Parent selected to fill vacant board seat

Parent selected to fill vacant board seat
Posted on 09/14/2021
Parent Michael Wiggins was selected to fill the vacant School Board seat.

Our newest School Board Director Michael Wiggins says that he looks forward to connecting with Tahoma families and helping to strengthen the partnerships throughout the district. “I think the relationships have always been a great thing about our district,” Wiggins said, noting that’s why he and his family moved here 18 years ago.

The Tahoma School Board voted 4-0 on Aug. 26 to select Michael Wiggins to fill the Director District 2 position. That board seat was vacant due to the resignation of Katrina Montgomery, whose family relocated out of state this summer. Wiggins lives in Maple Valley with his wife and five children who attend Tahoma schools, and he works as a lawyer.

“I’m looking forward to working with the other directors, Superintendent Hanson, and the entire community of Tahoma staff and families to ensure that we continue to provide the best education and opportunities possible for all of our students,” said Wiggins, who took the oath of office in a public meeting on Aug. 27.

Asked what he wants the community to know about him, he noted that many issues have become very politicized recently. Wiggins emphasized that he isn’t entering his role on the School Board with any political agenda, and promised to be a critical thinker and consider policies on a case-by-case basis. “The role is to work with the community and establish policy that works (for Tahoma),” he said. Wiggins reiterated that he's not in this new position to trumpet his position on issues.

Wiggins grew up in Texas and attended high school and college in Washington state, earning his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Washington and a law degree from Seattle University School of Law. He is the chief legal officer and general counsel for a technology company. Wiggins said he’s still a huge fan of science, but determined that law was a better fit for him.

The current board members interviewed Wiggins and the three other community members who applied in a public meeting on Aug. 24, then discussed the qualifications of the applicants in executive session before voting in a second public meeting Thursday night. The other three applicants were Jaya Mallik, Carol Lake and Ben Hayman. The directors asked the same 12 questions of each candidate.

“We are thrilled to welcome Michael onto the Board. As a parent in our district, he shares our deep commitment to helping all Tahoma students thrive, and his legal expertise will add great value to our discussions and decision making,” Board President Malia Hollowell said.

Among the skills Wiggins said he would bring to the board are a critical eye and an understanding of how to analyze complicated data and situations. Asked about the role that the district plays in supporting students’ mental health, academics and social-emotional learning, he said, “This is at the heart of the board’s duties.” Wiggins continued to list policy-setting, approving curriculum, helping to establish goals in areas such as student assessment, securing physical facilities to meet student needs and also staying attuned to the environment (culture and climate) inside the schools.

For fun, he and his family love to travel and have new adventures, and “pretty much anything outdoors.” Wiggins said he also loves woodworking and fly fishing, and recently enjoyed reading the book “Tiny Habits” by B.J. Fogg.

In his application, Wiggins said “The district faces complex challenges. The solutions to those challenges can only come about by being willing to listen to all sides and relying on empirical data, sound reasoning and empathy for the students and families in this district; innovate and collaborate toward approaches that truly address … where those problems lie.” He continued: “The Tahoma School District is the only district my children have ever known, and I want it to remain the kind of district that drew us to Maple Valley in the first place, nearly 18 years ago. I believe that it can be, but only if it addresses its current issues and challenges in an informed, thoughtful, diligent and reasoned manner. … I want to be part of the effort and team that keeps us on that course.”

When there is a vacancy on the School Board in a position that is mid-term, the board appoints someone to fill that vacancy. In this case, former board director Katrina Montgomery resigned from her position in June because her family moved out of state. Wiggins will serve until November of 2023, at which time the position will be up for election for a four-year term. He is eligible to run for election at that time, along with any other qualified candidates. In general, School Board directors each represent a geographic area, with each Director District drawn to include about one-fifth of the people who reside in the School District. The Director Districts are adjusted following each Census. School Director elections are voted on by all registered voters in the School District, regardless of where the voter lives within the district.
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