Naturally, there were tears at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Spokane Public Schools board of directors.
After all the peaks and valleys of the last two years, how could it have been any other way?
The occasion was the final appearance of President Jerrall Haynes and board member Aryn Ziehnert. The two were succeeded Wednesday night by Mike Wiser and vice president Nikki Lockwood.
Both Haynes and Ziehnert were praised and honored for helping guide the district through what everyone agreed was a tough journey.
But the path was made easier, board member Jenny Slagle said, by Haynes’ “natural leadership.”
“You stepped in at a time when we needed you,” Slagle said.
Superintendent Adam Swinyard went further.
“I see the world through the eyes of a superintendent, but also as a parent. And you wonder about our kids, our community, our country,” Swinyard said.
“Working with you has given me hope, more optimism that we are going to find our way,” Swinyard said.
At that point, all eyes were on Haynes, who was only 25 when he was elected to a six-year term in 2015.
After a pause, Haynes said what he was “most grateful for was people like you. Each and every one of you made this happen.”
Recalling his early feelings of insecurity, Haynes told everyone in the room to “lead with courage at every opportunity you get.”
Earlier, Ziehnert, a lecturer at Eastern Washington University, was cited for rising to the challenge after her appointment in the fall of 2020.
“You were the right fit at the right time,” Slagle said. “You really made a difference at an important time.”
Swinyard praised her “deep understanding of complex issues,” which included the stadium controversy, new boundaries and the district’s racial equity resolution.
“I want to thank everyone for supporting me,” Ziehnert said. “Even though I was appointed, not elected, I still feel that the community welcomed me. … I’m extremely proud of what were able to accomplish while I was on the board.”
Moments later, Haynes and Ziehnert left the room.
By that time, their successors, Melissa Bedford and Riley Smith, must have wondered how they could follow the act that had just ended.
After being sworn in by Swinyard, they took their seats and joined the board, which then elected Wiser and Lockwood to take over their roles.
The meeting began with public comment in support of Finch Elementary School Principal Shane O’Doherty and two staffers who have been placed on administrative leave after they refused to wear masks on Nov. 23.
Six Finch parents offered support for O’Doherty and also asked the district to revisit the issue of masks, although they are required under a mandate issued last summer by Gov. Jay Inslee.
“My hope is that all staff be reinstated,” Emma Hubbard said. “They are sounding an alarm, and I ask you to consider the whole child.”
Misha Stewart expressed her “overwhelming support for the staff members who recently participated in a peaceful protest” and asked the board, “Is there a plan? Kids have sacrificed their childhood experience for long enough.”
The board also swore in two new student advisors who will participate in board meetings this year, though they don’t have a vote.
They include Nikell Gregerson, student at Lewis and Clark High School; and Jaelin Featherstone, a junior at Rogers High School.
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