When Janie Beasley speaks, whether in English or Lushootseed, people listen.
In fact, her ability to speak – and listen – to a broad base of La Conner area constituents has long been a trademark of the incumbent La Conner School District Board Director, who currently chairs the five-member panel. Beasley, a La Conner High alum, is often called upon to deliver bi-lingual messages during local special events, both at school and off-campus. Thus, she knows well the importance of effective communication. That was put to the test this sping and summer as Beasley and the Board conducted long and often tense meetings focused on public and staff concerns over the leadership of second-year Superintendent Dr. Whitney Meissner, whose contract was ultimately renewed amid vows of improved relations going forward. “I am definitely glad for the staff and community participation,” said Beasley. “That’s not something we as a Board have experienced previously.” Beasley repeatedly stresses the need for school district officials to keep open lines of communication with staff and the public, she told the Weekly News last week, in order “to make the school the best it can be to serve all our students in being successful and able to continue on to higher education.” Beasley, who hails from a family with a long tradition of leadership at La Conner schools, is seeking re-election this fall to the Board’s Swinomish director district seat. She is being challenged by Swinomish nurse and health care advocate Marlys Baker, profiled in the Weekly News Sept. 25. Beasley has served 15 years on the La Conner School Board, succeeding her sister, the late Susan Wilbur, the first Native American to fill that role. “I have served on the Board since 2004, when my sister passed away,” Beasley said. “She was the first Native to serve on the Board and she did so for 20 years.” Beasley’s tenure has coincided with much change within the district, including revised curricula to meet a more technology-based economy, construction of a new middle school building and assorted revenue and finance matters related to decisions handed down by lawmakers and the courts. “Changes are hard for many people to adjust to,” Beasley acknowledged, while assessing key challenges facing the school district, “and we’ve had many changes in personnel and changes regarding taxes since the Great Wolf Lodge decision.” What hasn’t changed, said Beasley, is the long-held personal commitment she feels toward her alma mater and its students. “I know the history of the school,” she noted, “and the relationships between the (Swinomish) Tribe and the school and I know many of the staff members’ families, as well as all the students who have come through the system.” Her appreciation of La Conner schools’ history is balanced by Beasley’s penchant for living in the moment, making every day count. On that score, over the years, she has been named to a host of boards and committees in Skagit County, helping craft policy in areas ranging from economic and curriculum development to environmental and women’s issues. That’s not all. “I also serve on the Swinomish Tribe’s Planning Commission and the Protect Mother Earth Committee,” said Beasley, “as well as the Northwest Indian College Advisory Group.” Those full, time-consuming schedules haven’t gone unnoticed. “I like to think of myself as being busy,” Beasley’s fellow school board member, attorney Kate Szurek said, “but Janie stays really busy.” After earning her La Conner High diploma, Beasley attended Seattle Central Community College. She also joined the U.S, Navy Reserves, which has led to Beasley’s regular participation in annual Swinomish Memorial Day ceremonies. An executive assistant in the enrollment office with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Beasley has a 25-year work history in Skagit County, and is a 2007 graduate of the highly-touted Leadership Skagit program. She and her husband, Troy, resided 16 years in Anacortes. They now make their home on Reservation Lane between Snee-Oosh and Reservation roads. They’re glad to be back. “I grew up in a family of 10 and we all attended La Conner schools,” Beasley said, “and our children as well as their children have and are attending La Conner schools. Our parents also attended La Conner schools. All were involved in leadership and sports.” Beasley is grateful to be part of that legacy. “What I’m most proud of is being there to represent the students and to work with the many people who have the same passion for our community.”