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Dingle runs for School Board Seattle University professor, Island parent

By Mary L. Grady

College professor Adair Dingle is running for Mercer Island School District Board of Directors, Pos. 4, the position being vacated by John Fry. Dingle and her family have lived on Mercer Island for 10 years. She has taught computer science at the college level for 15 years, the last 10 at Seattle University where she is an associate professor in computer science and engineering.

She is married to Thomas Hildebrandt, who is a computer consultant. They have four children: Brian, 14, who will be attending Mercer Island High School in the fall; Eleanor, 11 who will be attending the Evergreen School in Shoreline; Gwen, 8, who is continuing at Lakeridge Elementary School; and Donald, 4, who is at the Country Village preschool. With urging from her husband, she said she made the decision to run because of the need to accommodate all children in school. Dingle said she sees many freshman and sophomore students at Seattle University unprepared to deal with what is ahead of them. It upsets her when she has to fail any of them.

"Many come without knowing how to study or set goals," she explained. "They might be far from home and are without their peers -- they don't know how to set up a new support system." She is hoping to ensure that all students who graduate from Mercer Island High School are prepared not only academically but in other important ways to be a success in college and life beyond. Her own family has also given her a context to evaluate Mercer Island schools and how they meet the needs of individual students. She has taken two of her children out of Island schools to for middle school at a private school. One in particular needed more challenge in some subjects and extra help in others, she said.

Dingle said that experience gives her a clearer view on how people make decisions about their children's education. "I know firsthand the sacrifices entailed in taking kids out of a school," she said.

She said she is glad that the school district has begun the gifted program, but believes it might need to be expanded. Dingle said she has attended several School Board meetings. She realizes the work and commitment that will be involved as a School Board member. "And I know how dedicated teachers are and how frustrated they can become," she added.

She sits on several committees at Seattle University. She is the chair of the curriculum committee for computer science and engineering. She has questions about the new expanded BRIDGES2 advisory program. She feels it is a good idea, but is concerned that the advisory or mentoring portion is not necessarily the best approach for all students. "To get kids connected there has to be something in school that draws them," she observed. "It can be band or music or academics or friends, but it has to be something that they want." Dingle believes the Day of Service is an excellent idea but is worried about the effect of shortened class time on some days. "Students on the lower-end or middle will suffer," she believes. "Many need time to warm up' to the subject." She is also interested in the treatment of advanced or honors classes at the high school.

"Given how competitive higher education is, we have to have it," she said. "Doing advanced work early not only gives kids a jump on the work, but they can take on challenging work while they are still at home with a support system -- they can try things out and see if they like it. Dingle feels the concept behind the PEAK project, a proposal by the Boys & Girls Club to build gyms and a teen center on school district land adjacent to the high school, is conceptually a good one, but has some concerns. "I am a strong advocate of sports," said Dingle, a swimmer herself. "It is important to establish the need for a consistent pattern of exercise for life-long habits." But the controversy about placing some of the development on play space for preschoolers and special needs kids at CHILD school did not sit well with her.

"It is important to remember that not just able kids should have access to places to play," she noted.

Dingle holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Texas at Dallas, a M.S. in computer science from Northwestern University, and a B.S., cum laude, in mathematics from Duke University. Even with four children and full-time work, she has been a chess club parent and a classroom volunteer. She was an advocate for the Mary Wayte Pool when it was slated for closure.

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