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KSPS and Spokane Public Schools to split; plus, no reprieve for residents of El Rancho

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SEPARATION ON SESAME STREET

Way back in 1967, the Spokane School District created KSPS, Spokane’s PBS public television station. KSPS provided educational programming for the school district and the school district gave KSPS its sole source of funding.

Television, technology and teaching have changed dramatically since. Finally, after four decades, KSPS is moving to separate from the school district.

“Should the public schools be in the business of public television?” asks Claude Kistler, general manager of KSPS. “It’s been a conversation that’s come and gone over the last 10 years or so.”

But as technology developed, the original intention of the partnership became obsolete. Cable gave teachers more options for programs they could air, Kistler says, and the introduction of the Internet gave them essentially limitless program flexibility.

In the meantime, as state budget cuts carved away at Spokane Public Schools’ funding, the $260,000 it spent on the station became more of a burden. The total may be a small percentage of overall funding, but it could pay for about five teacher salaries.

By Sept 1, 2013, the separation should be complete. The loss of funding will need to be made up through Friends of KSPS fundraising, Kistler says.

—DANIEL WALTERS

HOME IS... WHERE?

Moving day has come and gone for residents of a Post Falls mobile home park that’s being cleared out. Residents of El Rancho received eviction notices in January giving them until July 31 to move, but even in early July, many of the residents were struggling to figure out how to afford moving their mobile homes and where to move them.

Lisa Cornett, 53, was one of those owners. She and a handful of other residents in the park contacted Coeur d’Alene attorney Dan Sheckler to see if they had rights to a monetary settlement from the owners to help with moving expenses, but they never reached any deal. Sheckler did not return calls for comment.

Cornett has since sold her house for what she owed on it and plans to “sleep on [her] daughter’s couch” until she can save the money to move to a new place.

“I’m tired,” Cornett says, two days before leaving her home behind. “I’m just tired.”

— HEIDI GROOVER

FILING SUIT

A professor is taking Washington State University to court after the university stripped him of his position overseeing the largest federal grant the school has ever received.

Norman G. Lewis, a professor of biochemistry, alleges in a federal suit that WSU violated his rights when it removed him from his position last March as director of a $40 million grant from federal Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant is to fund an alternative energy project called the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance.

WSU Spokesman Darin Watkins says Lewis remains part of the grant, just not as director.

“We just made an administrative change in consultation with the USDA,” Watkins says. “Norman is a very smart scientist. We hope that he stays involved and engaged.”

The suit singles out WSU President Elson Floyd and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly, along with the university. Watkins says Floyd made the decision to remove Lewis from his position.

“When I asked for an explanation, [Floyd] only added that somebody called from a congressional office,” Lewis says. “But what relationship that was to anything we are looking at here is not made clear.”

— CHRIS STEIN

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