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Coeur d'Alene Public Schools' new (interim) superintendent; plus, change comes slowly for Regional Law and Justice Council

click to enlarge Local leaders are pushing for faster changes to Spokane's racial and ethnic disparities in its criminal justice system.
  • Local leaders are pushing for faster changes to Spokane's racial and ethnic disparities in its criminal justice system.

NEW LEADERSHIP IN CDA

Following the resignation of superintendent Matthew Handelman in April, Coeur d'Alene Public Schools has found a new superintendent — at least for the time being. STANLEY OLSON, a former Boise School District superintendent, has been chosen as interim superintendent of Coeur d'Alene Public Schools for the next school year.

In a statement, Olson says he is honored to be chosen: "The Coeur d'Alene school system is recognized throughout Idaho and the Northwest as being progressive and strongly committed to the ongoing development of every child."

The district board of trustees approved hiring Olson during its meeting on Monday. Peter McPherson, the superintendent and federal programs director for Challis Joint School District, was also considered. Olson was a Democratic candidate for Idaho schools superintendent in 2010, but he lost to Republican Tom Luna. He currently works for an education software company called Silverback Learning Solutions.

"Dr. Olson stood out to us based on his wealth of knowledge and experience in public school administration, including managing over $100 million in voter-approved bonds to pay for new and improved schools in the Boise School District," said board chairman Casey Morrisroe.

Olson, however, will not remain CdA schools superintendent beyond next year, as the board decided that the interim superintendent is not allowed to apply for the permanent position. The district will conduct a national search for the permanent position beginning in the fall. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

ADDRESSING RACIAL DISPARITIES

A cohort of community groups and organizations is growing increasingly frustrated with the pace at which Spokane's REGIONAL LAW AND JUSTICE COUNCIL is addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.

A letter sent to members of the Law and Justice Council and signed by more than 20 community leaders notes that only a small fraction — $20,000 — of a $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation is dedicated to reducing racial and ethnic disparities. The grant is part of the foundation's nationwide Safety and Justice Challenge that provides Spokane and other cities with access to resources such as the W. Haywood Burns Institute — an organization that specializes in addressing racial and ethnic disparities.

The letter references a survey conducted by the Burns Institute, which found that the Law and Justice Council should focus on reducing racial disparities as a "core goal," and suggests the city and the county invest in implicit bias training for those working in criminal justice.

Those changes are coming, if slowly, says Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Administrator Jacquie van Wormer, who has been heavily involved in criminal justice reform efforts.

"If the community is frustrated about data, I think everybody within the system is just as frustrated," she says. "But we are working on it."

There has been progress. With the help of the Burns Institute, Spokane now knows that seven black adults were detained in Spokane County for every one white adult in 2014. Additionally, the average length of time in jail in 2016 was 16 days for white adults, 25 days for black adults and 21 days for Native American adults.

That kind of data collection will continue, van Wormer says, adding that she hopes to start publishing those numbers online by late July. (MITCH RYALS)

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