News

School Board member resigns

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Bob Millen stunned the audience and his elected colleagues when he resigned from the Federal Way School Board during a meeting Tuesday night.

He cited the controversy and confrontation surrounding the board for the last two years for why he resigned.

"The last two years on the (board) have been challenging for me. At times, I have been forced to be too confrontational," Millen said, reading from a prepared statement.

He announced his decision near the beginning of the board's regularly scheduled meeting at Federal Way City Hall. Audible disappointment and surprise could be heard coming from the audience.

After announcing his resignation, he left the dais and shook hands with school district superintendent Tom Murphy and deputy superintendent Mark Davidson. Several people in the audience gave him a standing ovation.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am," one man said to Millen and thanked him for his service.

"I'm speechless," said board member Evelyn Castellar, a frequent adversary of Millen.

Outside the meeting room, Millen said he had been thinking about resigning for "months" and finally decided after talking it over with his wife.

Leaving was better for the board and his reputation, he said.

The board now must appoint someone to serve the remainder of Millen's term, which ends in 2007. At the end of the term, the seat would be up for election. The appointed member and any other eligible citizen could be a candidate.

Millen, an engineer at Boeing, was elected to the board in 2003 for a four-year term after being appointed to a vacant position in 2002.

He's proud of accomplishments in the two years of his tenure, Millen said. Specifically, he cited his one year as board president –– "a year without controversy" –– and the district's move from junior highs to middle schools.

While he wasn't happy about cutting $6.5 million from the district's budget for the 2003-04 school year, he said it was handled "professionally, appropriately and properly."

It was the last two years, fraught with problems, that made him resign, he said.

The board "spends too much time and energy on non-educational-related issues," Millen wrote in his resignation statement.

For several months last year, the board debated what name to put on a new middle school before it became Sequoyah Middle School. In addition, in 2004 the board members debated whether to build the school, which was authorized in a voter-approved bond measure, because of a drop in student enrollment. That angered many people in the community and prompted the board to approve building Sequoyah under a tight timeline.

Millen said he also is tired of district policies not being followed at the board level –– namely, items appearing on the meeting agendas without board members being consulted or notified. He pointed to a recently proposed item directing Murphy and his staff to create plans for a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. The directive hasn't been approved, but a public hearing on it scheduled for April 4 at 6 p.m.

Millen is the third board member to resign in four years. Ann Murphy resigned in February 2002, citing a spiritual calling. Earl VanDorien Jr. resigned last April for family reasons.

Millen was appointed to replace Murphy from a field of nine candidates, including Castellar.

Millen and Castellar have been at odds as board members, often sparring verbally during public meetings. Millen opposed several proposals she made, including electing Charles Hoff to lead the board in 2005. Millen, at the time, said Hoff shouldn't be the board's president because of his public criticisms of students and teachers.

When the board chose Castellar as its president this year, Millen was the only member to vote against her, saying he didn't "respect her integrity." He also spoke against Castellar's proposal for board members to rotate the titles of president and vice president based on a system of seniority and who had not held the positions, rather than board members electing each other. That proposal eventually expired when the district's lawyer advised it would violate state law.

Tuesday night, Millen said the president issue didn't make him decide to quit.

Possibly the most controversial issue between Millen and Castellar was when an anonymous e-mail was circulated last July throughout the community, accusing Millen of "deceitfulness" for not living within the area he represented.

To show he was meeting the residency requirement, Millen provided documents proving that he had bought a house in his area and said that while the sale was closing, he was staying with a relative who also lived in the area he represented. An examination by The Mirror of the e-mail alleging Millen's residency violation revealed it originated from a Web site for a business run by Castellar's husband.

Castellar denied sending the e-mail and said it was planted.

His last two years on the board, Millen was either alone on many issues or in a minority with VanDorien when VanDorien was still there.

Millen's resignation will likely be accepted as a formality at the next board meeting.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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