Five apply for open Issaquah School Board seat
February 19, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
Five people have applied for the school board seat left vacant by Chad Magendanz, who resigned Jan. 9 to serve in the state Legislature.
The position represents Issaquah’s fourth district, which spans from the Issaquah Highlands through the downtown corridor and south to Tiger Mountain and Mirrormont. Anyone who lives in that area was welcome to apply for the seat, and had to have his or her application turned in to the Issaquah School District by Feb. 14. By the time the 4 p.m. deadline came by that day, five people — Lisa Callan, Margo Campbell, Alison Meryweather, Justin Park and Justin Rolfe — had their hat in the ring.
The current school board members will review the five applications and have scheduled candidate interviews for 6 p.m. March 6. If a second round of interviews is needed, those will be March 20. Whoever is appointed to the position will serve out Magendanz’s term through November.
The Press spoke with Callan, Campbell, Meryweather and Park on Feb. 15 but was unable to reach Rolfe. While each of the applicants are unique, all of them who spoke with The Press made a point to say they believe whole-heartedly in the power and importance of public education, and that ensuring the education of young citizens is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.
Callan, the mother of a second-grader at Grand Ridge Elementary School, said she hopes to represent the elementary school community, as well as bring an insider’s understanding of boundary changes. Having served on the United Way’s health and human service panel, as well as the Issaquah Cooperative Preschool Board, she has an interest in early intervention and early education.
“I think it’s just a community responsibility to be in there and be part of it,” Callan said. “It’s making sure that as the world changes, that our graduates are ready to move into that world, whatever it may be.”
The granddaughter of teachers, Callan grew up in Arizona where her father was a district superintendent and her mother worked at a local university. Callan was adding an education minor to her bachelor’s in mathematics when she took a job at The Boeing Co. After nearly two decades in the computer science industry, Callan set aside work to focus on her family.
“I know I have a lot to learn,” she said. “Thinking out of the box, trying to come up with creative solutions, especially in budget tight times — it’s always good to have fresh thought coming to the table.”
Margo Campbell is no stranger to the district. She and her parents graduated from Issaquah High School, where as a senior she worked to get the bond and levy passed in 1965. With a master’s in elementary education, Campbell’s 25 years in the classroom included teaching kindergarten and third grade at Maple Hills Elementary School. Her husband served as the principal at Liberty, where all three of their sons graduated. One of the things she would like to do as a board member is focus on early education, which she believes is key to helping struggling students.
“I would like to find ways and resources to help those kids. And the best way is to do that is through early education,” she said. “I want them to see themselves immediately as learners, and get kids early on the resources they need.”
Campbell was also president of the teachers union, the Issaquah Education Association, from 1998 to 2002. She was publicly against the charter school initiative during the last election. She said she understands that not everyone is a fan of unions, but that she has a strong background of being objective and that improving teachers’ work environment means improving students’ learning environment.
With two teenagers now at Issaquah High, Alison Meryweather has spent more than a decade volunteering and advocating for public education. Her time on the PTSA includes two and a half years as unit president for Clark Elementary School and three years as a legislative representative. She also is a member of the Issaquah Schools Foundation and Volunteers for Issaquah Schools boards.
“I really think that I’ve got a long-standing, demonstrated commitment to the district and public education,” Meryweather said. Much of her work, she added has been about providing funding, and now she’d like to have a say in how it’s spent. “This is the next piece. It’s one thing to have the funding, and it’s another thing what you do with that money.”
With a dual bachelor’s degree in French and political science, Meryweather has also worked with the League of Education Voters. As a volunteer in 2009, she lobbied lawmakers to pass the education reform bill HB 2261, which among other things increased instructional hours and high school graduation requirements. She has been a longtime supporter of charter schools, working to get the issue on the PTSA’s legislative platform and acting as a community spokesperson for Initiative 1240 during the last election.
Justin Park finished building his home in the Maple Hills area last March. He said he is ready to get to work making a difference. And, with four children, the oldest a senior at Liberty and the youngest starting kindergarten next year, Park explained that he can’t think of anything more worthy than their education.
“I am quite encouraged by the current direction that the school board and district is moving in,” he said. “Anything that does need to be changed is more of a finite tuning aspect.”
As a Liberty parent, Park said he was happy to see the high school keep its eight-period block schedule, a popular discussion topic around his dinner table.
“Making a greater range of opportunities available to high school students in the district is a really great discussion that needs to be had,” he added.
With his law degree from Seattle University and a bachelor’s in international studies, Park is a partner at a law firm in Bellevue. Outside work, Park has served on several boards and said he is very familiar with policy governance. He is president of the board for LDS Scholarship Northwest, which awards scholarships for Mormon students in Western Washington.
According to his application, Justin Rolfe and his wife moved to Issaquah last year because of its reputation of providing students with a great education. While he does not yet have children, he wrote that he would like them to grow up in a nurturing environment and attend schools with a standard of excellence. He hopes to serve on the board so he can help build on that, and ensure that the district is preparing students to compete at the highest level now and into the future. The fact that he is less than a decade out of university, he wrote, positions him well to offer unique insight into how to accomplish that goal.
Rolfe graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2004 with a double major in finance and philosophy, and is now the vice president and senior portfolio manager at U.S. Trust, Bank of America’s private bank. His wife Sara is from Issaquah and the two got engaged on the same night they attended Swinging in Vienna eight years ago. Since 2006, Rolfe has volunteered for Lifetime Advocacy Plus, which aims to enhance the lives and protect the rights of people with disabilities. His volunteer experience also includes helping with various tent cities and Nicklesville.