Deborah Schneider Lurie, Diana Lein and Linhui Hao — the three candidates in the Aug. 1 primary election for Mercer Island School Board, Director Position 4 — have all volunteered in Mercer Island schools, using their experience to benefit their community.
Position 4 is currently held by Adair Dingle, who is not running for re-election.
Deborah Schneider Lurie
Lurie is a public defender who went to Mercer Island schools, graduating from Mercer Island High School in 1990. She returned in 2010 with her husband and her 11-year-old daughter, who will attend Islander Middle School this fall. She said she is running for School Board to get more involved in the community, and use her values and qualifications to advocate for children.
Lurie has been involved in the Island Park PTSA, receiving its Volunteer Service Award this past spring. As a School Board director, she said she would value transparency and community involvement.
“I believe that School Board directors should not come in with any specific platform, but with their core values,” she said.
Lurie said that her career has taught her to listen carefully, know every child has unique needs, think on her feet, consider all viewpoints, solve challenging problems and to never shy away from the need to make critical, life-changing decisions.
She also said that she supports the district’s teachers “100 percent,” and that “they deserve the best contracts we can provide with our funding.” Lurie said that the Legislature’s recent decision to address the McCleary court case and education funding was “a huge step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done.”
Lurie said she would be excited to work with the new superintendent of the district, Donna Colosky, though she said there should have been more community engagement in the search process.
“I think they made the right choice and I’m excited for the change,” she said. “I think her experience and commitment to spending time with kids in the classroom will benefit our district.”
Lurie received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Franklin and Marshall College and went to law school at American University.
Lein, a neuroscientist and 12-year resident, also has an 11-year-old who will go to IMS in the fall. She has been deeply involved in Mercer Island schools, volunteering one day per week even when she was working full-time, she said.
Lein has represented her precinct in the 41st Legislative District caucus, been a voting delegate at the WA State PTA Legislative and annual conventions, served on the Mercer Island PTA Advocacy Committee and Lakeridge PTA Board and was awarded the 2017 PTA Special Recognition Award from the Lakeridge parent community.
As a School Board director, she said she would focus on the district’s pressing issues, including school funding, transportation and safe routes to school. She said she has noticed a lack of advocacy and presence for the elementary community among the current board members.
“I would like to see us move forward with continued improvements in the K-5 curriculum,” she said. “There’s a need for differentiated learning that’s unmet on the Island.”
Lein said that Mercer Island is at a “crossroads,” with changes to state funding and the retirement of the district’s superintendent providing an opportunity for growth. She said that the state budget, which invests $4 billion in education, is “a great step forward, but not a perfect solution.”
Lein said that she can provide some continuity as the district brings a new leader onboard. She envisions a student-first culture that celebrates equity and diversity, and said she would be an advocate for teachers — “our most important resource” — in issues ranging from class size to commute times. She will also listen to Islanders on their ideas for school improvements.
“I have my lens, but I want to make sure I’m representing everybody,” she said.
Lein has a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland and a PhD in neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University.
Hao, a consultant who moved to Mercer Island in 2016, said she is running for School Board to help different groups — notably, Mercer Island’s Asian community — engage more with the school district. Hao is the secretary of Mercer Island Chinese Association, serves on the board of Mercer Island School Foundation and has two children.
“Although the Asian community is quite diverse, people with different backgrounds all value a great deal on kid’s education,” she said. “Interacting with these parents, either new immigrants or old ones like myself, made me realize the need to help the community engage more in the school district activity.”
She said that the major issue facing Mercer Island schools is the shortage of funds in general. She said that she believes she “can bring new perspectives and uphold the legacy of this district.” Her goals are to keep good teachers, strengthen math and reading in lower grades for better academic performance when they move to high school, introduce more advanced learning opportunities, including more access of AP courses, and bring stronger ELL support for the increasing amount of non-native speakers in the district and better engage their parents, according to her candidate statement.
Hao said that her education taught her how to identify problems and research and develop solutions.
“The same skills can be applied to solve the issues facing the Mercer Island School District,” she said. “Moreover, I have coached a Mathcounts team, I have taught middle school Chinese for years, and have lots of experience dealing with children.”
Hao moved to the U.S. in 1995 for her graduate study, earning her doctorate degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from Ohio State University.