Open School Board seat brings three more candidates

Three more candidates have come forward to fill the School Board seat vacated by Lisa Strauch-Eggers, who resigned from the board last month.

The first deadline of April 29, brought just two applicants for the position. The School Board could not decide between them and opened the application process again.

The new applicants are Leslie Ferrell, Brian Emanuels and Maureen McLaughlin-Crawford.

Leslie Ferrell served on the board before, from 2003 to 2007, and she was awarded the PTA Council honorary life membership award last year. She is interested only in the interim position, and does not plan to run for a permanent seat.

“I’d be honored to fill in (the six-month gap),” Ferrell said.

Her children are all out of the district now; one is a freshman at Arizona State University and the other is a junior at the University of Washington. A Mercer Island resident since 1987, she said her learning curve would be minimal in catching up with the board.

“I’ve been involved in the district in all of my volunteer career,” Ferrell said.

Maureen McLaughlin-Crawford has a son who is a sophomore at MIHS. Her daughter graduated from MIHS in 2006. This is the family’s second time on Mercer Island. In 2003-2006, she had a child in elementary, middle and high school in the district. McLaughlin-Crawford and her family most recently moved back to Mercer Island in 2009; her husband works for Boeing, and consequently the moves, but she said they are here to stay now.

This is her first time applying for a School Board seat. She doesn’t know if she’d run in November; she said it would depend on whether it’s a good fit if she is selected in the interim.

“Having lived in lots of different places, I think I bring a breadth of knowledge and experience that might bring a different lens to the table,” McLaughlin-Crawford said.

She has served on various PTAs, been active in her churches and chaired science fairs among other community work.

Brian Emanuels is a 12-year resident of Mercer Island, with four boys in the district; a senior, sophomore, eighth-grader and fifth-grader. Emanuels is retired from Microsoft and calls himself a full-time volunteer. Emanuels has served on a number of committees and is currently on the district’s 21st Century Facilities Committee. He was on the Mercer Island Schools Foundation board of directors from 2006-2010 and is on the Title Nine committee for the district.

“If I’m chosen for the interim seat, I’ll run for the permanent seat,” Emanuels said.

He said if he is not chosen for the appointment, he will wait to see if he will run in November. Emanuels said he feels it was important to apply since the board deadlocked before.

“Based on my professional and volunteer background, I can be an asset to the district,” he said. “I’m very passionate about education.”

Aleta Finnila, a seven-year Mercer Island resident with an extensive background in community volunteerism as well as extensive professional experience, is one of the two original applicants, as is Jennifer McLellan, a former teacher who has four children in the district. McLellan is also a well-known community volunteer.

Both women have said they will run for the permanent position on the board in the November election.

In a special meeting on May 3, the existing four members of the board deadlocked 2-2 between Finnila and McLellan, giving the board no option but to re-open the application process. The three new candidates will be interviewed in public on Saturday morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the district offices, in the same manner as Finnila and McLellan. Finnila and McLellan do not have to go through the entire interview process again, but will be allowed five minutes each to add any additional information.

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