4 for 4: Getting to know Spokane Public School Board Candidate Erin Georgen

4 for 4: Getting to know Spokane Public School Board Candidate Erin Georgen
Erin Georgen is a candidate for Spokane Public Schools' Board of Directors. 

Erin Georgen is a candidate for Spokane Public Schools’ Board of Directors Position No. 4.

Georgen spent eight years with the U.S. Coast Guard and has also served with the Physical Therapist’s Association for 15 years. She was the I-1600 Initiative Committee Chair and worked as a drafting consultant for Senator Chase. She currently works at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation.

Georgen graduated from Mt. Spokane High School and attended the Army Academy of Health Sciences, Spokane Falls Community College, as well as the Art Institute of Portland.

Gerogen answered the following four questions for 4 NEws Now.

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 struggling with right now. We need to address the budget limitations because of the effect it has on everything else.

When we talk about the budget moving forward, we also need to discuss the most pressing issues that resulted from recent cuts and ask if they could have been prevented. The staff at our schools are struggling to keep themselves and our students safe, families are struggling to adjust to programs being consolidated or cut entirely, and many of our students are struggling in larger classrooms. I would like to understand why the budget constraints weren’t identified and addressed sooner.

We need to fight for federal and state funding opportunities whenever possible, but I also think it’s important we all take some personal responsibility for the students in our community. When federal and state funding isn’t enough to achieve the level and quality of staffing we value, the school board has a responsibility to present voters with opportunities to fund them. Ignoring that responsibility to our community, our school staff, and ultimately our students, has had a significant negative impact across the district over the last year. It is clearly long past time for the budget issue to be addressed. I will advocate for a local levy as soon as possible to increase staffing levels at the upper grades and to regain recent losses.

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: teachers, paraeducators, and support staff at our schools are struggling to keep themselves and students safe from injuries everyday. The current “clear the room” policy isn’t working and our district can’t succeed for our most vulnerable students and their families if we don’t invest in the staffing and resources needed to meet those challenges.

There is ample research and evidence that more staff and resources for helping students (and their families) overcome barriers is the most effective way to keep everyone in our schools safe. I also support all of our staff receiving regular training in de-escalating and managing aggressive behavior, but staffing levels are such a critical part of successfully managing aggressive behaviors that our behavioral management and discipline policies must include adequate staffing levels as a key component.

There isn’t any evidence supporting the argument that armed school staff would our make schools safer, but there are times when an armed response is called for. I support building on our district’s relationship with the Spokane Police Department, creating clear policies for armed response when it is necessary, and coordinating with them to perform emergency response drills during the summer in an effort to improve those responses.

I don’t support arming our school resource officers and have found no evidence it would reduce our students risk of gun violence. Our students actually face a far greater risk of gun violence away from school. I believe an age-appropriate gun safety and suicide prevention curriculum would be effective approach to reducing some of that risk.

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 with AND LISTEN to our communities most vulnerable families as those changes take place. This should include things like making an extra effort to provide translators or other communication assistance when needed, easy to access and understand informational resources, and providing more ways for parents to give feedback remotely.

How do you define student success?

Student success looks different for every student and family, but I believe it is always grounded in a child reaching their full potential. True “success” for many is not only about academic achievement, but physical and social-emotional development as well. Another barrier for many of our students is Childhood Trauma, which disproportionately effects students of color, low income families, and students with disabilities.

What we should all be asking ourselves is: How do we define a school district’s success? It’s more than just how many students graduate on time. It definitely involves how prepared those graduates are for participating in an ever-evolving job market, their exposure to the building and trade skills needed to create the infrastructure of the future, and in their capacity to be a functioning members 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.