Alison Meryweather, Lisa Callan vie for Issaquah School Board seat
October 1, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Alison Meryweather and Lisa Callan are familiar with each other, having been finalists for the Issaquah School Board’s vacant position earlier this year.
Meryweather was appointed to the Position 4 post — left open by Chad Magendanz’s move to the state House of Representatives — in March. But Meryweather will have to impress voters to keep the job, and Callan will challenge her again on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The Position 4 seat covers the southeast region of the district. Although candidates run for a specific geographic seat, voters districtwide cast ballots for all Issaquah School Board members. Members are elected to four-year terms.
Meryweather has lived in Issaquah for more than 25 years, and she has served with various Parent Teacher Student Association groups for nearly half that time. She has spent time in Olympia as a PTSA advocacy representative, and was part of education reform efforts in 2009. That led to the McCleary decision that is currently revamping the state’s funding of basic education.
Meryweather is also a board member for Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, a citizen group that works on bond and levy campaigns; and she’s a trustee for the Issaquah Schools Foundation, which raises private donations for classroom learning purposes. She has two daughters who attend Issaquah High School.
Callan’s educational background includes a math and science degree from Northern Arizona University, and she spent 14 years with The Boeing Co. as a software development consultant.
Callan serves on the Grand Ridge Elementary School PTSA and helped create a cultural diversity council there. None of the current Issaquah board members have a child attending elementary school, but Callan has a son at Grand Ridge, which she believes gives her a unique perspective.
“The current directors are really doing their best to look after all kids in K-12, but I think it’s really nice to have that representation,” Callan said.
Both candidates said they’re supportive of the district’s February 2014 ballot measures. Issaquah will be asking voters to approve three levy packages — a $193 million maintenance and operations plan, a $1.7 million transportation plan for new buses and a $51.9 million plan for various technology upgrades.
Meryweather said she wouldn’t make any changes to the three measures, and believes all of them are critical to the district’s operations. In regard to the transportation levy, failing to pass it would mean “we would not be updating our fleet of buses according to the depreciation schedule with the state,” she said.
Callan has a similar position. She was part of the district’s levy committee, listening to feedback from parents, students, teachers and administrators.
“I’m comfortable with it,” she said. “The committee really pushed hard in asking the district, ‘Why are these your top priorities?’”
Dealing with state legislators is a priority for both candidates. While funding remains the top concern for most school officials, Meryweather and Callan said there are other issues to talk about as well.
Callan said board members should reach out to legislators to continue defining basic education and paying attention to the amount of “face time” students receive.
“The whole purpose of that is to get kids better understanding of their subjects,” she said.
Additionally, Callan would like to address how many credits are needed for graduation, and how “mutual consent” to move teachers from one school to another should be handled at the local level rather than through a state mandate.
Meryweather said Issaquah needs to continue pushing for equity. Its teacher salary schedule and levy lid amounts, for example, don’t match up with neighboring districts.
“There’s a lot of grandfathering (laws) that put Issaquah at a disadvantage,” she said.
Callan’s father was a school superintendent in Arizona, and she said she’s had a lot of conversations about how district officials should interact with teachers unions. Ultimately, she feels negotiations need to keep students’ best interests in mind.
“The board’s role is to set policies and govern policies to make sure there’s an open-door relationship, and that the administrators are being responsive to the Issaquah Education Association,” Callan said.
Meryweather addressed the results of the district’s homework survey, which were presented over the summer. She said she felt the findings, largely determined by PTSA leaders, had merit.
“In terms of the homework study, I think there were some items that Ron Thiele was going to follow up on,” Meryweather said of the superintendent. “I concur with that, so that kids are getting the types of homework assignments that are relevant, and not busy work.”