Correction: The press release announcing Tina McGann’s resignation from the Enumclaw School District Board was incorrect on when a new board member will be chosen. Interviews for the new appointee will be held Aug. 17, and a final decision made publicly Sept. 21. This article has been updated.
Nine years on a school board presents a lot of opportunities — opportunities for success and progress, but also for disappointment and missteps.
By the time Tina McGann retired late July from her post as the Enumclaw School Board president, she had ran the gamut.
The announcement was a sudden one, as it was made during the regularly scheduled July 20 board meeting and went into effect just four days later.
But McGann’s plans to move to Idaho with her family, which includes two high school juniors, has been in the works for a while, though the COVID-19 pandemic sped plans up a little bit.
“We bought our place two years ago. My husband and I, it’s always been our dream to retire on a big piece of property,” McGann said in a recent interview, adding they’ve been visiting the neighboring state over the weekends, and spent several weeks there when quarantine first came down. But the idea to move now came about when McGann, her husband, and her children found during the spring that “online learning just did not work for our kids. It’s not the district’s fault by any means — they’ve really been put into a hard situation.”
The district her children will be attending this next year is planning on having in-person instruction; of course, it helps that the class of 2022 is 16 students large, and the entire district is comprised of about 140 kids.
“It’s a little bit easier to put in those social distancing requirements,” McGann continued.
Both during the interview and in an ESD press release, McGann stressed her resignation had nothing to do with Enumclaw’s decision to start the school year 100 percent online (in fact, her resignation announcement came a few days prior to when both the Enumclaw and White River School District scrapped their plans for a hybrid online/in-person learning model and said they’d be just going online).
“Tina shared that her resignation is not a reflection on the teachers, building leaders, or the school district as a whole, but she believes this is the best decision for her family at this time and will continue to support the Enumclaw School District and all the work they do for the students of the Enumclaw and Black Diamond communities,” the press release reads.
FROM PTA VOLUNTEER TO DISTRICT BOARD PRESIDENT
McGann didn’t start with running to be a District 4 Director on the Enmclaw School Board; she started off as a PTA member at the old Black Diamond Elementary School.
“That was even before my oldest son was in kindergarten,” she said. “I was convinced to help participate in a school carnival.”
As the years went by, McGann went from being a volunteer to being secretary, vice president, and, eventually, president of the PTA, leaving only the treasurer position untouched.
Then when former district board member Tim Nixon announced he was stepping down, he specifically called McGann to encourage her to run for his position.
“On the school board, you can make a bigger impact, and that’s why I chose to run,” she said. “I have no regrets. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s helped me grow as a person.”
One of the first things she wanted to address was the district’s focus on sending graduates to college.
“It was so focused on college. We had to get kids into college. We’ve got to have AP courses. When I first got on, that’s how it was, which is great — some kids, they thrive on that. That’s what they need,” McGann continued. “But there’s so many other kids that college is not for them. And that was something our district was one step ahead of a little bit of other districts in our area. We said, ‘What about the trades? What about the career-technical education? We need to get these kids who college is not for them and get them involved in having a career and a future.’ So we really started to focus on the CTE.”
Other achievements the city of Black Diamond’s sole representative on the school board and member of the school district community accomplished include being a leader on the opening of the Birth to Five Center at the J.J. Smith Elementary building, helping form the Enumclaw Football Foundation, overseeing the purchase of the land where the new Black Diamond Elementary sits, and organizing the construction of Enumclaw High.
NOT EVERYTHING HAS BEEN SO SMOOTH
Of course, being a school board president comes with its own unique challenges, and sometimes, the board didn’t measure up.
Besides the initial challenge of calculating coronavirus into the education world, which McGann said is likely the toughest issue she and the school administration had to face in her nine years, one of her other largest disappointments revolved around the school district bond for constructing a new Black Diamond Elementary and renovating Enumclaw High, which was voted on by residents in 2015.
The bond measure, which was asking for $68 million from local taxpayers (plus an additional $18 million from the state in matching funds), only just tipped over the 60 percent supermajority requirement by four votes.
However, once planning began, it was clear something had gone wrong, and the district found itself roughly $22 million short. To make up for this lack of revenue, the district decided to nix plans to build a new EHS gym and a performing arts center.
It’s unclear whether the bond would have passed if those plans weren’t included on the bond measure, but it certainly left many in the community upset.
“That’s something I wish we could go back and re-do,” McGann said.
According to her, the district used a firm it was highly familiar with to perform a study of district facilities, which is required every six years — this is how the district found out it was necessary to replace the Black Diamond Elementary building and improve Enumclaw High.
Given this firm had already been into all their buildings, the school board asked it to come up with a price estimate for how much various projects would cost.
“He’d already gone through all of our buildings, and went through thoroughly… they knew those buildings inside and out,” McGann said. “We felt they had excellent knowledge of those buildings.”
However, the numbers and prices presented to the school board were off by roughly 30 percent, former Superintendent Mike Nelson said in 2016.
“I remember that meeting when we found out, and I can tell you that three board members were crying,” McGann recalled. “We were so excited to give the community the performing arts center, these new buildings for these students.
“That’s something I wish we could go back and fix, but at the same time, I still am extremely proud,” she continued, adding that she considers the overall construction and renovation at the two schools a success. “We were able to still replace and provide amazing classrooms that are a lot better learning environments for our students in the high school and at Black Diamond.”
PLANS FOR HER REPLACEMENT
All applications for McGann’s replacement were submitted Aug. 7, and the school board evaluated the applicants during an executive session Monday, Aug. 10.
Interviews are expected to take place right before the regularly scheduled Aug. 17 meeting, but the board will swear in their appointee “likely… during the Sept. 21 board meeting,” said ESD’s Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Miranda Newell, adding that an executive session between the two meetings will be held for a final decision.
Four locals applied for McGann’s seat: Melynda O’Brien, Lori Metschan, Jerel Thomas, and Corey Bailey.