Charles Gibson retires from Blaine school board after 17 years


When longstanding Blaine school board member Charles Gibson and his wife Margaret moved across town in 2023, the couple ended up in District 5, Don Leu’s board district. Since 2020, when Leu was elected to the board, the two had bounced ideas off one another on how best to serve the children of Blaine public schools. Now, only one could be elected to serve the District 5 board seat. A “bitter” political battle ensued for the next several months.

“You run,” Leu would say to Gibson.

“No, you run,” Gibson would respond to Leu.

Finally, Gibson – a 17-year veteran of the school board – convinced Leu to run unopposed for the seat. Gibson saw the opportunity as a way to get new faces and fresh perspectives onto the board. For Leu, it was the end of an era of steady, even-handed leadership in a political arena that seems to grow evermore polarizing.

“That is what I aspire to,” Leu said of Gibson. “Because I think that is what’s required in today’s time when there is a lot of misinformation, miscommunication, misunderstanding, and mis-appreciation of what the schools are doing and how we function.”

After nearly two decades serving the school board through budget cutbacks, a pandemic and a rapidly changing world for children, Gibson said he won’t be sitting around playing golf in his retirement.

Gibson is currently in the weeds of creating a foundation to continue his crusade of support for public education in Blaine.

The Peace Arch Education Foundation is set to be Blaine’s first education nonprofit, something that Gibson said most other school districts in Washington have access to. With the school district experiencing staffing cutbacks due to budgetary restraints, Gibson said he saw the strain the district is in as an opportunity to provide relief, and continuing opportunities for the children of Blaine and Birch Bay.

“Education is the great equalizer in our country, I’m a strong believer in that,” Gibson said. “Education really gives every child, every family, an opportunity to get out of the rut that sometimes families are in.”

While not a teacher himself, all four of Gibson’s children graduated from Blaine public schools and Gibson established himself in the community as pastor of Northwood Alliance Church in Blaine where he served a congregation of 100 people for 25 years. Before Gibson and his wife moved to Blaine, they lived in New Mexico where he worked as executive director for New Mexico Boys Ranch, a residential child care facility for adolescent boys.

Like the three newly elected school board members sworn in this past month, Gibson was once just like them, learning the ropes of an immensely intricate – and delicate – funding system. Gibson said he thought he was prepared for the complexity of running a school district from his time at the New Mexico Boys Ranch. He was wrong.

“I was used to running a large nonprofit with four different campuses around the state of New Mexico,” Gibson said. “So I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it’s like to oversee complexity. I learned quickly how complex a school district is.”

A lifetime devoted to helping others brought Gibson to Blaine, then Northwood Alliance Church, then the school board and finally to Peace Arch Education Foundation.

Gibson knows as well as anyone the bind that the school district is currently in with dwindling enrollment and its cascading effect on dwindling funding. That’s where he hopes the foundation can step in and fill some cracks.

With upcoming school levy and bond measures set for the February special election, Gibson knows that the public wants well-funded, effective schools, but that not everything is guaranteed to pass.

“There’s always been good support for the schools, and levies in particular,” Gibson said. “Bonds; sometimes they pass, sometimes they don’t. But people see the schools as a real central point of good things for the community.”

The school district keeps on moving, for the first time in 17 years, without Gibson. For Leu, a retired professor and scholar of pedagogy, Gibson was valuable to the board because of not only his care for the community and its children, but because of his level-headed leadership capabilities.

“When Charles spoke, I always listened because I knew it was the voice of informed reason, and I wanted to hear it,” Leu said. “He’s just absolutely passionate about providing the very best upbringing for the children in Blaine schools.”

That passion didn’t go anywhere. Gibson said he just knew it was time to pass the torch. For nearly two decades, he balanced leading a flock of parishioners at Northwood and the rabble of a school district. Gibson said he chalks it up to simple perseverance.

“It baffles me,” Gibson said looking back on his time devoted to the school district and the church. “I guess one of my characteristics is perseverance. I do think that if you started something, you persevere and see it through as best you can.”

Even after their time on the board together ended, Leu and Gibson still hold periodical chats about the state of the district and the community. It was from those phone calls that Leu said he started learning how to help run a school board.

“So much of what I know, Charles taught me,” Leu said. “He’s an incredibly valuable resource for our community in so many ways.”

The Peace Arch Education Foundation’s first founders banquet is tentatively scheduled for March, Gibson said, and those who want to know more or how to help can contact Gibson at


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