Spokane Valley Online
The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Rooney challenging Voelker for EVSD board spot


Managing Editor

An incumbent on the East Valley School District is facing a challenge from a youthful newcomer.

Justin Voelker, chief financial officer for MulticCare Valley Hospital, has held the Director District 3 spot for the past four years. His challenger is Nathaniel Rooney, who works for ABC Economy.

Rooney opted to forego the submitted questionnaire from the Spokane Valley News Herald and submitted his own statement.

Nathaniel Rooney

Hello to Spokane Valley News Herald and all Washington state-registered voters. My name is Nathaniel Rooney and I am a 33-year-old Gonzaga University graduate of 2010 with a bachelor’s majoring in philosophy and minoring in history and religious studies. I work at ABC Economy and have siblings who have gone and are still going through the East Valley School district from primary to the high school. I have lived in the district for over seven years and I care about my family and my community and want only the best quality education for our students to make them better leaders.

The three most urgent issues facing my community are; a growing student population in need of a new school; a growing population of "choice students" outside of the district boundaries choosing to opt into East Valley schools; and a larger class size that endangers student/teacher interaction and the state funding for smaller class size and is in need of more staff. Our biggest and most urgent issue is finding the funding for a new school and staff since we have reached a tax levy cap of 28 percent.

My position on charter schools has always been against them because they are not accountable to the voters and the community and they have no state oversight board like a board of directors, which makes them exclusive schools. Charter schools are unconstitutional and cannot receive federal funding because of the previously mentioned issues. I believe the focus should be on improving public education and funding rather than to undercut public access.

Student testing is another issue that arises every year. Students spend three-quarters of their time at school in preparation for the state and district tests without reaching the national expectated goals in math and science. There seems to be a failure in the test-based accountability academics model that needs to be financially expanded and funneled into more of a focus on learning based opportunities, like our "choice students," CCP, parent/teacher partnership, and college readiness . My stance is to provide more funding in this area.

My position on "start times" for the schools is that later start is the best way to progress for our secondary and middle school students. There is sufficient research backing up academic score increase with this policy implementation and that it aids in parent work schedules and childcare needs.

On-time graduation for our high school students can be improved by increasing our focus on expanding learning based opportunities. More online programs, a shift to internships earning credit and a paycheck and partnering with local businesses, improving our tech courses and access to the internet for more in need families, and providing more of a flexible schedule that will gear them towards college.

The effects of bullying have recently hit near my district with the Freeman High school shooting and have strained relations in our community. Safety for their students and staff is a main concern for all school districts. We should also refocus on developing student competencies like teamwork, responsibility, goal setting , and leadership and commit to retraining and educating students on talking about and working through their differences to promote a healthy community and to promote and atmosphere that will allow students to freely talk about bullying instances in school.

My plan for students to earn their civic credit required by the new state law is to increase funding for quality classroom instructions focused on government, history, law, and democracy. We need more daily discussions of politics covered in the news and more extracurricular activities like mock congress, mock trial and debate. We need to reintegrate the students into the democratic process with their ASB elections by providing candidate debates. Finally, we also need to introduce more community service activities to the curriculum.  The goal is to make a well-rounded and community focused citizen in our community and I believe these ideas my help in this process.

Finally, my opinion for student suspension for classroom behavior is it needs to be reformed into last ditch learning opportunities and should be utilized like a classroom. Out-of-school suspension prevents student/teacher interaction and accessibility, while in school suspension is more a form of punishment and study session. We need to use this time with these students to set them back on a path to on-time graduation, or even provide community service learning opportunities.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Justin Voelker
Age: 42
Family/How long living in the district? I’m married with two children both attending East Valley Schools. My daughter attends East Valley High School, and my son attends Trentwood Elementary. We’ve lived in the district for over eight years since moving to Spokane. 

Why did you want to file for candidacy?: I’m running for re-election to this position because I believe in making East Valley a highly desirable school district known for academic success, great teachers, and proud parents and community members. We started down this road four years ago when I was elected and I want to keep East Valley moving in the right direction.

What are your goals for the school board? My goals are to create an environment where students can achieve, and exceed their potential regardless of their background. I want to ensure we have high quality teachers and administrators, and maintain financial discipline with the taxpayer dollars entrusted to the district. 
What, in your mind, is the biggest issue facing the district in the immediate future? The biggest issue facing the district in my opinion is the changes in education funding formulas passed in the last legislative session. Those changes will have a big impact on district tax payers, and some financial uncertainty for the school district.

What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? I haven’t encountered anything significantly surprising, but questions regarding a bond issue (when, how much) have been coming up a little more often.
What differences separate you from your opponent? I’m an experienced financial executive (chief financial officer-MultiCare Valley Hospital) with undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. I have significant experience managing large, complex organizations. I also coach youth sports, and volunteer in the community as well. I’ve served on this board for the last four years making substantial improvements to the district. To my knowledge, my opponent lacks any significant similar experience in the public or private sector.

Website? Sorry, no website, but I’m on Facebook.

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Steve Barge
Account executive - Spokane Valley News Herald
Cell: 509-230-3355
Office: 509-924-2440
e-mail: vnh@onemain.com
TheSpokane Valley News Herald
is the City of Spokane Valley, Washington's official Newspaper. The City Council of the City of Spokane Valley, Washington named the Spokane Valley News Herald as the city's "official" newspaper. The designation means the Spokane Valley News Herald will publish the city's legal notices on a contract basis for one year.

E-mail: vnh@onemain.com
Phone: (509) 924-2440