Millen named to school board

Bob Millen, who says he likes to make things work, will try his hand at public education as a member of the Federal Way School Board.

Millen was appointed Thursday to a vacant seat on the board. The rest of the five-member board chose him over four other finalists.

Public office is a first for Millen, an Ohio native who has lived in Federal Way for 24 years, is the father of three sons and has been active in schools as a PTA president. He’s a Boeing engineer, designing data acquisition systems.

Millen cited his engineer’s penchant for finding solutions while answering questions from the board in an interview that was one of five –– all with the same questions –– during a public meeting at the school district headquarters. After the interviews, the candidates waited for an hour while the board deliberated behind closed doors in an executive session.

When the board members were through, they voted in 2-2 deadlocks four times on three of the finalists –– once on Evelyn Castellar, twice on Mary Kenfield and once on Millen –– before Millen won 4-0 on a second nomination of him.

“We could have worked with any of you,” board president Earl VanDorien told the runnersup.

“I wish we had more (open) seats,” said board member Charles Hoff, adding he hopes the other finalists will remain interested in school business.

Eleven people applied for the vacancy created by Ann Murphy’s resignation in February. Millen will serve the remaining 16 months of her unexpired term, then can run in next year’s election for a new four-year term. He has indicated he will be a candidate.

In his answers to the board’s questions before an audience of 20 people, many of them spouses, other relatives and supporters of the finalists, Millen said it’s the responsibility of the board and the district to make Federal Way’s public education system work.

He said high school graduation requirements should focus more on post-high school education, not only the minimum requirements. He also said tests should be given for every grade level to prepare fourth, seventh and 10th-graders for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), teachers should have a bigger voice in board decisions, and that new programs are needed to help reverse the trend in which approximately 50 percent of seventh-graders are two or more years behind their appropriate reading levels. “What we have now isn’t working as well as it should,” he said.

On another matter, he said it’s the board’s job to select curriculum and instructional materials for the schools.

Millen, appearing slightly stunned by his selection, said he was glad the lengthy process was over. In a nod to his fellow finalists, he said he wouldn’t have been upset if he hadn’t been appointed.

“I thought I’d win either way,” he said.

Kenfield is a state PTA official who ran against Murphy in 1999. Castellar is a businesswoman. The other finalists were Michael McLeod, a teacher in the Highline School District, and Valerie Scott, a former teacher.

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