School Board changes leader


Staff writer

Parents disgruntled with Earl VanDorien Jr.’s tenure as president of the Federal Way School Board received a welcome surprise during the Dec. 10 board meeting.

In a unanimous decision, newcomer Bob Millen was selected to replace VanDorien as president during the board’s annual selection of officers. VanDorien will remain on the board as vice president.

“I told all the members individually I was interested in it,” said Millen of his new role. “I thought I could do a good job. I’ve been a leader of various groups here at work (Boeing) and I thought I could help out better.”

Millen and VanDorien, who had been a controversial figure throughout his presidency and recently angered some parents by linking race to student conduct, emphasized that officers are selected each December and presidents rarely serve two consecutive terms.

“There was no one single issue. Every year traditionally it changes,” said Millen.

Millen will continue the policy of acting as the board’s spokesman to the public and the news media.

Although the last to join the board, Millen said he has “been involved as much if not more as anybody else. I would say considerably.”

Millen was appointed in April to fill the vacant board seat created by Ann Murphy’s February resignation. He’ll serve the rest of her term and has said he will run for a new term in next year’s election.

During the appointment process earlier this year, Millen emphasized that it’s the responsibility of the board and the school district to make Federal Way’s public education system work.

Of key importance is “better student achievements in the main cores, so we can have a better chance of passing the Washington Assessment of Student Leaning (WASL),” Millen said. “After that, it would sure be nice to help the kids do a better job selecting what we call a 13th-year plan or helping them learn a trade or profession after high school. But we must get the kids to pass the WASL, regardless of how we feel about the WASL.”

Preparing for next fall’s restructuring of junior highs into middle schools is also a priority for Millen, who said the district will be “redefining” the concept of high school with fewer electives and a greater emphasis on core requirements, and post-high school education and training.

Since 1980, Millen, who has lived in Federal Way for 25 years, has been a lead engineer in a Boeing test lab and has also been a team leader on several projects, including the design and manufacturing of sensors for the space station.

All three of his sons attended Federal Way Public Schools. Millen served as PTA president at Brigadoon Elementary School from 1993 to 1995, and has been a member of the Saghalie Site Leadership Team since 1995. The Brigadoon and Saghalie PTAs both awarded Millen the Golden Acorn Award for his dedication and service to youth.

Staff writer Jody Allard can be reached at 925-5565 and

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