School Board candidate shortage? - One person considers run for open School Board seats during filing week July 25-29

By Mary L. Grady

As of Tuesday morning, before the Reporter's deadline, no one has filed for the two open positions on the School Board of Directors for Mercer Island Public Schools.

The official filing period for King County elections began Monday. The terms for the positions held by Carrie George and John Fry will end this fall.

Only one individual, Islander and attorney John DeVleming, has said that he will likely run for one of the two positions open for the Mercer Island School Board.

Meanwhile, it is already known that all three of the City Council seats up for election this November will be contested races.

It has been an open secret that neither Fry and George were running again for their positions, but there has been little or no buzz about possible candidates to replace them.

Fry confirmed that he is not running again, hoping to devote more time to his family and to make way for someone else to have a turn, he said.

George, also elected in 2001 with Fry and former board member Ken Glass, has made it known that she will not run again.

In the last School Board election in 2003, three candidates announced their intent to run well before the filing week at the end of July. There were three open positions in the 2003 election.

When Glass decided not to run again, he made an announcement in early May of 2003, well before the filing week and the November elections.

After Glass' decision, Denise Hopkins announced her candidacy in mid-May. Her declaration was followed by announcements within a few weeks by Lisa Strauch Eggers and Pat Braman. Leslie Ferrell and James Stipes did not declare their intentions before the official filing period. Deborah Boeck filed as a write-in candidate for the campaign in late October.

Why is it that no one has come forward? It may be a waiting game or it may be that individuals who might consider serving on the board may remember the contentiousness of the last couple of elections, some said. Perhaps others are hoping for a shorter, quieter election season.

Being a School Board member is a demanding and often thankless task. There is no pay.

It is a four-year commitment that requires juggling family and work schedules for evening meetings, weekend retreats and school events.

It is a job that requires reviewing piles of documents and being the recipient of sometimes angry e-mails and phone calls.

What are the advantages?

Individuals can make a difference. A School Board director is a key part of the education system. An effective board will have a lasting impact on the lives of students and the community.

The board members not up for election, such as Strauch Eggers, are also hoping to find out who is running.

``I'd love to know as they will be people I will work closely with for the next couple of years,'' she said.

``I imagine the huge time commitment has to be part of why no one is running yet,'' she continued.

It may be that there is not an issue or trend that anyone is concerned enough about to try to change.

The issue of whether or not to have an advisory program at the high school generated a lot of interest in the last election. Candidates and their supporters seemed to be split into two camps over the issue mirroring the differences between existing board members.

Elections for School Board members will be held in November in each of the state's 296 school districts. Approximately half of Washington's 1,482 school board positions are subject to election this year.

Other communities both in-state and nationwide have had to go out looking for candidates. They offer free help with candidate bios, easing paperwork filing, all to encourage more candidates and more debate that will improve educational programs for students.

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean was quoted last fall encouraging community members to think about a role in government as a personal responsibility.

``You need to run for office yourself,'' he said. ``Somebody has to take responsibility for being on the school board, on the city council -- all these offices that sometimes lead to higher things and sometimes don't. Democracy withers unless people think -- unless people understand --that they're responsible, not their neighbor.

Political signs

Although there is no specified starting date for posting political signs, the city suggests a ``reasonable'' time frame of no more than 45 days before an election. However, signs must comply with the following city regulations:

? Signs cannot be larger than six square-feet.

? Signs can be placed on private property with permission of the owner.

? Signs can be placed on public property, such as roadsides and traffic islands, as long as the signs do not cause traffic problems, such as line of sight problems. Signs cannot be taller than 40 inches in height.

? Signs must be removed within 48 hours of an election.

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