Local parent Jake Murray is the newest school board member for the Marysville School District. He was appointed by the board in April to replace long-time board member Tom Albright. who resigned from the board due to health problems earlier this year.
Murray said he learned about the position when he was looking for information on his son's elementary school.
"I wanted to be more involved in my son's schooling and it wound up becoming a lot more than that. It's a little unexpected but really exciting," he said.
Murray has a son with an autism diagnosis currently attending elementary school and a daughter about to enter kindergarten.
His son was one of the reasons he hoped to be a voice on the Marysville School District board.
"For me, I have a very strong personal reason," he said, "and that is to make sure the needs of the special education community are met."
His experience with the Marysville School Board has been positive so far, said Murray, who added they already take special education needs seriously.
"But I know I can bring my personal experience to that," he said.
With the pandemic it is an unusual time for board members who are meeting through online communication platforms and deliberating over new issues.
"It's been an interesting experience so far to say the least," said Murray.
"There's been some very tough decisions made and there will be some more hard choices to make in the future," he said.
The district's reserve fund can help weather some of the pandemic, but Murray doesn't know how much local schools will be able to rely on those funds.
"We do have some reserves that we'll probably dip in to, but we don't want to drain that as we don't know how long this emergency will last," he said.
Safety is the top priority for the district right now, said Murray, but he hopes that schools will be able to reopen this year.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we will be back in school sometime this year, but I also thought we would start school in-person this fall," he said.
Besides the pandemic, the most pressing issue for the district is likely going to be enrollment and funding, said Murray.
"The way a lot of school funding is determined is by the amount of students you have," he said, and the district has seen a downward trend in student population for several years.
"With everything that is happening now we're expecting even a further drop this year," he said.
Murray is from Marysville and graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 2003, shortly before a months-long teacher strike the following school year.
"During that time, the community opinion of the school board was not high," said Murray, who added he supported the teachers and was also skeptical of the board at the time.
"When I applied for this position I was concerned that the same type of problems would be here," he said, but he added that so far that has not been his experience.
"Every single person on the board wants what is best for the district, and that is a breath of fresh air to see," he said.