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Thursday, December 7, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Chow picked to head Seattle School Board

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle School Board elected Cheryl Chow as its new president Wednesday night by a 7-0 vote.

Chow, a former principal and Seattle City Council member, was elected to the School Board in 2005 and has served as vice president for the past year. She represents the city's southeast corner.

Member Darlene Flynn was elected vice president.

The election followed a short speech in defense of the district by outgoing President Brita Butler-Wall. The School Board has been under intense public scrutiny for the past month and a half, since it abruptly turned from a controversial school-closure plan following a raucous public meeting and Superintendent Raj Manhas announced he would step down at the end of next summer.

A state legislator plans to introduce a bill to switch to an appointed School Board, and Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed appointing former Mayor Norm Rice as interim superintendent.

Butler-Wall rejected both ideas.

"The district is in better shape than we have been in at least the last 10 years," she said, citing academic gains on the state Washington Assessment of Student Learning, a growing budget surplus, and improved water and air quality in schools.

Later Wednesday, the board was expected to discuss continuing its contracted yellow-bus service with First Student and Laidlaw Transportation Services.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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