Former Seattle School Board director Marty McLaren has died

Martha “Marty” McLaren, a past West Seattle/South Park representative on the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors, has died. Ms. McLaren, a Puget Ridge resident, was 76 years old. She was a longtime educator and community advocate, but her highest-profile role was that of board member. She won election in 2011 by unseating incumbent Steve Sundquist and then four years later was unseated herself by current board member Leslie Harris. We talked with Ms. McLaren after her election in 2011; she spoke of her teaching career following her involvement with advocacy as a PTA leader while her children were in school. More details on her life are in her obituary, which we’ve just received:

Marty McLaren (Martha Louise McLaren) lived from April 23, 1944, to March 13, 2021.

In Brooklyn, New York, Marty was born into the family of her mother, Marta B. McLaren, and US Naval officer William F. McLaren. She was the fourth of six children.

In early life, she lived on the east coast of the US, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the Mojave Desert, and San Diego, and moved to the Bangor Naval Base in Kitsap County at 14. When she was 17, the family moved to Seattle, where she lived most of her adult life. She was blessed with resources to graduate from the UW and had some interesting travels in her life, to Europe in 1967, to South America in 1969, and in 2002 to Ghana.

She was married for 17 years to Ted Kehl, and together they had four beautiful children — Catherine, Andrea, who died at 18 months, Lauren, and Samuel, who died in 2019 at 37. Motherhood and children became the most important and meaningful aspects of her life.

After her divorce, Marty earned a teaching credential. She taught preschool for several years, had an eye-opening 19-month stint at Family Services Homeless Children’s Network in the mid-’90s, and went on to teach middle- and high-school mathematics.

In 1994 she moved from the family home on Capitol Hill to the newly forming Puget Ridge Cohousing Association in West Seattle. Her cohousing community became an anchor and presence in Marty’s life. As the community grew and struggled to create itself, she also grew and found herself in fertile soil for developing and extending her interests and passions. Most important, she learned to cherish the opportunity to connect with others and understand them and herself more deeply.

She was moved to advocate strenuously for a return to “sane” math curricula in K12 schools, and her activism led to her running successfully for the Seattle School Board in 2011. She served on the board through 2015 with a deep commitment to students and to dismantling structural racism.

Marty loved to dance, to sing, to bicycle, and, in later years, to row crew. She was involved in various communities that fed her thirst for spiritual connection — including the Dances of Universal Peace, and the Somatic study of the Enneagram, and earlier, St Patrick’s and St Joseph’s parishes.

She dealt with cancer in 1987, 2013, 2018, and in late 2020, learning to join an attitude of acceptance with her passion to live authentically. She was blessed most abundantly with loving, caring friends and family, who held her with great tenderness to the end of her life.

She is survived by her daughters, her grandson Tracy, her brothers Jerome, William and Alfred, her sister Georgia, and her niece Scotti. Due to COVID restrictions, there will not be a formal commemoration.

13 Replies to "Former Seattle School Board director Marty McLaren has died"

  • miws March 16, 2021 (10:50 am)

    Very sad to hear of Marty’s passing. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she was a regular customer of mine when I worked at the Seattle FilmWorks retail store in West Seattle from the late-’90s to early- ’00s. Always very pleasant to deal with. Condolences to her family… —Mike

  • Barb March 16, 2021 (10:54 am)

    Marty was also a class act and seemed to really listen with care.

  • Flyinbird March 16, 2021 (10:56 am)

    I knew Marty, she was my G.E.D testing teacher at south seattle college back in June of 2011.

  • Sally March 16, 2021 (12:06 pm)

    So sorry to hear this; condolences to all her loved ones.   Marty was a great person, and a wonderful community advocate.  I really enjoyed getting to know her through a few book club meetings.  She will be missed.  Rest in Peace, Marty. 

  • AMC March 16, 2021 (12:31 pm)

    What a beautiful life and beautiful tribute. I know she was a very staunch advocate for all public schools students and the SPS School Board benefitted greatly from her leadership.

  • Mariam Khodr March 16, 2021 (1:13 pm)

    Marty was a family friend and neighbor for years. She was dearly loved by our family. She was both my math tutor and my youngest sister’s head start teacher. When my mother was battling cancer herself from 2017 until her passing in spring of 2018, Marty’s visits and presence brought joy to my mother. My family was very sad to hear of her passing. Marty was a delight to be around, my condolences to her family and friends during this difficult time. 

  • Alf March 16, 2021 (3:23 pm)

    Marty was my tutor through High School, encouraged me and a mentor towards academic excellence. ;through undergraduate and graduate school I remembered her pearls of wisdom when tackling challenging coursework. condolence to her immediate family And her extended family at the co housing

  • Allison Carver March 16, 2021 (7:15 pm)

    Oh sweet Marty, I am so sorry to hear this. I always loved your bright presence in class, our fascinating discussions afterwards and the latest opportunity to see you after we moved to your neighborhood–usually while you were waving BLM signs in the rain. You were the embodiment of passion and community, and I am so sad I did not know you were sick. Sending love and comfort to all your family and friends. I will miss you and pray that you are surrounded by peace, justice and the arms of your precious children. <3

  • Conjunction Junction March 17, 2021 (12:24 pm)

    Thank you to Marty for her deep caring for our community as you worked with us on school issues.  I appreciated her personal touch and your smile, even when things were contentious.

  • Gerrit Kischner March 17, 2021 (4:36 pm)

    I knew Marty for over 40 years having grown up in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood with her children.   As Principal at Schmitz Park, I valued her partnership and unwavering support during (and after) her service as a School Board Director.  I could always count on her to ask sharp questions, to have ideas that challenged us all to be better (especially at math) and to put equity and justice for the neediest students first.  Rest in power, Marty.

  • Theresa Hale March 19, 2021 (10:40 am)

    I count myself as lucky to have worked with Marty while she was a School Board Director and to have remained friends after.  We enjoyed meeting up for lunch and I brought my family for a couple dinners at Puget Ridge, where we played ping pong and chatted over a delicious meal.  She was sharp, funny, caring, thoughtful and a beautiful soul.  She never lost her zest for living and seeing things with eyes of wonder.  I will miss her and our chats, she was a wonderful friend.  Goodnight sweet Marty.

  • Audrey Querns March 21, 2021 (10:03 am)

    I had the privilege to get to know Marty on SPS’ African American Male Advisory Committee a few years ago. I admired her for her commitment to her own personal growth in understanding how racism impacts Seattle’s students of color. She was clearly always listening and learning with an open heart. Within the committee, Marty took a service stance – whenever there was research to do or a letter to write, Marty was the first to volunteer her time and energy, even when she was ill.For me, Marty will be a model of how to age – approach others with kindness, always be learning and growing, and taking action to serve community, while not assuming that one already know all the answers.

  • laasya March 22, 2021 (5:20 pm)

    Marty was a school board member when I first was hired as a teacher in Seattle Public Schools at a school here in West Seattle.  She would regularly visit our staff lounge to check in with the teachers and other staff members, and it was always a pleasant conversation.  I appreciated that she wanted to listen to the perspective of educators and it helped her decision-making at the board level.

    After she lost her re-election bid, I ran into her several times in the community and she recognized me and remembered my name!

    She’ll be missed.

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