Schooling the Budget

As candidates prepare for the primary, they weigh in on problems in district spending.

Spokane Public Schools once again faces a budget shortfall — this time of $13 million.

And five people think they have a solution.

With board member Garret Daggett leaving in November, one position is open in this year’s election for the school board, and six names are on the ballot. (One of the candidates, Paul Lecoq, has dropped out of the race, though his name will appear on the ballot.)

It’s up to the school board to set policies and goals for the district, but the decision-making power lies with the administration of Superintendent Nancy Stowell.

Considering the budget woes, the candidates all have something to say about the district’s spending errors.

Deana Brower

Children in the district: Two

Day job: Spent 12 years as a K-12 educator and is currently a committee chair for Citizens for Spokane Schools, a member of the board of directors at the YWCA, and a member of the Chase Youth Commission

Beef: Brower says budget decisions at the state level have put “unusual” challenges on the district. “We know every year we’re trying to do more with relatively less funding, so we have to be more and more efficient every year with how we spend our money,” she says. On her website, Brower says there must be collaboration between the community and the board, as the “success of our district depends upon it.”

Sally Fullmer

Children in the district: Three

Day job: Volunteer at Spokane Public Schools, focusing on music education and performance

Beef: Evoking the federal No Child Left Behind act, Fullmer says that “no administrator is left behind” when it comes to generous paychecks. “I’m particularly concerned about our math curriculum,” she says, adding that Stowell’s raise was inappropriate after fewer than 50 percent of students passed the math section of the High School Proficiency Exam. Only 39 percent of the district’s 10 th graders passed the exam.

Robert Griffing

Children in the district: Three

Day job: Pastor at Fairchild Air Force Base chapel

Beef: “Right now at the school district, we are doing some things that aren’t actually related to producing well-educated students,” he says. Griffing mentions funding for public television, which he says has been historically important for the district to support but “doesn’t fit currently in times of tight budget.” The proposed 2011-2012 budget allocates about $3.4 million to public television and radio.

Rod Roduner

Children in the district: Three, plus grandkids

Day job: Retiree, currently volunteering as a court-appointed child advocate for the juvenile justice system; former member of the National Association of Purchasing Management

Beef: “I don’t really think [the district] supports their core employees [the educators, support staff, psychologists, etc.],” says Roduner. As a former “blue collar” worker, he says much of the work at the administrative level is being done by people who are overqualified and overpaid.

Larry Vandervert

Children in the district: Two

Day job: Retiree, founded the department of psychology at Spokane Falls Community College, held a position on the school board before leaving to complete doctoral residency requirements at Washington State University

Beef: Vandervert says the district must work under the “strategies” presented on its website, which specify “reading, writing and arithmetic.” He says the superintendent must be evaluated more frequently to ensure the strategies are being upheld, and to “make sure she understands what she’s getting paid for.” He continues, “The administration is a little bit top-heavy. Too much money is going into administration versus instruction.”