidate after 16 years in a variety of positions, including six years in senior leadership.

“With three board members leaving this November, over 20 years of institutional knowledge of policies, procedures, budgets and oversight experience will be lost,” Morrison said. “My close work with many community partners as well as local, regional and state government agencies, staff and students has given me enormous opportunity to not only learn the processes, but build trusting relationships that can help guide our district in the future.”

Both agree that the district may need to ask voters for additional funds in the form of a supplemental levy. Georgen is opposed to an armed presence in schools while Morrison want to see “broad community input” as the district considers its choices.

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