Blaineschool district to lose four long-time staffers

Published on Thu, Jun 7, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Blaine school district to lose four long-time staffers

By Jack Kintner

Four familiar faces will be retiring this month from the Blaine school district, including two teachers, a counselor and a school nurse who have a combined 83 years in service.

Mary Baker has been a school nurse for 19 years. The Spokane native earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing (BSN) from the University of Washington in 1969.

Over the years Baker has worked as a clinic nurse, in emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, as a home health nurse and has taught in the LPN program at Bellingham Technical College (BTC) and pharmacology for nursing students at Skagit Valley College. When asked what kept her at Blaine schools for so many years, she immediately responded “I love kids!” She admitted that the decision to quit was a hard one, and that every so often she thinks about maybe working a day a week, “but no, I tell myself, this is it!”

She and her husband Gary have one son, Keith, and three girls, Cary, Katie and Christy, and live on the east side of Lake Samish.

“We’re sailors,” she said, “but we recently went over to the dark side and will go back up to Desolation Sound this summer in a Bayliner 40.” Gary Baker still sails competitively in the Bellingham Etchells fleet.

As for future plans, Baker said that “We live on the deck in the summer, and besides Desolation Sound, plan a trip to Mexico in November. It’s been a lot of fun working here, and I’ll miss it.”
Detroit native Jan Burton has lived in Blaine for 34 years. She already had an undergraduate degree but returned to Western Washington University for her credentials in 1984 following some years volunteering for Blaine. She began working as a fourth grade teacher the same year her daughter Margo started first grade, in 1987. She and former Blaine mayor Tom Burton also have a son, Matt.

She enjoys teaching problem solving skills and strategies, especially in math, and encouraging her young students in reading.

She taught for ten years in the fourth grade and then another ten years in third grade.

She has enjoyed this kind of teaching she said but will not miss the paperwork. As for future plans, she said that she’s really looking forward to having more time for quilting.

Carole Liebert has been a fixture in the Blaine high school office since 1989, after serving for a half year as a counselor and as a part time attendance secretary the following year.

The youngest of 11 children, she was born on her parent’s farm in northeast Nebraska. She met former Blaine mayor and current city councilman John at Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, and married him 43 years ago. They have three boys, Jared of Richland, Noel and Jay, both living in Minnesota.

Once a certified teacher, Liebert taught a combined K-second grade for one year and another two years at Grace Lutheran School in Fargo, ND.

She was hired at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo after her boys were raised, serving as admissions director for nine years before moving to Blaine in 1987, which, for her husband John, was a move back to his home town.

Her attention to detail and friendly but firm control of the nerve center of Blaine high school will be taken over next year by former volleyball assistant coach and drama coach Laura Nelson.

After nearly four decades in Washington, Leaf Schumann still flinches a bit when admitting that his home town is in Southern California. For the past 25 years he and his wife Louise have lived on the middle fork of the Nooksack, where they raised their two boys, Jesse, 24, and Kit, 21.

For much of his career here he’s been at the primary school, counseling children kindergarten through second grade. His office is a friendly jumble of books, toys, a kid-sized couch and even a red wagon. “It’s my default position,” he said, “I like working with this age, their unabashed enthusiasm and perpetually fresh view on life.”
Schumann graduated from Pomona College with a degree in zoology in 1968. He returned to Central Washington University for his teacher’s credentials and then went to Western Washington University for his master’s degree.

He is probably best known for writing and administering the grants that produced the school district’s Family Service Center. The program addressed a variety of issues for families in the Blaine school district which, with over 40 percent of the students on a free or reduced fee lunch program, is considered to have a relatively high incidence of poverty.

He shared other visions, saying “I’d like to somehow do away with the pressure of high stakes tests like the WASL, and go to smaller, ungraded classes. The school schedule, which is designed for the convenience of adults, should be moved to start later in the day. There needs to be a lot more account given to alternate lifestyles and family models to make sure all people are included in the process.

“I think religious intrusion in the form of intelligent design, aka creationism, would be placed very close to the top of the list of looming dangers. Schools need to remember that they are charged with teaching truth, not the most recent article of faith delivered by religious zealots.

“And public education should be fearlessly funded, to the extent that if we have to pass levies then let that be to fund war.”