BREMERTON — Three hundred eighty one people celebrated their last days at Central Kitsap High School on June 8.
Three hundred and eighty were graduating seniors.
The last person was their principal, Steve Coons.
Into a fairgrounds pavilion filled to capacity with family and friends, the 380 seniors proceeded in to the music of the CKHS Symphony Orchestra directed by Michael Woods, and stood for the presentation of the colors by the Naval Hospital Bremerton Color Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by the CKHS Choir, directed by Alicia Rodenko.
The greetings and welcoming remarks by salutatorians Katelyn Downey, Caleb Giesbrecht, Alex Johnson, Britton Laing, Kendall Massey and Lyndsey Richmond set the tone of farewell, looking back —sometimes humorously — at their school years. (Salutatorians and valedictorians are selected by the faculty based on four criteria: GPA, difficulty of their course of study, the breadth of their activities and, finally, testing scores, Coons said.)
This was followed by the orchestra’s performance of “Kirkpatrick Fanfare.”
Then, Principal Coons was introduced to review the special honors and awards. And, as one, the entire graduating class rose to their feet and applauded.
“His voice got a little scratchy after that,” Superintendent David McVicker said afterward.
Following a speech by senior class speaker Rhys Miller and a chorale arrangement of “Over the Rainbow,” Coons presented the senior class to McVicker for acceptance, having completed the requirements for graduation.
As the soon-to-be graduates paraded up, row by row, proud family members raised their smartphones aloft to capture the moment their graduate was presented with a diploma by one of the members of the school board: Eric Greene, Rob MacDermid, Bruce Richards, Jeanie Schulze or Scott Woehrman.
Then, the class valedictorians — Luke Arnold, Ben Huang and Daniel Sierman — brought the formal program to a close, speaking fittingly about the future.
While the students didn’t know what their future holds, Principal Coons had a pretty good idea of his — at least for the next few years. Next year, he will be working part-time in the district, helping lead construction of the new CKHS high school and assuming the responsibilities of district athletic director.
For Coons, this graduation ceremony — his ninth — marked both a new beginning and the end of an era.
Coons has worked at CKHS for 17 years. He started as a teacher, became assistant principal, and for the past nine years has been principal. He will be succeeded by co-principals Gail Danner, a nine-year veteran at CKHS; and Craig Johnson, an Olympia High School alum. Currently, Danner and Johnson are the school’s vice principals.
Coons will be back for next year’s graduation — but as a proud parent. His son, Warren, will graduate from CKHS in 2018.
“I won’t be in his way his senior year,” Coons said. “I’m transitioning into the role of parent.”
Coons received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1988. After completing his teaching certificate and teaching high school social studies, German, and ESL for nine years in California, he moved to the Pacific Northwest where he was hired in Central Kitsap as a teacher in 1999. He served as assistant principal at Ridgetop and Central Kitsap before becoming Central Kitsap’s principal in 2008.
“I am proud of the entire CKHS community for maintaining a culture of high expectations and positive climate at CKHS,” he said. “It is the heartbeat of what makes us click. With positive, real, and honest open relationships, we have built a high-octane learning environment propelled by great families, teachers and students who thirst for knowledge. What’s also great, is that the students genuinely like each other and support and encourage one another as well.
“I have loved almost every minute of teaching in and leading Central Kitsap High School. It has been a decade and a half filled with hopes and dreams, challenges and successes, and I am extremely proud of the students, families, staff and our wider school community who have supported us, not only to national recognition year over year, but also to this point of re-invention.
“I think the future is extremely bright for our school. With a new building and a 21st century infrastructure and campus, the sky is the limit for the generations that are about to come through Central Kitsap High School. Though ‘old CKHS’ has served us phenomenally well since 1924, this community and our students deserve the next page of the historical scrolls that will make up Central Kitsap’s legacy. We have set the stage for that, and left it in good hands for the future.”