School board selects Caroline Mason to fill seat
Board member Jessica Olson resigns
EVERETT - The Everett School Board added one face and lost another last week.
Everett School Board member Jessica Olson abruptly resigned soon after the board narrowed its candidate selection on Monday, Jan. 6. The application window to replace Olson runs through Thursday, Jan. 23.
On Thursday, Jan. 9, the board appointed Caroline Mason to replace Jeff Russell, who resigned Dec. 1.
The board is accepting applications to replace Olson’s seat through Jan. 23. The public can nominate candidates up until 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16. To nominate someone, e-mail the superintendent at email@example.com. People can apply through Thursday, Jan. 23 by e-mailing the superintendent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olson’s replacement will be selected Monday, Feb. 3.
Mason, 48, is a marketing professional who volunteered as public relations chair for a past school district levy committee and has participated on the district’s fiscal advisory committee. Mason has two boys in Everett public schools.
She beat out Myrna Overstreet, George Reynolds, Kristine Petereit and Traci Mitchell. Applicants Rodman Reynolds and Cris Larson were eliminated in the first selection round.
The board’s decision took more than an hour in closed-door session.
Mason will hold the position through 2015, when Russell’s term would have expired, and can run for election for a full six-year term.
Outspoken and often ostracized by her fellow board members, Olson wasn’t clear as to why she decided to resign.
Her resignation came in as a single-line e-mail on Tuesday, Jan. 7 to board president Pam LeSesne stating, “I hereby resign from the board of directors, effective immediately.”
Her resignation, though, came on the heels of Rodman Reynolds and Larson not advancing to the final selection process. Olson did not attend the selection meeting.
Olson openly supported “reform candidates” Reynolds and Kim Guymon during the November election. Neither won election, and Olson told the Tribune last year that she wouldn’t resign unless all the avenues were blocked for a second candidate who thought similarly to her could join the board.
Olson usually was shut down from raising questions on routine board items because she did not have an ally on the board. The board required her to have a second person vote with her to force specific policies and topics, usually voted on within a single package of “consent agenda” items, be unbundled for separate discussion.
Olson told other media that she didn’t want to be on the board beyond four years. She criticized the board as being a rubber stamp for district administration and ineffective.
“In four years, with the exception of putting in the track at Cascade (High School), I can’t think of one thing that the board of directors has done to improve the lives of children,” Olson told the Herald.
Rejected candidates upset
In the application round, Rodman Reynolds and Larson were the only two applicants who had run for election before. Reynolds came in a close second last November to board member Ted Wenta.
Rodman Reynolds railed against the selections on Facebook.
“The Everett School Board has just spat in the faces of more than 10,500 Everett School District voters by eliminating me from the ‘final five’ pool of applicants to fill Jeff Russell’s position,” Rodman Reynolds wrote.
Larson didn’t know why he did not advance, but he was a little surprised since he endorsed LeSesne in the 2011 general election and said he is a relative of board member Carol Andrews.
During public comments last week, two people favored Overstreet and one of those also supported Mason.
“The addition of Caroline would be just a phenomenal step for this board to move forward,” resident Angela Krisinger said before the vote.
Olson exits after a tumultuous time on the board.
Olson never played well with other board members or district administration, but she had fans from parents to open government advocates.
Olson was elected in 2009 with the intent to provide an opposing voice on the school board. Usually she was alone in her effort.
Her tenure came with controversy, and her antagonistic digging and push for transparency caused her to be censured — an official slap on the wrist — twice by fellow board members.
She was awarded a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government in 2010.
The height of Olson’s popularity, and polarization, came in fall 2011 after a scuffle during a closed-door meeting. Olson tried to run a video recorder during the meeting. The scuffle ended up with the police being called. The incident made national headlines.
In 2012, Olson began stepping back from the board and gained a track record of regularly skipping meetings. Olson defended her absences to the Tribune last year and said she still was making an impact without attending the meetings.
She was allowed to keep her seat because she attended the bare minimum number of meetings, which is once every four meetings.
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