Brennan Bailey, a 2008 W.F. West graduate who has served the last 10 years as a director on the Chehalis School Board, recently resigned and was honored with a plaque of appreciation and other recognition by the board at a meeting Tuesday evening.
Fellow board members and staff took turns giving Bailey hugs and congratulating the 31-year-old, who recently moved out of his director district and is finishing up a principal certification this May from Saint Martin’s University.
Bailey’s seat representing Director District No. 2 is one of three that will be up for reelection this year.
“I’m kind of moving into a new career path and I was just not up for an election moving into a new career path. It was really hard and I did mull it over for a while,” Bailey said.
A first grade teacher at Toledo Elementary School, Bailey is also raising 15-month-old twins. Before falling head over heels for education, he was a former real estate broker and managed his own company in his early 20s.
“I would like to thank you for your service, your leadership, your support for each and every student at Chehalis School District,” said Superintendent Christine Moloney during a presentation in front of board members and attendees. “You’ve put students first in your actions and have sometimes made hard decisions. ... You have helped make Chehalis School District a wonderful place to be and we are grateful for your service.”
Bailey, who was vice president of his class back in high school, said he has always been interested in public service. He said he would attend board meetings every once and a while as a student and the process always interested him.
“I was sitting there and just them talking about the policies that were affecting me as a student,” he said. “Before, you know, you always think it’s the principal, that’s the one telling you everything. But then you go into this room, and there was five people who were on the board, there was the superintendent, the district — it was fascinating to me.”
He secured the seat in January 2012 at 21 years old. He was, from the time he arrived to the time he left, the youngest member serving on the school board.
Being entrenched in the process of district policy making and getting involved in what was going on with students at schools jump started his fascination with education as a career field, he said. From the robotics team, to assemblies, to the kindergartener Best Bus Driver of the Year award, he, as a board member, thoroughly enjoyed every showcase students made to the board.
“Those were always my favorite and that inspired me to become a teacher in the first place,” Bailey said.
The event that pushed him over the edge was in October 2013.
Jon Kitna, a former NFL quarterback and Seahawks player, spoke to the board during a conference. Kitna had recently transitioned out of retirement to be a math teacher at Lincoln High School, and spoke during a keynote address about how he felt he was making such a difference, Bailey recalled.
“I still remember walking out of there, going up to my room and telling my wife, ‘I’m gonna be a teacher,’” he recalled.
That November, he applied for a teaching program at Western Governors University. He sold his realty business in just a couple months.
He taught at schools in Longview and Toledo before taking leave to earn a master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University.
After Harvard, he jumped into his program at Saint Martin’s last July.
Bailey said he loves his job teaching first grade in Toledo and isn’t seeking out an administrative position at the moment. He’s waiting for the perfect opportunity for him and his family, perhaps somewhere close.
“I love my colleagues, I love my first graders. You could come into that school and just be cranky as all get out, you got up at 3 in the morning and you’re tired, and yet that kid that is this tall comes in and tells you the silliest story you’ve ever heard and you’ve just gotta smile. It’s going to be hard to leave,” he said.
But, he said, even leaving his Chehalis School Board family has been an emotional process.
Bailey submitted his letter to the school board on April 8. The legislating body will have 90 days to appoint Bailey’s replacement. If not, that responsibility falls on the Capital Region Educational Services District, Moloney said.
Whoever is appointed to the remainder of Bailey’s term will need to file in May to run in November’s general election if they hope to retain the position.
Qualified applicants need to be a registered voter residing in Director District No. 2, which encompasses most of the southern downtown area that hugs up against Interstate 5.
During the meeting Tuesday, Board Member J. Vander Stoep voiced approval for bringing forward a ballot initiative to the voters to ask them to strike the clause that restricts candidates from running for director districts they don’t reside in, effectively making all seats at-large.