UPDATE | Engstrom named to South Whidbey school board

Jill Engstrom wasted no time getting involved after being named to the South Whidbey School District board of directors.

Even before she was sworn in at Wednesday’s work meeting, she spent most of the day with the board in an on-site visit to the high school.

“It’s been a very busy two days,” Engstrom said Thursday. “I didn’t expect it to be easy. I’m very excited.”

“She hit the ground running,” said board president Fred O’Neal.

“We’re throwing her into the fray,” he added.

Engstrom, 51, of Clinton, a longtime South End schools advocate, was selected this week from among six highly-qualified candidates to fill Helen Price Johnson’s seat on the board.

Price Johnson, an at-large member, resigned with a year left in her term after being elected to the Island County Board of Commissioners.

Engstrom will have to register as a candidate next summer, then run as an at-large candidate in next November’s general election if she wants to retain the seat, O’Neal said.

Engstrom moved with her family to Whidbey Island in 1991.

“I thought it would be a great place to raise kids,” she said. “It’s a fabulous school district and a fabulous community.”

A native of Granite Falls, Engstrom received a degree in nursing from Washington State University, and worked at Children’s Hospital in Seattle before moving to the island.

Her father, Jack West, was a teacher and coach, “so I got an early exposure to education,” she said.

After moving to the island, she stopped being a nurse and started being a volunteer when her son Jackson began kindergarten. Jackson and daughter Kelsey now attend South Whidbey High School.

Engstrom has been PTA president at all three schools.

“I’ve been volunteering for 12 years,” she said. “I’ve volunteered in every school including Bayview. I think I have a good grasp of the district and where it has to go.

“I want to be the best advocate for education that I can be,” she added. “I’m most interested in what happens in the future.”

“We had some really good candidates,” said O’Neal, adding that while the vote wasn’t unanimous for Engstrom, “she was on everybody’s short list.”

“I think we settled on her because of her longtime involvement and her knowledge of the many different aspects of the programs,” he said.

The other candidates for the position were Ted Brookes, of Langley, a retired Navy officer; Kris Barker, a Freeland businesswoman; Thomas Fisher, a Clinton cabinetmaker; David Cauffman, of Clinton, a retired space physicist; and Dorothy Ferguson, of Freeland, a retired school counselor.

“It was just an outstanding group,” O’Neal said. “The biggest challenge is how to keep that talent pool engaged. You can’t pick everyone.”

The board vacancy was the second to be filled 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.

Engstrom’s husband, Kevin, a mortgage broker, was a candidate for that position on the board, but passed this time around because of other civic commitments, his wife said.

The other members of the board are O’Neal, Rich Parker and Steven Scoles.

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