Photo courtesy SPS: Eden Mack
Photo courtesy SPS: Eden Mack

Seattle School Board District IV Director Eden Mack announced her resignation from the board in a letter Thursday afternoon, citing an “ongoing systemic dysfunction” in the school district caused by lack of funding, high turn over and overcrowded classrooms.

Seattle Public Schools Lead Media Relations Specialist Tim Robinson confirmed Mack’s resignation.

Mack was elected in 2017 to a four-year term representing District IV, which includes Queen Anne and Magnolia.

In her letter sent to Superintendent Denise Juneau and her colleagues on the School Board, Mack said she is no longer willing to spend so much time away from her family trying to fix a “broken system” that does not provide everything the district needs, such as reasonable class sizes, curriculum and materials, mental health supports and full-time nurses.

“Nor can I sit through another meeting where we talk about implementing changes to protect students from harm but the administrative and policy changes that are needed are pushed off,” Mack said in her letter.

She said the School Board members, comprised of all volunteers, are not equipped to oversee an “underfunded $1 billion budget” nor hire or manage a superintendent “to do this impossible job.”

“The chronic underfunding for decades has been deeply damaging,” Mack said in her letter. “No one person is responsible for this mess, but we have a dysfunctional culture that even after multiple audits and recommendations and attempts to change policy and practices, there continue[s] to be scandals and lawsuits and students are being harmed. I don’t believe another change in Superintendents will fix it, nor will the next election. I can’t stress this emphatically enough. We need an intervention.”

Mack stated she believes state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s office needs to intervene to solve the problem.

“The massive gap between the true cost of providing basic education in an urban school district and what the State provides is not imaginary,” Mack said in her letter. “We need a full audit of the governance, management, and financial structure, and then the resources and political will from the State to implement needed changes and close the funding gap.”

She also suggested making School Board positions paid and full time, with required trainings and adequate staff.

According to her letter, Mack does not intend to step away from public education reform forever, citing a desire to help solve the systemic failings after taking the time to “reengage” with her family.

Magnolia resident and Community Council member Janis Traven said she was disappointed when she heard that Mack had resigned because she was convinced Mack would be able to improve the school system.

“I really think that she’s a person, of all the people I’ve known who’ve run for school board, I really thought she was a person who could make the impossible possible because she really had all the tools to do it, and it’s pretty frustrating that there are so many systemic problems that, again, have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Traven said. “It seems like the schools should be focused on scucess, and it just keeps getting more challenging. So I hope that it’s a wake up call and that her action has a positive effect. I’m sorry to see her go.”

Prior to serving on the School Board, Mack served as legislative chair for the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations, and, in 2015, founded Washington’s Paramount Duty, a grassroots organization aimed at pressuring the state to fully fund education.

“Director Eden Mack is a tireless and long-standing advocate for public education and the students of Seattle,” according to a statement from the SPS Board of Directors. “For the past three years, she has focused on implementing significant improvements to district operations. Her personal integrity and commitment to ensuring the success of all children and families have made her a valued colleague. We have been grateful for her wisdom and expertise and all look forward to continuing to partner with Ms. Mack, even as she steps away from the board. We thank her for her service.”

According to SPS procedure, in the event of a board member stepping down, the School Board will accept the resignation at its next regular meeting, which is slated for today. At the meeting, the board members may discuss plans to fill the Mack’s vacant seat. Typically, in the case of a vacancy, the School Board appoints a new member after receiving applications from interested community members. The appointed member would then serve until the board’s next regular election, at which time that person may choose to run for a new term as Mack’s term was set to expire this year.