The year was 1995. A new search engine called Yahoo! had recently launched. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl, and Forrest Gump took home the Academy Award for Best Picture.

That year, Vancouver Public Schools’ board of directors gained a gracious, humble and joyful advocate in Mari Greves. A longtime volunteer in her children’s schools, Mari brought to the board a keen sense of equity and an appetite for making VPS a better place. Perhaps no one has seen those traits displayed more often than her fellow board members. Here’s Vice President Edri Geiger.

She’s always interested in how we serve all children, not a specific group of children. And she brings with that a passion and critical questions, and she’s always sharing.

Thanks to Mari’s leadership and the hard work of the VPS staff, the district’s progress during her tenure has been transformative, says President Mark Stoker:

I think she leaves behind a legacy of some real, intentional, deliberate, transformational change for our school district, really bringing it into the 21st century and leaving it in very good hands going forward.

What we—the board, staff, students, parents and community—have accomplished during the last 20 years is an incredible story that includes:

  • Maintaining a 50-year history of voter support for local maintenance and operations levies, a record unmatched in the state as far as we know
  • Thirty school construction and renovation projects
  • More than $3 million in assets for the Foundation for VPS
  • Programs of choice at all grade levels
  • Digital technology in classrooms and schools, including the early stages of a community-approved digital transformation that will bring one-to-one technology to all students in grades three through 12
  • Enhanced instructional quality through a long-term commitment to cultivating a highly professional, dedicated workforce
  • Award-winning Family-Community Resource Centers in 13 poverty-impacted schools
  • Magna Award–winning Kindergarten Jump Start and full-day kindergarten in all 21 elementary schools
  • Educational policies that address the needs of all children, not just those who come from advantaged backgrounds
  • A track record of managing the district through the Great Recession in a fiscally responsible manner so that VPS was able to preserve its core mission and continue to pursue its strategic vision
  • And two Board of the Year titles from the Washington State School Directors’ Association, five Board of Distinction recognitions and a Special Merit Award

But now Mari is beginning a new chapter—retirement. Recently she reflected on her school board career:

I am in awe of the talent that is in this district, and the people who care so deeply about kids, and our students, and make a difference all the time.

I’ve learned from each one of my fellow board members. I’ve had great opportunities to work with some of the best minds you could ever be around.

For me, working with Mari has been one of the highlights of my career, and I know many others feel similarly. So thank you, Mari, for everything.

I’ll close with a poem inspired by one of Mari’s favorite books: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, by Dr. Seuss.

Oh, the places you will go, Mari Greves!

There are places you will go, now that you’re done.
But think of all the things that were done that were fun!

You’ve helped thousands of kids year after year.
They’re happier and smarter because you were here!

Schools were built and levies were passed.
You approved programs for learning that will last and last.

Technology came here 20 years ago.
The laptops and tablets are great, you know.

You dedicated yourself. You smiled and volunteered.
You listened; you praised; you always cheered.

Yes, things are better because of you.
Twenty years later, this is true.

We could not replace you exactly if we tried.
We’re glad we had you on the board. It’s been a great ride.

Now it’s time for us to say thank you!
We appreciate you! We’ll miss you! We bid you adieu!

Image: Steve signature