Phillips contributes to numerous school activities
By Klara Plenk, Reporter
From athletic secretary to main office worker, bus driver to club leader, commercial driving instructor to longstanding school district employee, Char Phillips has come to head a wide variety of high school jobs and activities.
Phillips’ journey began in Everett, Washington, where she grew up. She attended both Washington State University and Central Washington University to pursue a Degree in Recreation and a minor in Art and Physiology. Following college, Phillips held a variety of jobs, including ski instructor, boarding ranch caretaker, and camp counselor.
In 1981, Phillips moved to the island. While she initially worked as a carpenter and in a grocery store off-island, the long commute quickly prompted her to begin looking for a local job.
“As soon as I got here … [some] parents … talked me into becoming a bus driver,” Phillips said. “I thought it was kind of fun to work at the school, so when my son was in fifth grade I got hired … [at] McMurray as an Athletic Secretary.”
After three years, Phillips switched to the same job at the high school. Phillips works in the main office, greeting and dealing with students, faculty, and community members.
In addition to her job at the school office, Phillips teaches a class on driving school buses.
“Any district employee that wants to drive children [has] to take my class. [I] do all the paperwork for them [to get certified],” Phillips said.
While balancing both these occupations can be difficult, Phillips never regrets moving to the island.
“The island is a very comfortable, friendly, and safe place,” Phillips said.
Apart from her jobs with the school, Phillips runs many outside activities, including ASB Outdoor Club, the Vashon Maury Horse Association, and Vashon Ski School. Perhaps most impressively, Phillips is responsible for the creation of a Guide Dog training program on the island.
The Vashon division of Guide Dogs — which is part of a larger organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind — has raised over 135 puppies, 22 of them in Phillip’s house. Once a week, the club meets and Phillips teaches the participants how to train a guide dog. The connection Phillips creates between the members of the Guide Dogs club is powerful.
“The guide dogs kids … have the dogs for a whole year,” Phillips said. “That’s why we talk about … the guide dogs program [as a] big family.”
Phillips’ dedication to the club is reflected in her students’ opinions of her.
“Char is an amazing woman,” club member River Gregorich said. “She is a busy lady [and yet] she always has the time to make every project extraordinary.”
Phillips also organizes the ASB Outdoor club, which is open to all students. The club’s monthly outings include hiking, campouts, and ski trips, among others. When asked why she feels so passionate about the club, she named her love for outdoors.
“We go on these adventures, [and] that’s something I would do anyway,” Phillips said.
Her role is not just limited to the district. Her position as president of the Vashon Maury Horse Association puts Phillips in charge of running meetings about improvements for Paradise Ridge Park, possible horse shows, and its financial management. Phillips was drawn to this work due to her love of animals.
“I have always been animal crazy,” Phillips said. “I started collecting animals before I could talk … Horses [were] for a long time my passion, and I loved it.”
Phillips also serves as the co-president for the Vashon Ski School, a group that organizes ski lessons and bus trips to Snoqualmie Pass each winter.
Despite her busy schedule, Phillips still manages to find outside time for her own activities.
Currently, Phillips lives with her husband, one cat, two horses, and three dogs. Though she is 67, Phillips plans to work as long as possible in order to save money to travel the world.
“If you stay active, you stay young,” Phillips said.