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Erin Georgen on the Issues

How do you define student success?

Student success looks different for every student and family, but I believe each is grounded in a child reaching their full potential. True “success” for many is not only about academic success, but physical and social-emotional development as well. For many of our students Childhood Trauma is a significant barrier to their success.

What we should all be asking ourselves is, How do we define a school’s success? It’s more than just how many students graduate. It definitely involves how prepared those graduates are for participating in an ever-evolving job market, their exposure to the building and trades skills needed for the infrastructure of the future, and in their capacity to be a functioning member of a diverse community. Spokane Public Schools has worked hard to provide greater equity in our district, but I believe we can do more to help students overcome obstacles and prepare for the future.

What do you foresee as the biggest challenges the community will face with upcoming boundary changes? How will the school board mitigate families’ concerns?

It’s always hard for families to adjust to boundary changes and it will be important for the school board to make an extra effort to communicate AND listen to our communities most vulnerable families as those changes occur. This might include making an extra effort to provide translators, information resources, and providing more ways for parents to give feedback remotely.

What is the biggest safety gap in Spokane Public Schools? Do you think school resource officers should be armed?

The most pressing safety concern at the moment is clear. The teachers, paraeducators, and support staging at our schools are struggling to keep themselves and their students safe from injury everyday. The current “clear the room” policy isn’t working and our district can’t succeed at meeting the challenges our students/families face if we don’t invest in the staffing and resources they need.

The evidence is very clear about what makes schools safer for students and staff: more resources and staff for helping students (and their families overcome barriers). There isn’t any evidence supporting the argument that armed school staff make schools safer. While I do support building on our relationship with Spokane Police and creating clear policies for when an armed response is necessary, I don’t support arming our school resource officers. Beyond that, I recognize that our students face a far greater risk of being injured by a gun away from the school, so I will advocate for an age-appropriate gun safety and suicide prevention curriculum.

What is the biggest issue the district is currently dealing with? What’s your solution?

I think everyone recognizes the budget is the biggest issue the district is facing. We need to address the budget limitations, but it’s also important to discuss the most pressing issues that have resulted from not addressing the budget sooner. The staff at our schools are struggling to keep themselves and our students safe with reductions in staffing, families are struggling to adjust to Special Ed programs being consolidated, and many of our students are struggling in larger classrooms.

While I think it’s important to look for federal and state funding opportunities, I also think it’s important to take responsibility for the students in our community when federal and state funding simply isn’t enough to support the level and quality of staffing our community values. It’s always important to fight for the federal and state funding our district needs, Ignoring our responsibility to our students has left our district struggling. It’s become clear that is is long past time for this budget issue to be addressed and I would advocate for a local levy as soon as possible to increase staffing levels at the upper grades and regain recent losses.

What policies would you support to increase student achievement?

I support the new Social Emotional Learning curriculum, expanding behavioral interventions programs to reach more schools, and restorative discipline policies, but I also recognize that policy is meaningless if the schools don’t have staff well-prepared to follow through. I believe that smaller class sizes at the higher grades and more resources (space and supplies) for the staff to use for restorative discipline practices are imperative to the success of any of these policies.

What is working well in Spokane Public Schools right now and how would you build on it?

I believe the commitment and flexibility demonstrated by the staff during the last year and moving forward is a vital part of what is working well with Spokane Schools. I will advocate for ample staffing and ensuring that staff have the resources to be successful. The progress made on developing strong Behavior Intervention programs at some of the schools in the district is also commendable, but must continue to expand to meet the needs of all schools in the district.

There has been discussion about arming Campus Resource Officers (CROs) as a part of a comprehensive safety plan for the Spokane school district. Yes or no, do you support arming CROs? Why? Why not?

No, at this point the district lacks the financial resources, qualified staffing, and quality of hiring processes needed to arm CROs. Beyond that, I’ve found little evidence that arming even qualified staff results in a reduction of violence or significantly improves the outcomes of violent encounters when they occur.

How can Spokane Schools recruit, hire and retain and more diverse workforce?

While there is a lot of research into the benefits of a diverse workforce and identifying many of the barriers, there’s still a lack of meaningful research into how to best overcome those barriers. Spokane Schools can look for more ways to help a greater diversity of people in our community to overcome the obstacles they face in becoming a teacher or leader in the district. Ensuring a good work environment, compensation, and support will help the district retain that staff.

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