Board deadlocks on filling vacancy

No one was willing to give in. On Tuesday night in a special meeting of the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors, a new board member to fill the seat vacated by Lisa Eggers was not selected.

Only two candidates threw their hat in the ring. Aleta Finnila, a seven-year Mercer Island resident with an extensive background in community volunteerism as well as an impressive professional resume, earned the support of current board members Adair Dingle and Dave Myerson. Finnila has two children attending school in the district.

The other candidate, Jennifer McLellan, was a teacher for five years, and has four children in the district. McLellan has been active with the Bridge the Gap task force since its inception and is also a well-known community volunteer. She earned the support of board members Janet Frohnmayer and Pat Braman.

In open interviews before the public and the board, Finnila said it is the paramount duty of the board not only to provide an education for children, but an excellent education.

As legislative representative for the PTA Council, she said the experience has given her important insight into state law as it affects our local schools and district budget. Finnila said her personal strength would be to mobilize the community to create a better district. She said the board should be accessible, respectful and open to the community and to ask for input from the citizens.

McLellan is very enthusiastic about the board's dedication and thoughtfulness with regard to the district's 20/20 vision. Her focus is on school funding, overcrowding and "immersing herself in the district." McLellan said the overcrowding in the schools is a real concern to her, with over 600 kids in portables — enough for one entire school.

Both candidates praised superintendent Gary Plano for his work, reinforcing the board's decision to hire him.

Dingle commented on Finnila's dedication and longevity, acknowledging her attendance at almost every school board meeting for the past six years.

Frohnmayer appreciated McLellan's support of the 20/20 vision, while Braman thought she was a leader.

But Myerson believes Finnila is more focused on the students.

"I have faith if we train the students, all else will follow," Myerson said. "Where we're headed toward rather than moving forward is what's important."

The board has now re-opened the application process with any new applicants' deadline to file slated for May 13 at 4:30 p.m. with applications to be turned in to the superintendent's office. Interviews of any new candidates will be held on Saturday morning, May 21, at 8:30 a.m., and will be open to the public.

The application is available online at

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