Jackie Merrill takes over as office manager
By Mari Kanagy, Co-Content Editor
After 12 years of working in the high school office, office manager Susan Bakker has retired, leaving Jackie Merrill to fill the position. Merrill’s new managerial position continues her extensive involvement with the island.
The application process started in November. Two months later, three applicants were interviewed by a six-person panel and tested on their spreadsheet and layout design capabilities. Merrill believes her previous involvement in Vashon schools gave her a competitive advantage in the application process.
“I was always passionate about school,” Merrill said. “I was on the PTSA for six years and was very involved that way, as well as doing staff appreciations and different fundraising events, from auctions to a harvest party. It has kind of led me … to where I am right now.”
Prior to accepting her position at the high school, Merrill coached the high school girls softball team. She was also previously employed as a manager at Island Lumber, where she worked for six years.
“In my former job, I did a lot of accounting work and managing, so [I was] managing people and working with numbers,” Merrill said. “That’s really fitting for what I’m doing now.”
Merrill’s presence in the community and within the school district began long before accepting her current position. She grew up on Maury Island, attending Vashon High School as part of the graduating class of 1988. When she was 16, Merrill broke the record for the largest salmon caught at the annual Sportsman Club fishing derby day, a record she still holds to this day. Her achievement is cataloged in “Images of America: Vashon-Maury Island” by Bruce Haulman and Jean Cammon Findlay.
Merrill’s history on the island extends beyond her own childhood roots. Her ancestry traces back to the Snow family, an original pioneer family that came to Vashon in 1886, making her a sixth-generation islander. Her predecessors also founded the Kimmel’s Grocery Store — where Herban Bloom is currently located — and IGA.
“This is a special place,” Merrill said. “People fall in love with Vashon, and I guess my ancestors fell in love with it, and I was just lucky to be brought up as part of it.”
After high school, Merrill moved off the island to attend college, eventually settling down with her family in Kitsap. It was the Vashon school system that drew them back to the island in 2008. Merrill and her husband, who graduated from Vashon High School in 1991, valued the island’s education system.
“The two of us both agreed that we wanted our kids to go through Vashon schools K-12,” Merrill said.
In 1998, Merrill and her husband bought Movie Magic, a movie rental shop located on Vashon, from Merrill’s husbands family. The two ran the business until they closed it in 2012.
“Every single day somebody says to me, ‘Oh, I miss your movies,’ or ‘Oh, I miss the coffee,’ so I do miss the glory days [of the business],” Merrill said. “Everybody’s time just got absorbed in the internet and checking emails and Facebook. It literally changed overnight from being a huge booming business to ‘Where’d everybody go?’”
Despite the business’ difficulties, Merrill still recognizes the value that the store held within the community.
“It made for family tradition,” Merrill said. “We would have a lot of regulars either on Fridays or Saturday nights. They’d come in as a family. They’d pick their movies. They’d watch them as a family, and it was like a routine or a ritual.”
Part of Merrill’s experience working with high school students can be traced back to her ownership of Movie Magic, where she employed a large number of teenagers.
“It was a great opportunity for them to learn customer service, cashiering, and retail,” Merrill said, also noting that many gained confidence as well.
Now in her new position as office manager, some challenges presented themselves: her training session was cut short due to extensive snowfall in February, and she has had to learn a brand new skill set — particularly memorizing the budget codes.
“There’s the ASB fund, the general fund, the athletics fund, and every one of those has a budget code associated with it,” she sad. “It will take two years to really have a good feel for that, and I want it to be overnight.”
Merrill has come to appreciate a more flexible schedule in comparison to her previous jobs. She is also grateful for the opportunity the job provides in working with high school students and each of her colleagues.
“Everybody from here to the other schools to the district office [has given] such huge support,” Merrill said. “I can’t say how helpful it is to have that support.”