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Candidates Run For Spokane School Board Seat

Spokane Public Radio

Two candidates are competing for a spot on the Spokane Public Schools board of directors.

The incumbent, Mike Wiser, has been on the board for six months. He was named to replace Bob Douthitt, who resigned before his term expired.  Wiser works for Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS) as a strategic planner.

His challenger, Jennifer Thomas, did business development and brand planning, most recently on the Jonah Project, a non-profit organization that aims to end sexual slavery in the Spokane area.

Wiser says with his limited time on the board, he didn’t feel comfortable citing any special personal accomplishments but agrees with many of the initiatives of the current board. His specific areas of interest include improving ways of working with students who display behavior problems.

“The district has done a lot of training, a lot of work with our campus resource officers to try to shift from a “suspend first” type of mode, to let’s find out what the issue is and see if we can address what’s causing that behavior in the first place,” Wiser said.

“What I would like to see is the district sort of  looking at it school by school. How does each school have the training in place? Do they have the space?  Are they looking at the gaps?  It’s not always do they have the staff, it’s getting everybody trained,” he said.

Jennifer Thomas also said the district should look more carefully at how it works on discipline issues.

“I think we could probably reconstruct how we are spending some of that money on community resource officers to discipline kids,” Thomas said.

“Let’s look at the fact it costs about $12,500 to educate a student every year. And we know a lot of students who don’t graduate end up being incarcerated. It’s $50,000 a year to incarcerate somebody,” she said.

Wiser says while graduation rates have dramatically improved in the district in recent years, many students do not excel. He would like to see more specialized programs to help them.

“Instead of going into a subject area like geology, let’s give students a project, or let them choose one where they can direct that learning themselves. And as they are completing that project, they can pull on those different disciplines and be their own teachers in some ways, because they are controlling the project,” Wiser said.

Thomas believes apprenticeships might be more appropriate for some students that want to focus on learning a trade.

“I think the internships and apprenticeships would be phenomenal. I don’t see a lot of that in the district currently. However there are great organizations wanting to promote some of those trade programs, instead of gearing kids towards post high school,” she said.

One issue the candidates disagree on is school security. Mike Wiser does not like the idea of resource officers carrying weapons.

“I would worry if we armed resource officers that they would go in alone if there was an active shooter type of incident. If they’re not successful, because they’re not trained in using firearms like police, I feel that is a worse situation than if they are there to get kids out,” he said.

Thomas says while she would like to study the issue more, her gut feeling is armed resource officers might be a good idea.

“If you were to ask me not as a candidate, I would say I am completely in favor somebody being armed on campus. As a candidate, I need to do more research,” she said. 

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.