Residents are ready to run for Mercer Island School Board

As filing week concluded on May 19, six local residents had submitted their papers to run for Mercer Island School Board director positions.

Names appearing on the King County Elections site, along with the positions they’re running for, are: Ananta Gudipaty and Cristina Martinez (position No. 1), Maggie Tai Tucker (position No. 3) and Jody Lee, Todd White and David Figatner (position No. 5). The general election is slated for Nov. 7 and a primary for position No. 5 is set for Aug. 1.

School board directors hold four-year terms and their responsibilities include planning, setting and monitoring goals, employing and evaluating the superintendent, adopting an annual operating budget, approving the instructional program and more.

Tucker (who currently holds position No. 3 and was previously the board’s vice president and president) is running for re-election while other current directors David D’Souza (position No. 1 and president) and Tam Dinh (position No. 5) have chosen not to file for candidacy this time around.

During her initial term on the board, Tucker helped provide guidance when the pandemic hit, ran a nationwide search to find superintendent candidates, served as board liaison to the PTA’s DEI committee and on the Superintendent’s Equity Advisory Committee and more.

“Our school district has weathered a lot the last few years, between the pandemic, a major leadership transition, and the financial challenges brought on by decreasing enrollment nationwide. We have emerged from these experiences as a stronger team. With the loss of two of my colleagues and their collective years of experience on the board, continuity will be very important,” Tucker said in a statement, referring to D’Souza and Dinh.

Lee aims to ensure that each Mercer Island student is offered the best education possible.

“I want all students to thrive, to achieve their best personal potential, and to graduate ready to become full citizens in the world around them,” she said in a statement, which added that she serves on the boards of the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation and the Mercer Island Schools Band Boosters.

Possessing a master’s degree in conflict management and cross cultural communication and immense professional experience as a dispute resolution specialist and more, Lee feels she is in a good position to serve the board well.

White feels the Mercer Island School District is perched high on the state list and wants to be part of the solution regarding critical issues like children’s emotional well-being, declining student enrollment and financial sustainability, reads a statement.

“I feel a strong sense of duty to serve this community that has brought so much to me and my family,” said White, who brings 20-plus years of executive and senior management leadership experience to the table. “As a parent within a multi-racial family and with children attending elementary school in the district, I understand directly the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

With children in local schools and more than two decades of leadership experience at Microsoft and Amazon, Gudipaty has a deep passion for educational transformation in the schools and corporate realms.

“We have one of the finest school districts in the country. The school administration’s meticulous personal attention, when my family and I moved to the city in the height of the pandemic, amazed us. It exceeded our experiences even at private schools. This is something to be immensely proud of, but we should not rest until every student in the district feels valued, included and empowered,” said Gudipaty in a statement, adding that his dream entails helping children discover their innate infinite potential.

Within the Island school district realm, Martinez — who is an early childhood educator and a public health consultant — has served as a member of the Superintendent Teaching & Learning Advisory and the Superintendent Equity Advisory Council, co-vice president of Diversity Equity & Inclusion for the MI PTA Council and more.

“I believe in public education. As a Mercer Island resident with two children in our district and years of volunteer experience in our schools, I know our strengths firsthand. Yet, more is needed to prepare students for success in a fast-paced global world. This requires meeting their academic, social, and mental health needs through rigorous advanced courses, support for students who learn differently, and a curriculum that reflects our community,” she said in a statement.

Figatner steps into the candidacy sphere carrying a philosophy that better solutions are found through collaboration informed by analytics and data, according to a statement. He believes that he can help make the Island’s strong schools even better.

“We are currently facing dropping enrollment and financial pressures, and it is during challenging times that we need thoughtful and analytical voices on the school board. With my experiences and collaborative approach, I believe that I can be that voice and ensure that we have the best education for our children while also supporting their emotional well-being,” said Figatner, who holds a law degree, a master’s in computer engineering, and a double degree in philosophy and computer science.