In 1987, Cynthia McMullen had three daughters in the Central Valley School District. She was presented with an opportunity to run for the school board and took it.
The election back then had four candidates running for the open seat. She won.
“I really did consider it winning,” she said.
In the years since then, she has run for election five more times and won. She has seen 17 other board members come and go, as well as four superintendents. Her daughters are now in their 30s, each with a higher education degree and one with children.
Her last school board meeting was Monday. She took some time recently to reflect on her time with the board.
“Everybody from the kindergarten teacher to the senior high school teacher contributes to the success of the child,” she said.
When she first came, the board was considering new curricula and remodeling the schools. Not much has changed in that regard, since the board is always looking to update the curricula and a bond was placed before voters this year. That bond failed, but McMullen said providing a safe and comfortable learning environment for students is a high priority.
“The board as always been focused on providing the right atmosphere,” she said.
She said the staff takes great care of the buildings, but they need updates once and a while to keep them functional.
One of the more challenging bonds the district sent to voters was the one in 1998 that replaced Central Valley and University high schools.
“The high schools are like having twins,” she said. At the time, the bond was the largest passed in Eastern Washington – $78 million.
McMullen, 59, said the district has changed over the last 24 years in two significant ways: the way it approaches educating students and the addition of technology in schools.
The district once approached education as teaching the students. Now, it looks at it as student learning.
Districts everywhere are facing deep state budget cuts this year. McMullen said the district is doing more than ever with less money to pay for it.
She’s not completely retiring. She is still an attorney, specializing in municipal law. She represents the cities of Medical Lake, Lamont, Sprague, Harrington and Wilbur as well as two water-sewer districts.
She also recently ran for the state board of education. She’ll find out in a couple of weeks if she has been elected.
At McMullen’s last school board meeting, the other members and staff took time to honor her for her service.
“You’ve done so much for our children,” said board member Debra Long.
She was presented with a quilt which featured a square for every school in the district.
“It’s going to be strange to cover these meetings without you,” said board member Tom Dingus.
Superintendent Ben Small also thanked McMullen.
“Longevity of a school board, doing the right stuff, makes a difference for kids,” Small said.