Outgoing longtime school board directors honored with sweet, poetic praise

ARLINGTON – Two veteran school board directors with a passion for education were honored for a combined four decades of public service to the Arlington community and its children.

During 32 years on the school board, Bob McClure signed a hand-numbing 9,000 student diplomas. As if playing a part in the futures of that many hometown children isn’t reward in itself, “some of them whose diplomas I signed have come full-circle back to the school district as teachers and staff.”

That meant the world to McClure, a fisheries biologist for the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, who decided earlier this year not to run again for personal reasons because he felt it was time to move on, leaving the district in the hands of an excellent board, administration and staff.

McClure joined the board in 1995 when he and his wife, Wendy, were part of a community group frustrated with the then school board’s inability to work together and with the community to get a new high school built, as well as what education should look like in the district. When a board member stepped down, he filled a five-month temporary vacancy that turned into an extended stay.

McClure has been described as someone who brought diverse cultures together.

“Once I got going the job was never done, and things kept getting better,” he said. “The structures and what we teach, growth in the district and the community. If we provide schools and teachers and you provide kids, then we’ve done our jobs.”

As McClure looks back, he said he is proud of the relationships forged with school officials and effective policy-making, helping Arlington Dollars for Scholars provide scholarships for local students, championing more resources for high-achieving students to keep them engaged, and a shift toward more equity across all strata to ensure students have equal capacity to be included and successful.

Ursula Ghirardo served eight years on the school board, during which she served half of them as board president.

District staff acknowledged Ghirardo for her advocacy for rigorous curriculum across areas of instruction but especially math, her passion for arts and drama programs and instruction, and her involvement on the Advisory Council for Education prior to being elected to the school board.

Ghirardo dug into the district’s strategic planning and facilities planning processes, skills that were right in the chemical engineer’s wheelhouse.

Ghirardo also served on the Career and College-ready Task Force “trying to add to our efforts of finding a pathway for every student, to build lifelong learners,” she said. “Programs like the Stilly Valley Learning Center, Weston’s Open Doors, and career and technical education program are there to try to meet every student where they are.”

Both are leaving seats at a high point for the board, after it was honored as a Board of Distinction by the Washington State School Directors’ Association, the first time the Arlington board has been honored.

Ghirardo and McClure said they plan to stay involved in Arlington and the school system in ways that support children in the community.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the time; it was definitely worthwhile,” Ghirardo said. She has been active in the district since 1997, so “there are lots of ways to jump in and give my support.”

As part of the evening of thanks, Ed Aylesworth, director of Child Nutrition and Support Services, read a humorous farewell poem thanking the two for their service. Director Kay Duskin sweetened the sendoff with posterboards that used candy bars creatively to share the 10 characteristics of a good board member that both conveyed.

“Thank you for your commitment to our kids,” Duskin said.

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