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SPOKANE SD 81 DIRECTOR POSITION NO. 5

6-year termNo Salary, some districts offer small per diem for evening meetings. School Board Members or “directors” – are the elected governing body of the school district, serving four-year terms. The school board’s governance responsibilities fall in four major areas: Vision – focuses the work on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – provides prudent financial planning and oversight; diligent and innovative policymaking; Accountability – sets specific goals and a process for evaluation, reporting and recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers. The School Board sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district Superintendent and certificated teaching staff and personnel. One of the critical duties is the adoption of the district's budget and proposal of any school levies to be placed on the ballot to the people. The commission sets policies and approves all spending via the budget. The council also sets salaries for district employees.
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  • Jennifer Muroya Thomas (NP)

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    Mike Wiser (NP) Healthcare Management

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Biographical Information

Of three major issues facing your district, which one is the most urgent?

What is your position on Charter Schools as a part of your public school system?

What is your position on testing of your students?

What is your opinion on "start times" for elementary and secondary school?

How can the on-time graduation rate be improved?

How should bullying be addressed?

What would be your plan to see that your school district students earn their civics credit required by the new state law?

What is your opinion of student suspension for classroom disruption?

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Phone (509) 270-0629
Email mike@wiserforschoolboard.com
YouTube Video http://spokanetalksonline.com/mtc-mike-wiser/
Town where you live Spokane, WA
Experience (300 characters max) Primary work experience has been as an industrial engineer, management consultant, and small business owner (consulting and auto parts) Currently VP of Strategic Planning at CHAS Health Appointed to Spokane School Board March 2017 Education includes BSIE from UW and MBA from Northwestern University
The top three issues in my opinion are 1) facilities and staffing challenges due to the combination of grade reconfiguration, class size reduction, and enrollment growth, 2) disproportionate discipline and school climate, and 3) improving academic achievement for groups with historically lagging outcomes.

While all 3 issues are critical, the first is the most urgent due to state-mandated class size requirements and the need for additional classrooms and teachers. The board recently approved the grade configuration committee’s recommendation to shift to a 6-8 middle school. Work leading up to this recommendation was done with meaningful community input. To implement these recommendations while lowering class size and accommodating increased enrollment, a combination of school boundary changes, remodeling, and new schools will be needed. This work must be done with strong community input that informs a transparent decision-making process.
Spokane has two community-led, not-for-profit charter schools that have complementary missions and fill a gap for many students. In addition to filling gaps, charter schools can help create a productive competitive spirit that helps public schools innovate more quickly. Our district can also learn directly from charter school experiences. Comparing results for their students can help inform choices for SPS.

However, I am concerned that too many charter schools would create disparities because the most engaged parents are often more aware of the choices available. Comprehensive public schools might retain more students with high needs. In addition, while I support school choice strongly, too many options could lead to confusion and a situation where too few students attend neighborhood schools, neighborhoods become even less close knit, and students seldom graduate with childhood friends. In conclusion, I like where we are with charters schools and support our existing programs.
School improvement efforts often focus on what we can readily measure in standardized testing scores and graduation rates. While these are valuable, do they show if students were ready for independence and adulthood? Did students develop a passion that leads them to the next step in fulfilling life? Can they think critically and make decisions involving complex trade-offs? These questions are not easily measured, but a lack of metrics does not mean they are not important goals for education.

Standardized testing should be an asset to teachers and families. It should not overwhelm the classroom experience. When testing takes too much time or does not offer fast feedback to help individual students improve, our district should take a lead in advocating for changes. There is a need for comparable, regularly conducted standardized tests, but improvements can be made to reduce the overall time spent and speed up the feedback loop so students and teachers learn from every test.
There is some evidence that early morning school for adolescents is not optimal for leaning. A later start can help ensure that students get the sleep they need to learn. Spokane already has a later start day for middle school, but high school does begin quite early. Unfortunately there is no easy answer since not all schools in Spokane can start at the same time without disrupting both busing and parent work schedules. I do not feel that immediate changes are needed, but reviewing starts times should be done periodically as evidence and community input changes.
It’s important to first note that graduation rates have dramatically improved for SPS over the last decade (from percentages in the low 60s to the mid 80s today). Many factors have contributed to this success. Both the district and partners have added resources and systems to identify students at risk of drop out and intervene to help get them back on track. Teachers and staff are committed and working hard for our kids. Nevertheless, graduation rates can and should go higher.

To continue progress, the district should focus on improving the educational experience for students, especially those not engaged with traditional instructional styles. Spreading innovative approaches that are often contained to certain schools, like project-based learning, throughout the district would be helpful. Adding more real-world experiences such as internships and community projects is another. There are no easy answers, but we can and should keep raising our expectations.
Sadly there will always be some level of inappropriate behavior in any school, including bullying. I believe that the most critical role a school system can play is to ensure that productive conversations about bullying and behavior expectations occur regularly in all grades. The use of techniques like restorative practices and positive behavior interventions should continue to spread in SPS to avoid the negative cycle of academic frustration, punishment, and more frustration that can lead to poor behavior.
As a school director, my role in the district’s implementing of new state graduation requirements is high level. The school board should know that the civics requirement is understood by staff and that there is a plan in place to implement. It is also the role of the board to approve new curriculum. Again, the role is high level, but should follow standard curriculum adoption practices which include forming a committee to review options, enable community input, and provide a recommendation to the school board.
Spokane Public Schools has both suspended and arrested students at much too high a rate in recent years. Recently, a strong focus on staff training in restorative practices and positive behavior reinforcement has helped greatly reduce these rates, but more work is needed. For restorative practices to be effective and schools to be safe with fewer suspensions, there must be resources in school for students to deescalate outside the classroom and be supported by trained staff. Regardless of the school system’s use of best practices, there will be occasional student behaviors, such as violent outbursts, that cannot be addressed with the student in the school. Suspension is an acceptable tool for some situations, but the goal should always be to correct the behavior, keep students in school, and maintain a safe learning environment.

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