Two South Whidbey residents apply for vacant school board seat

A former longtime South Whidbey School Board director and an at times vocal critic of the South Whidbey School District have applied for a vacant seat on the board.

Fred O’Neal and Molly MacLeod-Roberts submitted applications to fill the school board’s District 5 at-large seat following the resignation of Rocco Gianni last month. The pair will be interviewed in public by board directors tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the community room at South Whidbey Elementary School. The application process, which asked candidates to submit a one-page summary of their interests in becoming a school board director and their qualifications, ended on Friday, Jan. 6.

Each candidate will be interviewed by the board for 15 minutes. The board will then adjourn to executive session to discuss the candidates’ qualifications. One of the two will be appointed during the board’s business meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The appointment will come just two weeks before the school board votes on whether or not to close Langley Middle School. By closing the middle school, the district would save $321,996 in operation costs and help fulfill a board policy which requires the district to end with a positive fund balance of $998,000. If the board opts to do nothing, the contracts of 10 teachers could be terminated.

Both O’Neal and MacLeod-Roberts confirmed they are in favor of closing the middle school in separate phone interviews Tuesday morning.

O’Neal, a 76-year-old Bayview resident who has served as a board director for 12 years after first being elected in 1991, said he has actively attended community meetings over the past eight months where the district discussed ways to save money through consolidation.

“The time has come,” O’Neal said. “I don’t see any other way around it.”

MacLeod-Roberts is a 54-year-old Langley resident who has been an actively involved in the school district since moving to South Whidbey in 2004. She said she is familiar with the procedures of government through her work as Port of South Whidbey’s clerk, which would make her potential transition to the board smooth.

“We have to resolve the financial difficulties of the district,” MacLeod-Roberts said. “We have more buildings than we have students to fill them. It’s in the best interest of the district to consolidate.”

Following the school board’s business meeting, a workshop pertaining to the potential closure of the middle school will be held. Information and feedback gathered from the community and teachers over the last eight months will be discussed by board directors.

The middle school’s fate will then be determined with a vote by the school board at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 in the elementary school’s community room.

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