After 28 years of volunteer service to the students, parents and patrons of the Enumclaw School District, Nancy Merrill decided the time was right to step aside.
A reception honoring her seven terms on the school board took place the evening of Dec. 16 in the Enumclaw High School commons, a gathering of perhaps 200 well-wishers. Included were more than 20 former school board members who served with Merrill, along with the four superintendents she worked with.
Current Superintendent Mike Nelson put Merrill’s years of service into a by-the-numbers effort. Since joining the Enumclaw School Board, Merrill has seen 8,400 high school graduates receive diplomas, attended roughly 650 board meetings and served with 21 other board members.
But, Nelson said, “there’s only one Nancy Merrill.”
Current Board President Bryan Stanwood said Merrill’s legacy is, “you think about the most vulnerable and try to figure how to make their lives better.”
Stanwood also dropped a surprise on Merrill, something she hadn’t seen because she was not provided a copy of that night’s school board agenda. The space dedicated to school board sessions is now known as the Nancy A. Merrill Board Room. The designation was made official during the official board meeting following the public reception.
When it was her turn to address the gathering of family and friends, Merrill spoke of issues that will have long-lasting impacts on the district.
“This space is so beautiful,” she said of the EHS commons, a development included in a school renovation possible by district voters. She spoke of the Enumclaw Schools Foundation, which provides money that allows classroom teachers to expand their offerings to students. And she addressed an ongoing effort to shape good citizens: “Our district is working very hard to ensure equity for all our students.”
On a much-quieter Thursday afternoon, Merrill said the biggest change in education – from her 28-year perspective – has been the gradual “breaking down of classroom doors.”
When she first arrived on the school board, Merrill said, teachers were inclined to address a room filled with students and teach an established curriculum. There were few efforts to expand their teaching beyond four walls. Now, Merrill said, there’s “true collaboration” between educators who are willing to learn from each other and better prepare their students.
With nearly three decades of school board service in her past, Merrill admits she’s not about to walk away from other volunteer efforts. But removing school board duties from her plate will allow her (and husband Jim) to be more present in the lives of their out-of-town children and grandkids.
Merrill admits to “harboring a few little regrets” about leaving her school board post but is content. She leaves knowing “I brought to the table everything I could.”