methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Education Deciders
Methow Valley School Board

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Board member Gary Marchbank, 73, is a former elementary school teacher in the district who arrived here from Oregon with his wife, Eunice, in 1968. He’d been shown a photo of the valley by an acquaintance, and as an avid skier, rock climber and marathon runner, he decided to come up and check it out. He liked what he saw and immediately accepted a teaching job.

“Eunice didn’t know I’d signed a contract,” he relates, chuckling at the memory. She thought they were moving to the end of the earth, he recalls. “She cried for three months.”

“I had the privilege of teaching with Ron McLean and Marian Court,” Marchbank says, alluding to two well-respected teachers from that era. But after six years in the classroom, “I felt like I was cooped up all the time. I had to get outdoors.” Earlier he’d been an instructor with Northwest Outward Bound, and at the suggestion of famed climber Willi Unsoeld, he and Eunice had gone to Puerto Rico, where he helped train Peace Corps volunteers while she worked as a nurse.

He spent time working in the local timber industry, then became certified as a counselor, working for a time in vocational rehabilitation. Eventually Marchbank became a licensed electrician, and he operated his own electrical contracting business until six years ago.  His abiding interest in education prompted him to run for the school board, he says. He’s in the third year of his first term.

People have differing learning styles, says Marchbank. “That’s why I like project-based learning.”  It’s important “to get the thinkers to do and the doers to think,” as he puts it.

Marchbank, who lives south of Winthrop, is on the school board’s facilities committee. “We just limp along with facilities,” he says. Several years ago the district completed a facilities needs assessment. As the school buildings age, all manner of things must be replaced, from carpets to student lockers. One of the upcoming big-ticket items will be replacement of the heating and cooling system at the north end of the elementary school, he says. Of course, the biggest facilities headache for the district has been the ill-starred, leaky high school roof. But the good news is that the roof finally appears to be fixed and that the high school will be paid for by the end of this year.

“We really have a good school board,” says Marchbank. “It’s very diverse. There are no hidden agendas.”

Frank Kline Don Calvert Dana Stromberger Mary Anne Quigley