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Leaders discuss investing in L-C Valley

Valley Medical Center in Lewiston had two of its 14 primary care physicians retire in 2015, and another two are expected to hang up their stethoscopes this year. Four others are beyond age 60.

Without a new high school, Valley Medical will have a tough time finding replacements, according to David Schlactus of the Lewiston medical practice.

Schlactus joined executives of four Lewiston businesses Wednesday in voicing support for a bond for a new Lewiston High School during a panel discussion titled "Inventing Our Future: LC Valley Leaders Discuss Education and Workforce." The event was held at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories' Lewiston campus.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III, founder of SEL; Denise Metz, purchasing manager of Idaho Forest Group; Bryan Bentz, owner of Bentz Boats; and Mike Tatko, regional business manager of Avista, showed support for the $59.8 million measure that will be on the ballot Tuesday.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III, president and chairman of the board at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, was part of a panel discussion, "Inventing Our Future: LC Valley Leaders Discuss Education and Workforce," Wednesday at SEL in Lewiston.
Though LHS teachers provide students a great education, it's tough making that case to professionals who visit Lewiston for the first time, Schlactus said.

It's similar to selling a car that has a good engine with a dented exterior and peeling paint, Schlactus said. "We know the teachers. The people we are recruiting have a hard time taking our word for it. ... Unfortunately, it says something about a community when you don't invest in your children."

The original building of the school was constructed in 1928 and opponents say that's good enough, yet they wouldn't likely be happy with a car of that era, Schlactus said.

A woman who described herself as a mother of a child with disabilities echoed Schlactus' concerns. In 1928, schools didn't serve children with disabilities because they were institutionalized.

She would like it if the medical community could recruit not just more primary care doctors, but other specialists so that her family wouldn't have to drive to Spokane any time her child with disabilities needs more than a wellness exam.

The community should take the panel seriously since they represent employers who are providing more than lip service to the measure, Schweitzer said.

Together the companies represented on the panel likely will pay about one-fourth of the cost to build the high school, Schweitzer said. "It's a tax we should feel really proud of paying."

Reading, writing and arithmetic are key skills for anyone to master, whether they invent new technology for electrical transmission, construct boats, manufacture lumber or stay home and raise their children, Schweitzer said. "I can't think of anything more important (at the local level) than educating our kids."