PORT ORCHARD — The election contest to replace Keith Garton as District 2 director on the South Kitsap School District’s board of directors will be decided by voters in November between two challengers: John R. Berg and Glenny Compton.
Berg and Compton finished one-two in the primary election in August, edging out Robert Lamb for a chance to face each other in the November general election. Berg tallied 3,949 votes, more than 1,000 votes in front of Compton. She received 2,933 votes, well ahead of Lamb’s 2,266 vote total.
Berg is a professional registered parliamentarian and a consultant on running meetings and organizations. He’s also a retired real estate appraiser and deputy county assessor, with elected experience as a precinct committee officer.
Compton, a political candidate newcomer, is an instruction and classroom technician for the medical assisting program at Olympic College. She also previously worked as a machinist in the apprentice program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Compton was asked to share her views about running for the school board seat in an interview with the Independent. But after initially agreeing to participate, she didn’t respond to follow-up phone calls.
Berg did respond and participate. He offered his thoughts on why he’s running to become a school board member and disclosed what issues should be prioritized by the board after the general election.
He is running for the District 2 directorship, Berg said, because his background as a parliamentarian and appraiser are skills he said would be beneficial to South Kitsap School District. But his curiosity about how the school board operates and being the grandfather to three South Kitsap students were the motivating factors in his decision to run for the seat.
“As a professional parliamentarian, I was curious about how the school board was operating,” Berg said. “So, a year ago last June, I showed up at a school board meeting. I thought it was interesting the way they ran their meeting and thought, ‘I wonder if I could serve on the school board?’”
Although he is involved in a number of other organizations, Berg wondered if he actually had the time to devote to the duties of a school board director.
“I decided to attend all of the [board’s] meetings,” he said. “So, for almost two years, I attended almost all the meetings — and actually had been to more school board meetings than have two of the newest members. So, the board is quite familiar to me.”
A lack of discussion
Berg said he was struck by the board’s lack of discussion on critical school district issues. “Basically, everything that was approved came from the superintendent,” he said. “That’s my concern — they didn’t really seek out opinions, although maybe they all just agreed on everything.”
If elected, the candidate said he hopes to generate more discussion about current and emerging issues that South Kitsap faces.
One of those that he said needs plenty of discussion involves future plans for high school facilities. Associated with that issue — the size of South Kitsap High School and whether a second one is needed — is why school district voters have repeatedly rejected bond issues to build a new facility.
“There’s two reasons for the rejections — either they’re not educating the voters [about the reasons for a new building] or they’re not listening to the voters. It’s either one or the other,” Berg said.
The school board candidate said he hasn’t made up his mind about whether a new high school is needed.
“I went to a very large high school and it seemed to work out,” Berg said. “There are advantages to a large school because of the various program offerings. If you had two high schools, you wouldn’t be able to provide every program in both schools.”
But with a background as a real estate appraiser, Berg said expanding and adding to an existing building has its own set of issues: “Every time you add on to a building, you’re introducing some functional deficiencies, and the campus is pretty big right now. So, we need to have that sort of discussion.”
Berg said he had hoped to participate in those discussions when he joined the district’s citizens advisory committee last fall as it met to hash out physical facilities needs. Originally appointed as the committee’s chairman, he was replaced in that role by Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Farmer.
“So, it wasn’t really a citizens advisory committee; it was a focus group organized by the superintendent,” he said. “This goes back to the idea of rubber-stamping the recommendations of the superintendent. If they wanted a truly independent citizens committee, then they would have gotten a wider range of voices on the committee.”
Berg labeled himself as a conservative who is concerned about what is being taught and how the school board is ensuring it has control of the curriculum in the classroom. But he said he’s most focused on the board’s process: how open it is and how willing it is to engage in discussion.
Where are the critics?
Berg also said the board needs to become more engaged with the community.
“Very few people come out to the school board meetings,” he said. “Sometimes I’ve been the only one there in the audience. I hear a lot of complaints about the school board, but where are these people? Where are those who are complaining? I don’t see them at the board meetings.”
The candidate said it is easy to complain and criticize, but more difficult to come up with solutions.
“People say, ‘Why did they give teachers a 20-percent pay raise?’ Well, a teaching certificate is portable. If you have a teaching certificate, you can teach anywhere in the state. But we need to have teachers in the classroom. If our salaries were 20-percent less than that in adjoining districts, we wouldn’t have any teachers.”
Although he is still a candidate and not an elected board member, Berg said he was planning this week to attend a two-day meeting of the Washington State School Directors Association in Spokane on legislative issues.