WENATCHEE — Karina Vega-Villa, an Ecuadorian American scientist, educator and community leader whose “passion is building bridges to connect people and resources,” has been chosen as the fifth Wenatchee School Board member.
She was selected Friday evening by the four sitting board members following a round of interviews with five finalists. The appointment will become official when she is sworn in at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
She will serve out the year remaining in the term of Dr. Walter Newman who resigned in November after serving on the board for 11 years. The post will be up for election this fall.
Vega-Villa is an adjunct biology instructor and program director for the Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement Program (MESA) at Wenatchee Valley College. MESA offers academic and professional support services to qualifying students who intend to transfer to four-year universities in pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors.
She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho and a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences from Washington State University.
Vega-Villa, who has been involved in the PTSO at Lewis and Clark Elementary School as the community outreach liaison, said she would like to see better outreach to the community at large, including helping parents understand the education system.
“I’m committed to helping the future of our community and our state. I believe that education opens the door for opportunity and I want to be part of making that happen here,” she said. “I want to be involved in the school board because I believe representation matters. Growing up, I had role models I could look up to, but Latinas and Latinos attending schools in Washington state face different circumstances. They have fewer role models and professional leaders to look up to. I want to empower students so they can advocate for themselves.”
The call for community members interested in serving on the board drew 14 applicants. That complete list, which has not been released to the public, was reviewed in closed session Wednesday, with the final five invited to interview.
The other interviewees included:
Martin Barron, the retired former director of finance for Pipkin Construction, vice president of Dole Northwest, controller of Dole Ecuador, operations manager Latin America Production Logistics.
J’Lene George, a WVC psychology professor.
Alma Chacon, a leader in the Latino community and educator with 30-plus years of experience. She currently contracts with the state superintendent’s office to assist school districts with program and curriculum reviews, training and coaching.
Emi W. England, mother of five children and a school volunteer with a background in accounting, including working for a Fortune 500 company.
Vega-Villa’s appointment makes this the first time in the district’s history that the board of directors is entirely female.
“Looking at the records, this would be a first,” Superintendent Brian Flones said of the all-woman board, a change from last century. Records of past boards show it was all-male from 1900 to 1940, he said.
The 20-minute structured interview process on Friday provided the applicants time for a 3-minute introduction and time to answer the same four questions addressing:
Board communication with the public.
The district’s strengths and challenges.
Whether they had a specific agenda as a board member.
Availability given the board’s upcoming time-consuming tasks of budget balancing and search for a new superintendent. Flones is stepping down in August.
All five of the applicants were highly qualified for the position, making it a difficult decision, said Board President Sunny Hemphill.
“In the end, Karina impressed us all with her background and work in the community as an advocate — we’re very happy to welcome her.”