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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fitness coach faces incumbent in Medical Lake School Board race

In Medical Lake’s most crowded school board primary race this year, the incumbent and a political newcomer beat out four other candidates to secure their spots on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The four candidates elected to the school board next month will start their terms in the midst of city-wide recovery efforts from the Gray fire that burned 240 homes in and around Medical Lake, killed a man and displaced dozens of students. Enrollment among Medical Lake students dropped by about 70 pupils since the Gray fire burned through much of the district in August, according to data provided by the local teachers union.

Incumbent Alexis Alexander, an engineer with Avista Utilities, was appointed to represent District 2 on the school board in 2019. A graduate of Medical Lake High School, Alexander said he is running for another four-year term because he owes his success to the education he received in Medical Lake schools. He wants to keep those opportunities going for future students.

“I have spent the majority of my life in Medical Lake. It is the place I call home and refer to many of the community members as family,” Alexander wrote in his campaign statement. “As a 12-year senior, who even attended preschool at the Assembly of God Church, I had a wonderful experience growing up in the community. I attribute much of this to the amazing educators, coaches, and friends who supported me along the way.”

Michael Gerry, a fitness coach, has not held an elected office before. He has previous experience working as a volunteer firefighter in the cities of Medical Lake and Spokane, according to the Spokane County candidate guide. In his campaign statement, Gerry wrote he is running because the school board “needs new voices and accountability.”

“I am a father of 4 girls in the Medical Lake School District and have lived in this community for over 20yrs,” Gerry wrote. “We have faced many challenges over recent years, from school shutdowns to increased mental health issues. The result is learning loss and our students struggling.”

Neither Gerry nor Alexander responded to requests to be interviewed for this story. Alexander participated in an interview for a story on the primary elections back in August.

The District 2 candidates were among 17 contenders who ran for four seats on the board in the primary last August, making the Medical Lake race Washington’s most crowded school board primary this year. Local teacher’s union president Ryan Grant said this was the most hotly contested school board race he’s seen in his 20 years as a Medical Lake resident.

Gerry walked away with about 29% of the primary vote, while Alexander trailed close behind, pulling in 25% of the vote.

This school board race has been plagued by debates over state-mandated school laws, such as the requirement to teach sexual health education and the requirement that schools respect children’s gender identities and sexual orientations.

Opponents to teachings about gender have taken to fighting for their beliefs in school board meetings, running in local elections and questioning teachers directly. Washington state has seen a “sustained” presence of the national culture wars, Crosscut reported last month.

The Medical Lake Education Association endorsed Alexander in this race.

“Alexis is a Medical Lake grad who did a great job as the chair of the Levy Committee in a really tough year, 2021,” union President Grant wrote. “As we recover from the fire, he’ll be a great guy to have on the board.”

The candidate elected for position 2 will serve a four-year term on the Medical Lake School Board.

For the general election, Oct. 30 is the deadline to register online and via mail. Nov. 7 is the deadline to register at the polls.

Election day is Nov. 7, and ballots are due in drop boxes at 8 p.m. that day.