More SPS Stories

  • Descendants of Sacajawea share history with middle school students

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 11/22/2023 6:00:00 AM

    Rose Ann Abrahamson speaks in a microphone middle school students seated in the bleachers of a school gym.

    On Tuesday morning, nearly 1,000 middle school students gathered in their school gym to hear from some special guests.

    Their school, Sacajawea Middle School, was named after an Aqai Dika Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1805. The morning’s speakers were descendants of their school’s namesake: Rose Ann Abrahamson and her daughter, Lacey Bacon Abrahamson.

    Lacey, an artist and cultural consultant, helped redesign the school’s new Thunderbird logo to include Shoshone culture. Rose Ann is an educator, activist and cultural historian, who shared her great-great-great aunt’s history in a KSPS video presented at the school’s dedication ceremony in October.

    Rose Abrahamson speaks into a microphone in the gym of Sacajawea Middle School.

    Rose Ann and Lacey were invited to speak to the students to share Sacajawea’s history and the importance of her name. Rose Ann explained that just as there are many languages spoken by people in different parts of Europe, there are different Shoshone divisions with distinct languages and traditions.

    “When she was captured, her name was distorted,” Rose Ann said. But it’s important to say her name as the Aqai Dika – the Salmon Eaters – pronounced it, because names were given to 3-year-old children based on their habits or characteristics.

    “My name means ‘One who moves her head to the rhythm of the drum,’” explained Rose Ann, because she bounced her head when she heard music as a baby. “My daughter Lacey is called ‘Butterfly’ because she –” Rose Ann moved around quickly to demonstrate, fluttering across the floor of the gym, “–and she still does to this day! 

    “We are given a name for what we did. And Sacajawea’s name means ‘One who carries a burden,’ or ‘That is her burden.’” Sacajawea was named this because she carried a ‘wea’ or a burden basket, which was used during gathering season.

    Rose Ann explained that when a name is given to you, it serves you later in life.

    She shared that Sacajawea, who was captured by another tribe when she was 12 years old, traded for marriage to a Canadian-born fur trader, and became a mother by the time she was 16, journeyed thousands of miles across the North American continent as an interpreter and guide while carrying her infant son on her back.

    “I want you to fight for her name,” Rose Ann told the students. “If someone asks you what her name means, you better know it. You are the students of Sacajawea Middle School. You have to be brilliant and know her history.”

    Lacey Bacon-Abrahamson smiles for a photo with two eigtht grade students wearing Sacajawea Middle School t-shirts.

    While the students took away some thoughtful lessons, they also had fun during the interactive presentation. Rose Ann taught the group several phrases in Native American Sign Language, like “How are you?”, “What’s your name?” and “I love you.” Rose Ann and Lacey concluded with an Indigenous game between the grades with 8th graders demonstrating the best moves and quickest reflexes.

    The students were excited to share what they took away from the experience.

    “Meeting them is really special,” said ASB president Ava, noting that she liked the practice of naming children based on their characteristics. “It would be cool if we did that today.”

    “It’s important to get that perspective on how they lived and how they live now,” she added, grateful for the time Rose Ann and Lacey shared with her and her classmates. “They showed us respect, so we need to show them respect.”

    “You represent one of the most famous women in the world, a human being. I want you to be inspired by her,” Rose Ann told the students. “You are powerful, you are special, and you have purpose.”

    Several news outlets attended the event. Video can be found at KXLY and KHQ.

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  • Resources for extended school breaks

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 11/20/2023 6:00:00 AM

    Smiling Salk Middle School student standing with a shopping cart of bags of food.

    As our schools prepare for the first two extended breaks of the school year – Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 22-24, and Winter Break, Dec. 25-Jan.5) – we wanted to share some community resources that families may find useful.

    Since 2014, Second Harvest and At The Core have partnered to send food home from school with students who are experiencing food insecurity through Bite2Go, which distributes nearly 300,000 food kits annually kits at schools in eastern and central Washington, as well as north Idaho.

    Bite2Go is available at all Spokane Public Schools. Teachers and counselors identify students who would benefit from the program. 

    Boxes of food“There is no formal sign-up process because we have found that consent forms are a barrier to getting kids the food they need,” said Steve Durham, 2nd Harvest vice president of Philanthropy.

    Bite2Go distribution dates at SPS elementary schools are Wednesdays and every other Tuesday at SPS middle and high schools (except during school breaks). Find a calendar at Bite2Go Partner Resources, or talk to your school’s counselor for more information.

    When school isn’t in session, families can enter their zip code at Food Near Me to find nearby food pantries and meal sites.

    There are many other areas of need for families, especially during the winter holiday season. Here are a few ways to both give and get support:

    Please note that most of these resources are coordinated by organizations outside of SPS. Please direct any questions to the organizers through the included links.

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  • Why I’m a substitute educator for Spokane Public Schools

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 11/16/2023 8:00:00 PM

    A collage showing twelve substitute teachers, some with members of their family.

    In honor of Substitute Educator’s Day (Nov. 17), we reached out to several substitutes in our district to ask why they choose to work for SPS, what they like best about the job, and why others should consider serving students in this way.

    We appreciate each of them, along with the hundreds of others who work across our district.

    Cindy Greenslitt

    A few months after retiring from the State of Washington in 2015, I accepted my first subbing assignment at Ferris High School. The fun part of that job was that I got to fill in for my daughter, Emily Schutz, while she was on maternity leave with her newborn twin boys (my grandkids). It was an added benefit to have Emily on speed dial as I learned to navigate PowerSchool, update the Reader Board, book buses for sports activities and all that goes with the duties of being an Athletics Secretary. I am proud to say I work for Spokane Public Schools as I see the district as a valuable community partner in our city.

    Over the last 8 years I have met and made friends with some really great co-workers. They have included me in outside activities such as the Bowling for Kids, after-hours secretary meetings, and the Ferris Golf Tournaments. I feel like I am part of a big family. As a retired person, it's been really nice to have choices on which days and locations that I am available to work.

    Working for the school district provides opportunities to get your foot in the door to a rewarding long-term career. There are a variety of career fields for folks with all levels of education. Also, being a substitute offers you a lot of freedom and flexibility with your personal life. 

    Jaimie Evens

    I have worked for SPS since November 2018. Being a substitute offers me an opportunity to work with a variety of different students. I have met many wonderful people (both students and staff) in my years with SPS.

    Others should consider being a substitute educator because it is a great opportunity to help children in their community.

    Lindsey Baker

    I chose to work for SPS because the opportunity to be in a school setting and working with kids is a true passion of mine. I enjoy the staff as well. I have been with the school district for about 5 months now. 

    What I like best about working as a substitute is the enthusiasm and friendly staff as well as the students. The flexible schedule is also very nice and accommodating. I believe other should consider being a substitute educator for several reasons, like flexible schedule, the pay rate is great, and the chance to work with students that are great. It is also rewarding serving the SPS district. 

    I enjoy substitute teaching at more challenging schools because they may need a little more help and I find the work to be interesting.

    Joe Hunt

    I choose to work for Spokane Public Schools because the district is second to none and I strive to be where excellence is expected.

    My favorite thing about being a sub is the people I get to interact with each and every day. There are fantastic teachers, office and support personnel. People are warm, caring, and understanding.

    I would encourage people to consider substitute teaching because of the students you get to interact with, the flexible scheduling, and the amazing support that you receive from those around you. 

    Stephanie Marsh

    I have been subbing for SPS for going on 5 years now, and I originally decided to work in this district because of the large size and where the schools were located. I live in the Emerson neighborhood, which is centrally located, so it made sense to consider working for SPS. Also, I love teaching. I have now gone back to school and finished my master's degree in special education. I plan to teach full-time soon in the district or start off long term subbing.

    I have really enjoyed working at SPS. I have made many connections and built strong relationships with both staff and students at the many schools I work at that I will always cherish. I love that even in the short time I get to work with these students I still feel like I can make an impact in their lives.

    Others should consider being a substitute educator for one reason: Flexibility! It's great to be able to work when you want. This job works for me as a mother. It allows me to volunteer at my child's school, go on field trips, and be home with them if they are sick. I have subbed in my own children's schools, or on some occasions even their classes, which has given me the unique advantage of being able to get to know my child's peers and teachers. Also, it doesn't hurt that the pay is great; this is one of the highest paying school districts in the area.  

    Taylor Powell

    I graduated with my Master's in Education last year and chose to work for SPS because this was the district I did my student teaching in and knew I would be able to get a wide variety of school and classroom experiences due to the different areas that the district covers. 

    So far, my favorite thing about being a substitute with SPS is the fact that I am able to substitute in so many different schools and in various grade levels. This really enables me to develop my overall teaching skills as well as allows me the opportunity to build relationships with the staff and students at the schools where I frequent. Most of all, I really enjoy being able to make connections and help show students that they are loved and cared about and have the ability to succeed when they are in the classroom with me.

    I believe others should consider being a substitute educator because it is a way to gain a variety of exposure and experience in different settings with different students. Being a substitute allows for those passionate about education to be on the frontline influencing students and creating positive change in their lives. Substituting also allows one to develop relationships with schools and staff, which can lead to more frequent visits within the school and the ability to make deeper connections with students and watch their success and growth. 

    Audrey Kaplan

    I've been coaching Math Is Cool at Roosevelt for 10 years and during that time several teachers and parents have encouraged me to consider teaching full-time. A few years ago, a friend of mine who recently started teaching as a second career suggested that I try subbing to see whether teaching might indeed be a good fit for me. I've been subbing for the past 2 years.

    I like the flexibility of being able to take jobs when it fits with my family's schedule. I also love it when I'm subbing in the middle school and my former Math Is Cool kids are in my classes.

    There's a huge need for capable, caring adults to fill in for the hard-working teachers in our district. It's a nice way to give back to the Spokane education community, and also a good way to test the waters if you've been thinking about becoming a full-time teacher.

    Jeffrey Howard

    Teaching is my second career. I worked in broadcasting for 22 years. When I came to Spokane in 1986, I was the Asst. News Director at KXLY Newsradio 920, moving on to television before going back to school and receiving my Master's in Teaching from WSU in 2006, I applied for many jobs in all of the local districts. When didn't get a full-time job, I became of substitute teacher in five or six of them. Spokane always paid the most, so naturally I had to focus on who paid better so I could pay my bills! Eventually, Spokane was the only district I was Guest Teaching in.

    As more time passed, I began to collect lots of "repeat customers" – teachers who liked the way I handled their classes when they were gone. My calendar began to fill up weeks in advance and it became less and less of a day-to-day chore of securing a job. Eventually I gave up hope of anything full-time and focused only on cultivating my "usuals" as an Awesome Guest Teacher. It's a process that has worked successfully for me for many years.

    What I like most about being an Awesome Guest Teacher in SPS is returning to the same schools regularly and seeing students I've had in different classes. I can walk across the cafeteria and kids shout "Mr. Howard!" It's nice to feel wanted!

    It's an important job! I like knowing that I'm helping the teacher feel confident that their class is in good hands with someone whose expectations are the same as the teacher. After I introduce myself, I tell the students my expectations -- which are the same as their teacher: Do what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it, and how you'd do it if their teacher were here. It's all about respect -- for their teacher and for me! It's usually a pretty good day!

    Rebecca Jorges

    I choose to work for SPS because of how close it is to home. I like the variety of classrooms that I can go to. One day I will be in 5th grade, the next in preschool.  It is exciting to have something new all the time.

    Being a substitute is a good way of experiencing many different teaching styles.  As a sub, you will learn what will work for you to be the best teacher you can be.

    Sheena Artz

    Why did I choose to join SPS in February 2022, you may wonder? Let me share the secret with you — it's my magnetic charm and witty personality that the educational system just couldn't say no to. After 20 years as a hairstylist, I decided to trade in my scissors for schoolbooks.

    As a full-time student, I've mastered the art of juggling classes. It's like being a school superhero with a superpower of flexibility, swooping in to gain diverse experiences, sprinkle positivity, empower, encourage, and impact the next generation. Call me the 'Student Substitute Extraordinaire!'

    Thinking of becoming a substitute educator in the school district? Well, buckle up because it's like an exciting rollercoaster of fun and chaos! Earning your stripes with flexible scheduling, you can chat with energetic students and meet a motley crew of colleagues who will keep you laughing all day long.

    Vickie Allert

    I retired from the district after almost 23 years of service in August 2022 and began subbing with the district in February of 2023. I love subbing for the district because it allows me to choose when I work and allows my husband and me to travel more often. I also enjoy working at different locations and working with kids.

    I think that others could enjoy subbing for the district if they want a flexible schedule and love working with kids.

    Lyle Stagg

    This is my second year as a substitute teacher. I choose to work for SPS because they are a large enough district to be able to connect students with valuable services such as veteran teachers, counselors, mental health therapists, school phycologists, OTs, SLPs, PTs, transportation and nutrition services, etc. It takes a village to meet the diverse needs of our students.

    The best part of my job is making a unique connection with students. I'm not someone they see every day so it's a completely clean slate. I also really love being welcomed into so many different classrooms. Having the opportunity to see such a wide variety of teaching styles and techniques allows me to pick up highly effective and engaging strategies when I see them to save for my future classroom. 

    The role of substitute teacher is really valuable because you have a new environment each day that provides a wide variety of academic settings and learning opportunities. There are so many different programs in our district from NEWTech Prep to the APPLE Program. 

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  • Inclusive Classrooms Lead to Student Success in Spokane Public Schools

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 11/8/2023

    School classroom

    In the past, students with developmental or learning disabilities were separated in their own classroom for every hour of the school day. That was then, and in Spokane Public Schools, inclusive classrooms are now standard practice to better help students.

    Inclusive classrooms don’t all look alike at each school, but the idea is the same: Bringing students in special education programs into general education classrooms to learn grade level material and age level social-emotional learning with their peers.

    “Inclusion is a right. The students have a right to be in their general education classes with their peers. It creates an equitable education environment for everyone,” said Mary Douthitt, a resource teacher at Chase Middle School.

    At Chase, inclusive classrooms help students achieve faster and more meaningful academic growth, which Douthitt has witnessed firsthand. She’s seen students make 1.3 years of growth in one school year after being given grade level curriculum in a general education classroom, compared to just a half a year of growth before inclusive classrooms were introduced.

    “The research is pretty clear: If you are accessing your grade level material, you are going to make more progress,” Douthitt said.

    It’s not as simple as placing a student receiving special education services in a general education classroom. Special education teachers can join the student in the classroom taught by a general education teacher. Schools provide other support as needed so students are best served. And not every student receiving special education services is in a general education classroom all day.

    “We meet their needs,” Douthitt said. “Some students may be in co-taught classes all day, and some are in co-taught classes for some part of the day.”

    At Balboa Elementary School, inclusive classrooms are the result of a team-based approach.

    The process begins in the spring as schools prepare for the next school year. Schools analyze data for each student receiving special education services to figure out each student’s strengths. Administrators and teachers meet with families to determine the best way to serve the student.

    “When we look at inclusion, it’s a real partnership,” said Balboa Principal Brenda Lollis.

    Like middle school, elementary schools are seeing student progress. While subject material is different in elementary school, it’s the social-emotional learning that sees great progress, which bodes well as students progress through elementary school and enter middle school.

    “The social piece is always a huge growth area,” said Holly Cartmell, a design instruction teacher at Balboa. “A lot of times at the start of the year, kids are unsure, they talk quietly, and teachers can’t hear them. By the end of the year, they’re typically very confident.”

    Staff are intentional about the subject material, too, and ensure students are making gains in math, reading, and other subjects. And that students are participating just like their peers.Students

    Students make this progress due to several factors—the greatest being welcomed in a general education classroom with their peers. Schools have created buddy systems, where classmates or even kids in older grades help the students receiving special education services, whether that’s accompanying them to school assemblies, eating lunch with them, or working with them in the classroom.

    This has a ripple effect on the culture of the school. General education students are learning that there are students who need extra help, who are different from them. Students learn to embrace the abilities, perspectives, and experiences of those around them—so that each individual feels valued, respected, and connected.

    “All of us have our struggles and all of us have our strengths, and we really instill that in our students,” Lollis said. “You might visually see someone with disability, but you might also not know when you see someone, so just be accepting of all.”

    Inclusive classrooms have provided access for students who previously weren’t afforded as much. That’s a benefit to them, their classmates, their schools and the community.

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  • Tiger Tribune provides outlet for student voice

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 10/31/2023

    LC students

    Lewis & Clark High School seniors Isabelle Parekh and Trevor Picanco completed an internship this summer at The Spokesman-Review as part of the newspaper’s Teen Journalism Institute. That experience inspired the duo to team up with four of their classmates to create The Tiger Tribune, an online platform that serves as a creative outlet for LC students.

    You won’t find traditional hard news reporting, but that’s not the purpose of the Tribune. Instead, you’ll find student voices documenting the best fall products from Trader Joe’s, a Hozier album review, a guide to the school library, the viewpoint of a foreign exchange student and more.

    “It showcases, generally, what teenagers care about, said Aramena Joos. “It does get more into the political news side of things, but then it gets into the simple, need-to-know things.”

    The six editors – Joos, Parekh, Picanco, Ellis Benson, Madison Rickel and Andrew Pickering—accept submissions from any student. There’s even an easy proposals tab on the Tribune’s website. Editors read over each proposal, then reach out to the students who submitted them.

    The editors brainstorm story ideas as a group, and final publications go through a two-editor process.

    It’s still early in the school year, so the Tribune will continue to churn out student voices. The project is extracurricular and a way for students to practice a craft they’re interested in.

    “I’ve always enjoyed writing and poetry and enjoyed it in an English class, but also in a personal sense,” Joos said. “I’ve considered going into journalism in a political or more global sense. The Tribune allows me to be able to hone my skills and express myself.”

    “All of us are readers, and that's kind of where we all start,” added Rickel.

    The internship at The Spokesman-Review Parekh and Picanco completed has informed a lot of what the Tribune is, and the editors rely on their expertise.

    “Their internship influenced our editing process because we want to respect the writers,” Rickel said. “We try to work with them by talking to them instead of just editing the writing and putting it out.”

    It helps that each of the six editors have different interests and backgrounds. Embracing those differences helps inform the content of the Tribune.

    “Our common thread is reading, but we all have our own specific interests which also helps choosing who to edit what and having different perspectives on the same articles,” Rickel said.

    The editors hope to pass the Tribune down to the other classes at LC, with hopes that it will continue after they graduate. Until then, they’ll continue to hone their writing skills and creativity as they develop the online publication throughout the school year.

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  • School staff and families build bridges, break bread

    Posted by Communications Staff on 10/16/2023

    Woman stands talking to people sitting around a table

    If the phrase “Beloved Community” doesn’t define the school you attend, teach at, or send your children to each day, there’s work to be done. 

    More than 60 staff and family members spent last Thursday doing that work together, gathered around folding tables in the Jefferson Elementary gym.

    They were led by Nicole Jenkins-Rosenkrantz, Spokane Public Schools’ director of community relations and diversity training, and Erin Lipsker, the district’s restorative practices and mediation program manager. The duo held a training with staff in October and one for parents in November, culminating in last week’s session that included both groups and a shared meal hosted by Feast World Kitchen.

    The workshops have revolved around that concept of Beloved Community, in which all are cared for in the absence of poverty, hunger, and hate – an idea championed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    But moving past the nationwide unrest witnessed over the past few years can only be done if we all show up for hard conversations and work together toward repair, Nicole said.

    “Cultural conflict can be uncomfortable to discuss, and it’s natural to want to avoid topics that make us uneasy,” she said. “This training is focused on normalizing the conversation and providing pathways to building authentic relationships.”

    While Jefferson is the first school to take part in this training, Nicole said six more schools will have the opportunity in the coming months thanks to a grant from Better Health TogetherGymnasium full of people sitting at tables listening to a speaker.

    “The more schools that participate, the more connections are made and the more positive impact we hope it has on our community,” she said.

    Erin said the work is deeply personal as a biracial woman who was raised in Spokane and now has children at Jefferson.

    “I know firsthand how hard it can be to function in the often racially divided world we live in,” she said. “It makes it even harder when the people around you don't have the language or the tools to help you navigate the feelings and realities caused by racial harm and ignorance."

    Providing a space to honestly talk through these issues and problem solve over a shared meal helps participants see each other’s humanity more clearly, she said.

    Fifth grade teacher Diana Janachek said she too has experienced racism and microaggression within school environments in the past.

    “I am also raising children of color and, while I’ve experienced racism myself, it hits deeper when my own children experience it,” she said. “I am grateful and even relieved that the work we are doing with Beloved Community creates space for staff and families to come together to discuss anti-racism, because not all schools and districts are onboard with equity.” 

    In her view, achieving the district’s motto of “excellence for everyone through equity” will require buy-in from the entire community.

    “Creating opportunities to get out of comfort zones together creates courage for people to speak up and start sharing,” she said. “With more courageous conversations, I think we will be few steps closer to fighting racism.” 

    People sitting at table eating a meal.  Jefferson parent Mark Finney agreed that while it might seem “safer” to avoid contentious issues like racism for fear of rousing conflict, it’s vital to address it overtly and frequently.  

    “We all know that Eastern Washington and neighboring North Idaho have a significant history and ongoing presence of white supremacist activity and ideology,” he said. “I’m grateful that SPS is a great partner with my wife and me in helping raise our kids to be the best contributors to the future of our community that they can be.”

    Principal Brent Perdue said that while it’s been heartening to see the bridge building between staff and parents, he sees it as the beginning of a journey to lift all Jefferson students.

    “I hope that this helps propel us forward as a school and as a community in this work,” he said. “Equity for all truly means all. With parents as partners, helping support their own children and their neighbors’ children, we can get there by building one bridge at a time.”

    Learn more at

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  • Celebrating women in SPS Information Technology

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 10/12/2023

    Three women working in information technology within Spokane Public Schools.

    Throughout October, we’re honoring our Information Technology employees for all they do to keep our district connected and running smoothly.  

    Women hold just 26-28% of IT jobs in the U.S., according to recent statistics. To celebrate them (and hopefully inspire more women to apply for open positions), we wanted to shine a light on several who are working within SPS. 

    Betsy Lamb, Executive Director Learning Technology & Information Systems: With a degree in Human Development, Betsy started in SPS as part-time assistant secretary at Moran Prairie Elementary School. She earned her master’s degree in education and taught in classrooms for 10 years. Betsy kept learning and was a Math Coach, Extended Day Specialist, and Ed Tech Facilitator and Coordinator. With a deep understanding of our system and the people in it, she stepped up into the IT Director role on a mission to encourage and celebrate the wonder of technology for students and staff.  

    Rachel Nicholson, Web Development Analyst 2, Application Development and Support: Rachel originally joined SPS in 2013, in the very role she holds now. Previously, she worked in in Software Quality Assurance at a small software company in Spokane. Rachel began programming for fun at 9 years old and coded her first full website at age 15, which led to the pursuit of a bachelor's degree at Eastern Washington University in Computer Science. 

    Sophia Howe, Applications Analyst I: Sophia studied Management Information Systems at Gonzaga University. A desire to remain in Spokane as an active community member led her to SPS, where she can pursue her passion to use technology in a meaningful way. As the newest member of the Business Plus team, she supports the business processes and technology needs of SPS. 

    Brea Smith, Student Application Support Specialist: Brea started in SPS as the Records Clerk for the district for 5 years.  After taking 6 months off with her first child and obtaining her associate’s degree in Business, Brea returned part time at Havermale as the Guidance Secretary. She later worked as a Data Processor for On Track Academy, The Community School and Shadle Park High School. For nearly three years, Brea has been a PowerSchool Support Specialist for the district.   

    Andrea Phifer, Office Manager ITSC/Tech Services: Before coming to SPS, Andrea supported technology at both a national wireless carrier and a technology firm that supplied hardware and software support to all the Farm Credit Unions nationwide. Wanting to focus on supporting her children at home and in their education, Andrea accepted a position as Support Secretary at Shadle Park High School. Within two years she transitioned to the role of Data Processor at the same location. Coming back to the tech field, Andrea became Office Manager for ITSC/Tech Services in the Spring 2023.   

    Katherine Graham, Service Desk & Logistical Support: Katherine got her start with IT in April 2022, after working at East Valley and previously Gonzaga Prep. She has also worked in Inventory, Cashiering, and Loss Prevention at Best Buy. She was a security guard with State Protection Services, and Assessment Administrator for the National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) project. Her previous experiences along, with her current studies at Spokane Community College for Network Administration, helped her begin her career in IT. She hopes to continue to grow and progress in the field and join the SPS Network team. 

    Carlane Collen, IT System Documentation Specialist: Believe it or not Carlane was a cake decorator – of all things – before starting with the SPS IT department. Carlane came to SPS as a summer IT intern while working on her IT degree in college. A few years later, she applied for and received a Help Desk and Logistical Support position. After some time on the Help Desk, she moved into a Tier 2 Technology Support Specialist position, helping staff and students in-person at several sites. Eight months later, she was promoted again to her current position of IT System Documentation Specialist.  

    Christine Wilson, Operations/Telecom: Christine started as a volunteer at Hutton Elementary School in the 1980s to set up their computer lab. Since then, she has worked with special needs students in Express Childcare, front desk receptionist at the Administration Building, and designed a report card database for summer school. She took on administration of Novell email, report writing and system security for our Human Resources and Payroll systems. She sets up security for our student database and manages our district telephone system. She loves her work, especially when little things she does make a big difference to many. 

    Lacie Magin, Tier II ITSC Tech: Lacie started her IT Career in 2012 while finishing a bachelors’ program in Information Systems and Cyber Security. Prior to SPS, she had experience in supporting network infrastructure in photography production businesses, as well as AutoCAD Resellers. Lacie moved to SPS in 2016, where she appreciates the flexibility to be an involved parent. 

    Holly Jonckers, Asset Management ITSC: Holy started in SPS as a Career & Technical Education intern in 2009 by installing technology equipment. Later she worked to install phones and Network switches. Holly went on to work in retail in the technology department at Fred Meyer’s and attend Interface College, where she acquired multiple technical certifications. Holly came back to SPS as an intern and was hired in 2013 as a Computer Support Technician to install technology hardware. She then became a Campus Tech, providing tech support and assisting with technology inventory. Holly later worked to facilitate student technology deployments across the district and facilitate staff computer replacements, which led to her current role as an Asset Manager.  

    Marsha Tice, Student Applications Support Specialist: Marsha started working at SPS as Data Processor at Shadle Park High School before becoming their Business Office Manager. While at Shadle Park, Marsha served on numerous school and district committees as well as was involved in local and Washington State groups for Educational Office Support staff. She was then offered a position with Technology Services as a Student Applications Support Specialist and has maintained that position supporting schools with the use of our student information system PowerSchool. 

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  • Rogers students visit EWU for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 10/12/2023

    An Eastern Washington University student in full regalia performs a traditional dance, accompanied by a drum group also in fu

    “We want to show them that anything is attainable,” said Marty Whelshula as he walked with seven Rogers High School students on a campus tour of Eastern Washington University on Monday, Oct. 9.

    It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Marty, a Native Education Support Specialist who leads an Advisory class of 20 Native students at Rogers with Academic Support Specialist Levi Horn, wants his students to have experiences that “bring in the contemporary with the cultural.” The field trip provided both.

    Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors the truth about the American soil we live on, explained Marty. Set on the second Monday of every October, the day serves as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day. It recognizes the perseverance and contributions of Indigenous people across the United States.

    Native Education Rogers High School students learn about college life on a campus tour of Eastern Washington University.On the campus tour, the high school students learned about different campus resources, student life and activities, and thought about what they might want to study if they pursued a college degree.

    They also met at the American Indian Education Center on campus to learn about EWU’s American Indian Studies Program (AISP) and Native American Student Association (NASA). They began their visit with a smudging ceremony, which Levi explained is a cleansing ritual to help set the group on a positive path and to thank the Creator for this time together.

    Marty explained that his Advisory class holds smudging ceremonies during the school day at Rogers, and that staff and non-Native students participate as well. “It helps students reset, and they can share their culture with their peers.”

    The students also attended a drumming and dancing exhibition organized by NASA at Arevalo Student Mall. The group displayed a teepee on campus, which anyone was welcome to enter. Inside, current Rogers students heard from former Pirates, now Eagles, about their college experiences and what they were studying.

    Two NASA students, War Bear and Venessa Pete, also spoke about their experiences and why they helped organized the Indigenous Peoples’ Day event at EWU.

    “This is a day for us, by us,” said War Bear. “This is a space and time for us to be ourselves, to dance, to demonstrate our culture, to just be Indigenous people. Historically, we have not always been given this. Historically, many things these have been taken with us and now that we go back to the old ways, the traditional ways, we’re decolonizing, we’re finding ourselves,” he said, before reading a Land Acknowledgement from AISP, which can be read at the end of this article.

     Levi Horn gives a speech on Eastern Washington University’s campus on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.Levi, who is also a graduate from Rogers (Class of 2005) and a former NFL player, gave a keynote speech at the gathering about his healing journey that began for him in college. At that time, he began to embrace his heritage and culture, and to grapple with the intergenerational trauma of his ancestors.

    “There’s trauma that we still feel to this day. It’s in our bones, it’s in our blood, it’s in our DNA,” Levi said. “As my mom went through her struggles, as my grandpa had his struggles, so on and so forth, the most important stuff didn’t get passed down. The regalia, the songs, the ceremonies, and that’s why we are here today. To get these back.”

    Following Levi’s speech, War Bear and Venessa, along with her family drum group Firestone, provided an exhibition of different traditional music and dances as hundreds of EWU students walked though campus. They opened with a flag song, which Venessa’s husband Shonto likened to a country’s national anthem, and demonstrated several different types of traditional dancing, including sneak up dance, fancy dance, and jingle dress dance.

    Native Education Rogers High School students watch a dance and drumming exhibition for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Eastern WasRogers senior Pauline said she wanted to attend the field trip to learn more about cultural practices from people who are practicing Native cultural traditions. “It shows me that Natives are seen,” she said.

    “I think it would be best for Indigenous people as a whole to have recognition,” she said, on her hopes for her community’s future. She is interested in pursuing early childhood education, possibly at Eastern.

    When asked what he hopes students take away from the field trip, Levi said, “I want to let them know that they can be proud of being Native American. I want to open their minds to the possibilities for the future, so they know they are able to dream.”

    More photos from the field trip can be seen at

    American Indian Studies Program at Eastern Washington University Land Acknowledgement, July 2020
    We would like to acknowledge we are on the traditional lands of the first people, past and present, of this region, including the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Nez Perce, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, and the Yakima Nations. We honor them as the traditional caretakers of the land and respect the enduring relationship that exists between all Indigenous people in their traditional territories and homelands. As a move forward into providing an open future in academics, we will strive to offer more teaching and services inclusive of histories, cultures and traditions to the Native American people of this region. We will continue to explore how we might build relationships with the sovereign tribal nations whose students we educate in hopes to lead Eastern Washington University to be an inclusive space for fostering innovation and collaboration.

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  • Skilled trades students at NEWTech Prep receive grant from TC Energy

    Posted by Taylor Brooks on 10/5/2023 1:00:00 AM

    Students at NEWTech

    “When TC Energy operates in an area, we’re doing a lot more than just providing jobs or economic stimulation,” said Sally Jane McLaughlin, Administrative Analyst for TC Energy in Spokane.

    She and other company representatives toured NEWTech Prep this week after presenting a $49,000 grant to skilled trades students through TC Energy’s Build Strong program.

    TC Energy is one of North America’s leading energy infrastructure companies, with operations in natural gas, oil, and power industries. Build Strong gives the company a chance to make a social impact.

    “Whether that’s providing grants or scholarship opportunities for students pursuing careers in STEM or the trades or volunteering our employees’ time for events like today’s career panel presentation with the NEWTech students,” said Sally.

    Josiah Kaiser, a welding student at NEWTech, showed TC Energy employees the skilled trades programs. In the welding department, they saw the direct impacts of the grant. Most of the money went toward expanding and providing state-of-the-art equipment for NEWTech Prep’s Welding Technology and Energy and Power programs. TC Energy giving presentation

    “It means a lot because everything costs money,” said Josiah. “We only have a certain budget, so with these grants, we’re able to get more welding rods and wire, and Argonne and oxygen, and welding machines.”

    After the tour, Josiah and the rest of his peers listened and asked questions of Sally and other TC Energy employees during a career panel presentation.

    “We realize that our biggest asset is our people, so when we’re here inspiring this future generation of problem solvers, we feel really proud that we can contribute to providing them tools and resources they need to develop the skills that we will be able to rely on in the future,” said Sally.

    Thanks to companies like TC Energy, students at NEWTech Prep are gaining experiences that will guide them to real world success in a skilled trade of their choice.

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  • Teachers appreciate weekly collaboration schedule

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 9/20/2023

    Teachers seated around a table in an elementary school classroom.

    “Teaching can feel very lonely sometimes,” said Ridgeview Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lindsay Blohowiak. “It’s nice to be able to ground yourself with others.”

    It’s 8:15 a.m. on Monday morning. Lindsay is seated at a table in her classroom with her two team teachers and two student teachers from Whitworth University, discussing a new curriculum and addressing any questions they had as a group.

    Last year, Spokane Public Schools introduced a 3-year academic calendar incorporating teacher collaboration time into the work week. On Mondays, students start school one hour later than usual, but teachers arrive earlier than usual by 15 minutes to give them dedicated time to meet with other grade level teachers, interventionists and specialists, or as a whole building.

    “For years, it felt like you were on your own island,” said one of Lindsay’s colleagues, Kate Tomlanovich. “We can’t connect with one another during our prep time during the day.”

    “You used to have to sacrifice time after school, away from your family, to do this,” Lindsay added.

    In previous years, the district had tried different scheduling options for collaboration, like Thursday mornings or various Friday afternoons.

    “The district has been trying to fine-tune collaboration for years,” Kate said. “We appreciate the consistency of Monday mornings, and not having to find time in our own schedule for it.”

    Lindsay said the biggest switch from a Friday afternoon collaboration schedule is that they’re coming into the week with a different mindset.

    “We really do get to set the tone for the week and make sure we’re all on the same page,” she said.

    “We’re organized. We can talk about what kinds of assessments we need for kids, or what awesome book someone found that fits in with the curriculum,” Kate explained.

    It’s also a time to develop camaraderie among teams and build appreciation for one another, said Ridgeview’s third kindergarten teacher Jenni Swartz.

    “We all teach differently, but we can make sure we all get the same information to kids,” she said, emphasizing that building-wide collaboration also helps them prepare students as they advance grades.

    Two teachers seated at tables in a classroom look over their computers and notes during collaboration.

    Upstairs, fourth grade teachers Benjamin Taylor and Timothy O’Halloran, alongside Eastern Washington University student teacher Rachel Ruff, discussed the value of collaboration to determine priorities in the classroom.

    “It helps us solidify our thinking on things. There’s so much content,” said Benjamin. “There are always one thousand tasks we could be doing.”

    “It provides the opportunity to be deliberate, to have conversations and look at strategies that your team teacher has maybe employed to reach students who are struggling, and to look at best practices to serve all kids,” said Timothy.

    "There's not much time to talk during the day," Rachel added. "It's valuable to have time with people who are experienced who can give me advice."

    Late Start Mondays will continue at SPS through the 2024-25 school year, as part of the district and Spokane Education Association (SEA)’s collective bargaining agreement. A complete calendar for the current school year can be found at

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