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Originally published Monday, May 6, 2013 at 9:02 PM

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Seattle School Board leader seeking state post

Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum says she’s interested in state education policy, too, and if picked for the state board would have to choose between it and her present position .

Seattle Times education reporter

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Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum is quietly pursuing a post on the Washington State Board of Education, saying she’s interested in changing state education policy and may want a position that wouldn’t require as much time as serving on Seattle’s board.

Smith-Blum hadn’t wanted her candidacy known publicly. She said she applied just before the deadline about a week ago, and hadn’t even told her fellow board members.

But Monday, news started to spread that she is one of six finalists for a vacant seat on the state board that may be filled as early as this week.

By state law, Smith-Blum can’t serve on both bodies at once. If she is offered the state board job, she would have to resign from the Seattle School Board to take it.

Smith-Blum said she applied for the post as a way to position herself to be a candidate for other state board posts that won’t be open until after her term on the Seattle School Board ends.

“It was communicated to me that they would look at candidates with the long run in mind,” she said.

She said she was surprised and flattered to be a finalist for the current opening.

If selected, she said, she hasn’t decided what she’ll do.

She also hasn’t made up her mind whether she’ll instead seek a second term on the Seattle School Board.

She is one of three board members whose terms will expire this year.

The other two are Betty Patu, who is running for a second term, and two-term member Michael DeBell, who has said he won’t seek a third term.

What Smith-Blum decides about Seattle and the state board depends on a number of factors — everything from how much time she wants to commit to school issues to some possible business opportunities that have come up for the Butch Blum clothing store she owns with her husband in downtown Seattle.

“I have a lot going on,” she said, “and I’ve been very reflective about whether or not I can commit another four years at the level of commitment that I have been happy to make these last four years.”

She said she remains very interested in Seattle schools, but also thinks that state policy needs to change to reflect what’s happened with technology and the global marketplace.

“There are some critical things that our students need to be competent at doing and understanding that literally didn’t exist five years ago,” she said.

“That’s going to take great change and it’s going to take a lot of tenacious voices, and if nothing else, I’m tenacious.”

The state board’s responsibilities include setting state graduation requirements, creating and administering a school performance index, and overseeing some charter-school policies.

The other five finalists for the state board post include former Seattle School Board member Peter Maier as well as Sue Corey, Angela Griffin, Fred O’Neal and Bill Williams.

The finalists will be interviewed Tuesday by four state board members who hold the positions elected by members of the Washington State School Directors Association. Those four will select one of the finalists, who will then go before the full board for approval.

The state board is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday, then again in June.

Smith-Blum was elected to the Seattle School Board in 2009, representing the Central Area, Capitol Hill and part of downtown Seattle.

She was elected president in December in a 4-3 vote that reflected a split between older and newer members of the board on a number of issues.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @LShawST

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