A razor-thin margin of 32 votes unseated longtime University Place School Board member Rick Maloney and elected one-term Annie Fitzsimmons as his replacement after 20 years in office. Fitzsimmons had been planning on running for another term on the school board and was backing T'wina Franklin to take her Position 3 seat. Then she opted to run for Maloney’s Position 5 seat on the five-position board of at-large members in hopes that a shuffle could bring change. Fitzsimmons points out that her decision to run for another term, and unseat Maloney in the process, had nothing to do with him personally.
“I have no animosity toward Rick,” she said. “I don’t know him, and that is part of the problem. We, as a board, never communicated.”
She noted that budgets were presented one meeting, for example, and then voted on during the next, with little discussion among board members about priorities or costs between first glance and final vote.
“We had surrendered all of our decisions and all of our voice to the superintendent,” she said. “The problems have been masked by the fact that we have wonderful student outcomes.”
Fitzsimmons, a small business owner and attorney, hopes that the new face on the board, as well as the naming of Jeff Chamberlin earlier this year as new superintendent after 18 years under Patti Banks, will bring new ideas and voices to an already high-achieving district.
The board has now elected Michael Ehart as president and Ethelda Burke as vice president. Franklin is the board’s legislative representative. Another change is that the board plans to start holding informal “coffee talk” meetings once a month rather than rely on concerned citizens coming to the bi-weekly board meetings.
Only two of the school board races were contested, with long-time educator Ethelda Burkes and new comer T'wina Franklin running unopposed. Mary Lu Dickinson won reelection against challenger Edward D. Arrington by a wide margin. Fitzsimmons’ 3,267 to 3,235 win over Maloney was a single vote from a mandatory recount, which included 25 write-in votes and 791 under votes.