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School district marks 70 years of growth, change

Former and current school board members got together to celebrate the Mercer Island School District’s 70th anniversary on Nov. 10. Back row, from left, are Adair Dingle, Janet Frohnmayer, Terry Pottmeyer, Rand Ginn, Rodney Hearne, Brian Emanuels, Boyd Vanderhouwen, Susan Kaplan, Dave Myerson, Pat Braman, Laurie Koehler and Leslie Ferrell. Seated, from left, are Hal Fardal, John Davis and Susan Blake. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
Former and current school board members got together to celebrate the Mercer Island School District’s 70th anniversary on Nov. 10. Back row, from left, are Adair Dingle, Janet Frohnmayer, Terry Pottmeyer, Rand Ginn, Rodney Hearne, Brian Emanuels, Boyd Vanderhouwen, Susan Kaplan, Dave Myerson, Pat Braman, Laurie Koehler and Leslie Ferrell. Seated, from left, are Hal Fardal, John Davis and Susan Blake.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

Thursday night’s Mercer Island School Board meeting started off with a party to celebrate the district’s 70th anniversary.

Several former school board members, along with the present cast, joined together to share stories and enjoy pizza and cake.

Joining the party was 97-year-old John Davis, who served on the board from 1955 to 1965. He was there when the first schools were built, and reminisced about purchasing the 10 acres for North Mercer.

“We were a needful district,” Davis said.

He said they bought the land from the Seattle School District for $395,000.

Davis said the board at that time thought if they built a two-story building, it would be more cost effective, but to get state funding they had to build it on one level.

Davis, one of the founders of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, still goes down to the office three days a week, and the partners all take turns taking him to lunch, said Susan Blake, who served on the board from 1973-1983.

Blake said Davis was the president of the board when she graduated from Mercer Island High School with the class of 1960. Stanley Ann Dunham, President Barack Obama’s mother, was in Blake’s graduating class.

Speaking of her time on the school board, Blake said they experienced a rapid decline in enrollment during that time and actually had to close schools.

Hal Fardal served in that same time range, from 1971 to 1979.

“It was an interesting time because enrollment was going down,” Fardal said.

He said during that time, sex education was introduced to the schools, raising a few eyebrows.

Rod Hearn, who served from 1986 to 1990, said that was the time the board first tried to pass a levy to remodel the schools, which didn’t fly at the time, but would later. Rand Ginn took a seat for six months when Fred Jarrett stepped down. He was able to go to France — on his own dime — to establish the sister city relationship with Thonon les Bains on the south shore of Lake Geneva.

Laurie Koehler served during the years when the levy was cast that did indeed fund remodeling of the schools.

Serving from 1992 to 2003, Susan Kaplan had one of the most amusing stories. Kaplan recalled a meeting where much of the discussion was about less than desirable activities going on around the high school, such as smoking and littering.

To prove a point, a neighbor came to the meeting with two huge plastic garbage bags full of cigarette butts and presented them to Kaplan, who was also the president of the board. She graciously accepted them.

Terry Pottmeyer, who was named Mercer Island Citizen of the Year for 2011 along with Kaplan, served on the school board from 1997-2000. Her fondest memories were the successful addition of a science wing at Islander Middle School and handing out diplomas to happy graduates.

Finally, Leslie Ferrell, who served from 2003 to 2007, and served with current members Pat Braman and Adair Dingle, said she was proud of the work done to bring the PEAK facility to life, and hiring Gary Plano as superintendent.

Current board member Dave Myerson perhaps got the biggest laugh of the evening when he recited a Mark Twain quote after thanking all of these past board members for their service.

“God made the idiot for practice, and then He made the school board,” Myerson recited.

 

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