School Board Contests
How to sort the candidates
The following is directed primarily at the races for two seats on Board of Spokane Public Schools (District 81), but the pattern of research is applicable to any race.
In the new (this year) Spokane County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet the profiles of candidates for various school board races in the county take up eight of twenty-three pages of candidate profiles, more than a third of the space. Profiles of candidates for two “Spokane SD 81 Director Positions” (Spokane Public Schools School Board) take up five of those eight pages and present a head-turning thirteen candidates. (Remember this primary election Voters’ Pamphlet only shows candidates for positions for which more than two candidates have filed to run.)
What is this job, anyway? A seat on the Spokane Public Schools (SD 81) Board is a volunteer position (no salary). The term of service is six years. The Board meets once a week, judging by the SPS webpage that is supposed to show the meeting minutes. That is a considerable time commitment, not something to be taken lightly. The SPS Board consists of five elected, voting members and two “Student Advisors” (click to review the current composition). The Board elects a board president (currently Jerrall Haynes)and vice president (currently Mike Wiser) from among the five elected members. Jerrall Haynes’ and Aryn Ziehnert’s six year terms on the Board are ending and neither is running for re-election. An open seat in any position is an invitation for candidates and will tend to generate more interest than running against an incumbent.
There are thirteen candidates for the SPS Board positions, eight for “Director Position 3” and five for “Director Position 4”. Who are these people, what do they offer, and what is their level of support? I recommend a visit to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission’s website for a good start. Here’s the click pattern: all campaigns/(be sure the election year is set at 2021) SPECIAL / SPOKANE CO / SCHOOL DIRECTOR, SPOKANE SD 081. (A parallel route will get you analysis of other candidates’ fundraising, too.)
First, note that Cangelosi (who takes up a third of one of the pages in the Voters’ Pamphlet) did not even file with the PDC, something required by law for a real campaign. Five other candidates taking up space in the pamphlet report zero contributions. That leaves five candidates who have raised at least some funds from supporters, which can be taken as a measure of seriousness and community engagement.
Of those five, two are running for Position 3, Bedford and Geffken. (Daryl Geffken is incorrectly listed as contending for Position 4 at the PDC.) He will likely advance to the general election along with Melissa Bedford (who is, without a doubt, the most qualified candidate).
Position 4 offers three candidates who have raised some campaign funds, Ametu, Smith, and Dean. Dean already has a smattering of campaign signs out on the South Hill and she’s the best funded (by a small margin) over Smith. Dean is likely to make it to the November general election ballot. So who is she and what values does she represent?
To answer that question I recommend a visit to WeBelieveWeVote.com. Here’s the click pattern: Voter Guide / Spokane / scroll to Kata Dean and click “More” / scroll down and click “Survey Responses”. (I recommend the exercise of getting there, but here is the direct link to the questionnaire.) First, note that Ms. Dean is the only candidate for this position who even responded to this questionnaire. Then note Ms. Dean’s level of agreement with the 14 position statements, particularly those few that would seem to pertain to education, numbers 4, 7, 8, and 13. This candidate is a certified Republican culture warrior, an adherent to the creed.
A similar click pattern will get you to Daryl Geffken’s questionnaire, candidate for the other open seat on the SPS Board, Position 3, and the only one of the Position 3 candidates responding to the questionnaire.
Dean and Geffken not only share creeds, but they also share the same campaign treasurer, Emily Ling, a fact one can ferret out on the PDC website. Sharing the same campaign treasurer is no sin, but it might be indicative of shared ideology and support.
This primary election for two seats on the SPS Board is nominally non-partisan, but the partisan ideological underpinnings of two of the candidates are abundantly clear.
I recommend similar routes of inquiry as those I’ve presented here with the PDC and WeBelieve, to better understand where are candidates in this election are coming from.
Keep to the high ground,