Blaine school board member Pebble Griffin resigns
By Jack Kintner
Local educator Pebble Griffin, 71, resigned last month after serving on the Blaine school board for 11 years, capping a 37-year career in public education. She served as a teacher in the Blaine and Bellingham school districts, as an administrator in Blaine, and as lobbyist in Olympia and Washington, D.C. as well as being a part of the Washington Education Association (WEA) Peer Support System.
“It’s a good time to go, with (Blaine superintendent) Ron Spanjer settled in and the board in between projects,” said the Virginia-born coal miner’s daughter. She first settled in the Northwest as a child when her father, Kemper Mullins, left coal mining to work as a logger in Packwood, Washington, near Mount Rainier.
“Mom worked in the Packwood Cafe,” she said, “and we lived in a house Dad built, eating a lot of wild game and canned vegetables.”
Griffin attended school in Packwood but transferred to Renton High School before her sophomore year. The transition from a small rural school to one in the bustling suburbs of Seattle “was a total shock,” she says, “and I found myself saying that if I dig deep enough I will survive this.”
Graduating from an accredited high school, however, made it possible for Griffin to attend college, one of the reasons her parents moved their family to Renton. College had to wait, though.
While singing in the choir at the local Methodist Church she met and eventually married tenor Jack Griffin, and this October 26 they’ll celebrate 52 years together, although neither one wants a fuss made.
After some years in Renton the couple moved to Bellingham in 1966. Jack began work at Western Washington University (WWU) for administrator and former state senator Barney Goltz while Pebble began attending classes leading to a degree in education and speech in 1971. Jack continued singing as a founding member of the Whatcom chorale.
Griffin graduated in 1971 and was hired to teach kindergarten in Blaine. Eight years later she moved to the middle school where she taught reading, and in 1981 was appointed vice-principal, not her favorite job, she said.
In 1984 she moved on to teach reading and eighth grade core at Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham. The couple moved to Blaine in 1992 and she retired the next year but remained active as a part of the WEA’s Peer Support System that she began while still at Shuksan.
In 1997 she got a call from school board member Betty Nunnamaker asking her if she would be interested in running for an open board position, and began service that fall.
“We have done our best work when it has been time to hire a new superintendent,” she said, having participated in hiring both Mary Lynne Derrington in 2003 and Spanjer two years ago. She said that she appreciates the consensus style the board uses.
Two experienced board members she singled out as good role models were Nunamaker and long-time member Mike Dodd, and in 2004 both she and fellow board member Barry Hull were both selected as outstanding WWU alums for their work in public education.
Griffin said that having lived just two houses down from Bellingham’s legendary political activist Kitty Stimpson gave her a good grounding in local politics, something both Griffins are passionate about.
“My dad was a Virginia coal miner and a big fan of (coal mining labor organizer) John L. Lewis,” said Pebble, who was politically active at WWU as well, demonstrating against the war in Viet Nam.
“We were looked at a little sideways by some,” she said, “since Dad once traveled to Russia as a member of the Soviet-American Friendship Committee.”
In terms of issues facing the board, Griffin said that the “No Child Left Behind” program introduced by the Bush administration is really a thinly veiled attack on public education itself.
“I mean, do people really believe what the results show, that virtually all the middle schools in Whatcom County are somehow deficient? Could it be that the federal No Child program itself is flawed?
“And these are rich schools compared to some of the ones in inner cities that stand to lose all their Title One (federal) funding. It’s not improving things, it’s a way of not having to fund some of the really needy situations,” said Griffin, “and is a real threat to public education.”
Griffin said she looks forward to spending a lot more time with family, sons Jeff in Sammamish and Mike in Blaine, and their three “wonderful grandchildren, Paige, 15, Tyler, 14, and Kai, 12 and a Blaine seventh grader. Spending time with them, their parents and other family is a high priority.”
Other than cleaning closets, she laughed, “some of the things I would like to spend more time doing now that I’m off the board are reading for pleasure, pursuing my hobbies of photography and card making, raising African Violets, traveling, and doing some form of volunteer work.”