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Six apply for Price Johnson’s school board post

Six candidates have applied for the vacant position on the South Whidbey School District Board of Directors.

The board will meet in executive session at 9 a.m. Monday at district headquarters in Langley to whittle the list to five.

Those five will be interviewed Tuesday in Langley, with the winner announced at the end of the day.

Among the candidates are a retired Navy officer, a Freeland businesswoman, a longtime educator, a cabinetmaker and a retired space physicist.

The sixth, Dorothy Ferguson, of Freeland, a retired school counselor, was a late applicant on Friday. She also was a candidate for a previous vacancy on the board.

The Record was unable to contact Ferguson before deadline Friday.

All the other candidates have a wide variety of experience they want to share with the community, and a strong belief in public education. All expressed concern about declining enrollments, tightening budgets and deteriorating facilities.

“I’m really impressed with the applicants,” said Fred McCarthy, school district superintendent. “To me it reflects that people see things they want to be a part of, and that’s great.”

Current board members will appraise the candidates in a public session on Tuesday,

Dec. 9, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the district offices at

721 Camano Ave., next to Langley Middle School.

After a closed session to deliberate, the board will announce its selection at 4:30 p.m. The new member will be sworn in the next day, Wednesday,

Dec. 10, at a public workshop session beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the intermediate school Commons Room on Maxwelton Road.

The vacancy occurred when Helen Price Johnson resigned after being elected to the Island County Board of Commissioners. She was sworn in as the first woman commissioner in county history on Nov. 25.

The current school board vacancy is the second in two months. In late September, Leigh Anderson was named to succeed Bob Riggs, a nine-year board member who resigned to concentrate on his special-effects work for the film industry.

Current members of the board are Anderson, Rich Parker, Steven Scoles and president Fred O’Neal.

The candidates:

Ted Brookes, 70, of Langley, is a retired Naval intelligence officer who moved to South Whidbey from San Diego, Calif., in 1999.

He is vice president of South Whidbey Kiwanis Club, and has tutored students in the district for eight years. He also volunteers with the high school’s speakers bureau, helps run the Kiwanis concession stand at the high school and is chairman of the Kiwanis youth services committee, which awards scholarships.

He and his wife, Pat, have four grown children and eight grandchildren.

“I think the current board has done a great job identifying the

problems and planning for the future,” Brookes said. “But it obviously has to stay the course to continue to have a good school system.”

Kris Barker, 42, of Freeland, was a teacher for 17 years in Los Angeles, Calif., before moving to the island four years ago.

She has a degree in early childhood education, and now runs La Vida Verde, a fair-trade importing business with her husband, Michael, in Freeland.

In her educational career, she has served on several boards and volunteer organizations and now teaches visual arts part time.

Her daughters, Maddie, 10, and Emma, 8, are intermediate school students in the district, and she was a candidate for the previous opening on the board.

Barker said she would concentrate on enrollment and financial issues, and advocate for children’s rights and support for teachers.

“It’s an obligation to be involved in our children’s schools, to know what’s going on and to play an active role,” she said.

Jill Engstrom, 51, of Clinton, is a trained registered nurse who has lived in the district for 17 years.

Her daughter, Kelsey, and son, Jackson, attend South Whidbey High School. Her husband, Kevin, a mortgage broker, was a candidate for the previous opening on the school board, but now has other civic commitments, she said.

Engstrom said she has volunteered with the school district for 11 years, and has been PTA president at all three schools.

She promised to focus on declining enrollment, “and the future education of our students.”

“I think we live in a fabulous school district, and a fabulous community,” she said.

Thomas Fisher, 59, of Clinton, has lived in the district for 25 years. He has been a cabinetmaker for 30 years, and his wife, Mary, operates Cultus Bay Nursery.

He ran for county commissioner in 2000, and was president of the Island County Smart Growth Coalition in 2002 and 2003.

He said his three grown children all went through district schools, “and I strongly believe in public education.”

Fisher said the financial skills he acquired in running his own business would serve him well on the school board in these tight economic times.

“It’s an opportunity to be of service to the community,” he said. “I’ve got more time now that the kids are gone.”

David Cauffman, 64, of Clinton, is a retired space physicist who moved to the island in 2000 from the Bay Area in California.

He was chief scientist and director of research for Lockheed Martin while it operated the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. He worked for Lockheed Martin for

22 years, mostly in California. Before that, he was program scientist in space plasma physics at NASA headquarters.

He’s a board member of Island County Habitat for Humanity, and this year helped evaluate senior projects at the high school.

From 2003 to 2007, he was a board member of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island, serving as treasurer, secretary and president.

He said his focus would be to continue student opportunity and fundamental development in the dismal fiscal climate.

“There’s terrific talent in our young people here,” he said. “Our goal should be to be well above average, if not near the top.”

He took a positive view of the challenges facing the school board.

“There are going to be changes,” he said, “but it’s an opportunity to be better.”

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