Supporting students should be the top priority at public schools in Spokane, agree board candidates Melissa Bedford and Daryl Geffken.
What they don’t see in agreement is how well the district has accomplished this task during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bedford largely favorable and Geffken less.
On a larger scale, Geffken fears that the district has exceeded its authority in certain areas; Bedford believes he does not go far enough, especially on issues of fairness.
The race for position 3 offers another twist in liberal versus conservative history seen in many school board races this fall: Bedford moved to Spokane two years ago from Nevada and appears to have the indoor track.
Geffken, a former youth pastor who lived in Spokane for 17 years, finished far behind Bedford in the primary and is behind in fundraising.
As of Friday, Bedford had raised more than $ 24,000, including about $ 8,400 from unions, including the state teachers’ union, political action committees and the Democratic Party.
Geffken, a financial advisor, has attracted around $ 16,000, almost entirely from local businesses and individuals.
The two carried their message to homes in Spokane, but drawing different conclusions.
“I think the most important thing I’ve heard is that a teacher should be totally part of the school board,” said Bedford, assistant professor in the education department at Eastern Washington University.
âIt makes sense,â Bedford said. âBut for all the other issues that people talk about, like sex education and critical race theory, the most important thing is how do we make sure we support our students during a pandemic.
“We certainly have a lot of obstacles that we have to face, but we have to trust the teachers that they are going to bring the students to the grade level.”
Bedford’s views align with those of current progressive board members Jenny Slagle and Nikki Lockwood, whose families have financially contributed to his campaign.
Geffken said he would like to see some diversity of opinion on the board.
âThe neighborhood needs someone who doesn’t come from a singular point of view,â Geffken said. âThe district needs to hear a whole range of points of view, more than just one point of view – that’s what drives me to campaign.
Geffken differs from Bedford on most major issues; however, they did not meet to discuss it. Citing the demands of her job, Bedford declined invitations from The Spokesman-Review and the League of Women Voters to participate in virtual debates and forums.
The progressive trends of Bedford extend to the boundary changes recently approved by the district. She supports the district on most policies, but Bedford said she would have been more resistant to the plan.
Bedford, who has taught Title I schools in northern Nevada, said the pandemic has exposed the struggles of poorer families and fairer lines would have helped level the playing field.
âIf I had served I don’t believe I would have supported the lines that were drawn,â Bedford said.
Geffken said he sees fairness more as “an idea that presupposes that every person is valuable, and how can we take you forward? “
In the spring of 2020, Geffken said he witnessed a district in retreat and unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
âWe tried to keep the boys engaged,â Geffken said, referring to his children. But soon he received texts from one of his sons at 9:15 a.m. on a Wednesday.
âHe was done for the day,â Geffken said.
Geffken said he felt similar frustrations last fall as he searched for answers as to why Spokane opened up distance learning while some neighboring districts opted for a hybrid model.
âWe just weren’t getting any response,â Geffken said. âWe just asked, ‘Can you provide some data to help us understand why students can’t come back somehow? “”
Determined to run for the board, Geffken said upon ringing the doorbell his feelings were confirmed that he could “add a voice to many parents who were not getting responses from the district.”
He remains in favor of parental choice on the issue of masks and mandates.
Bedford takes the opposite view, insisting on the need to “listen to health professionals”.
Regarding the vaccination mandates, she said âit’s difficult. â¦ There also comes a time when we have to look at the greater good.
âWe need to consider possibly doing a federal mandate,â Bedford said.
Geffken cited concerns about critical race theory.
Critical Race Theory is an academic concept that examines the history, society, and laws of the nation, and how it all intersects with race and minority groups. The state legislature passed a bill in the last session that requires schools to provide “equity training” to staff. Many conservatives have challenged the bill, saying it would force schools to adopt “critical race theory,” but the term does not appear anywhere in the bill, and public school officials in Spokane say it is not taught.
Earlier this summer, Geffken expressed concern that in the future Spokane and other districts “will spend more time now on this lost voice and we are going to raise this lost voice, and now this lost voice. is automatically a martyr or a victim. “
âThey may not be teaching the actual course,â Geffken said. But he said he wasn’t happy with a blanket denial, “to just say it’s not there.”
âCombating racism with racism is a mistake,â Geffken said.
Bedford echoed statements from Spokane and other districts that critical race theory is not taught in K-12 schools. She said, however, that school districts need to be aware that “kids notice thingsâ¦. that children learn differently because of the color of their skin.
Candidates are also divided over comprehensive sex education, with Geffken opposing it and Bedford supporting it.