Former Federal Way School Board member Dr. Mildred Ollee passed away on Saturday.
Longtime friend Bette Simpson-Opstad said Ollee passed away surrounded by family and friends.
“She was one of those people who you thank God she was in your life for the time that she was,” said Simpson-Opstad, of Federal Way. She added, “I always said to her, ‘You always have this wonderful smile. And if a person doesn’t have a smile you give them yours because you’re always smiling.’ She was a very gracious person.”
Ollee was appointed to serve on the school board in October 2017, filling the vacant District No. 3 position left by Liz Drake. She was set to serve the remainder of Drake’s term through 2019, however, Ollee resigned on Aug. 14.
School board President Claire Wilson said in a statement that Ollee was a “passionate, courageous, humble and caring women. A role model to so many. Education was her world. She has positively impacted the Federal Way community, many young adults over the years, and most recently, the scholars of Federal Way School District. From the President of two Community Colleges, to Art Museum Director, to School Board Director – she had a laser focus on educational racial equity. My sincerest regrets go out to her family and friends on this huge loss.”
Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell said in a statement that Ollee was an inspiration.
“Her experiences in higher education as a former college president afforded us valuable perspectives as we strengthen our strategic plan Goal 5, Persistence to Graduation,” Campbell said. “She will be missed!”
From 2003-2010, Ollee served as Seattle Central Community College’s president. Before that she was executive dean of Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus for eight years.
Because of her work establishing and overseeing workforce development programs and partnerships with a variety of agencies that led to increased funding for Portland Community College, then-Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski proclaimed July 22, 2003, Mildred W. Ollee day. Ollee received her doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University in 1988, a master’s degree in education from Walla Walla College and a bachelor’s degree in education, English and social science from Xavier University of Louisiana. In December 2016, Ollee was appointed interim executive director at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle.
The New Orleans native was also active in the Federal Way community, through her service on numerous committees and organizations. Ollee was involved with promoting local arts as a member of Mayor Jim Ferrell’s “Blue Ribbon” task force that examined the viability of the Performing Arts and Events Center. She was also a member of the PAEC Foundation.
Ollee was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Federal Way. Dale Peterson, Rotary president, said she was a very remarkable woman.
“She listened carefully when others spoke,” Peterson said in an email. “When she spoke she was calm, deliberate, and on point. I always learned something new or gained a new perspective when our Rotary connection brought us together.”
Bob Mckenzie, Jr., Rotary chair, said Ollee was also a “very loyal” member of the Rotary Scholarship Committee.
“She loved it,” Mckenzie said. “She was just a community presence … She never slowed down right until the very end.”
Board seeks to fill two vacancies
The Federal Way School Board began the process last month of filling both Ollee’s seat, as well as the vacant District No. 4 position left by Carol Gregory, who stepped down in September for unspecified reasons. Gregory’s resignation was presented and approved by the board at the Sept. 18 meeting.
“I want to thank Director Gregory for her four years of service on the FWPS board, as well as her life’s work on behalf of public education,” board President Claire Wilson said at that meeting. “With the progress made with increased graduation rates and moving forward on strategic plan efforts, she felt it was the right time to step away. On behalf of our scholars, teachers, staff, and parents whose lives have been positively impacted over the years, I want to thank Director Gregory for all she has contributed to this district.”
All candidates interested in applying for the positions must submit an application to the Office of the Superintendent by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 5.
Selected candidates will be interviewed, and action on candidate selection will be taken at the Oct. 16 board meeting. The selected candidates will take their oath of office on Oct. 23.
For more information and to download the application, visit the district website at https://bit.ly/2y0fEnO.