CKSD candidates tackle diversity, mental health

The Central Kitsap School Board District 3 and 4 candidates squared off in a debate July 10 and tackled a number of topics.

But the main one brought up a couple of times was inclusiveness and diversity among teachers, administration and students.

All five candidates there are in favor of a more diverse teaching staff, but they had different mindsets.

District 3 candidate George Campbell grew up in a military family and spent many years in German schools. He supported a more diverse staff because, “We need all walks of life. I’m willing to support a diverse community because that’s what’s needed in a school. Otherwise, you’re not gonna get the right education.”

District 4 candidate Jason Gilham does not want to have a quota set. “I fully support any kind of diversity and teaching staff,” Gilham said. “I don’t particularly like using a person’s diversity, race, ethnicity, city, religion, whatever it is as a focus area for where to hire. I am more in support of who is most qualified for the job.”

District 3 incumbent Drayton Jackson said less than 4% of teaching staff represents over 10% of a minority makeup in the district. He added, “Studies always show that when you have teachers and staff that look like the students, they learn better, they feel safer, and they feel comfortable.”

The candidates were asked about strategies they would employ to foster a positive and inclusive school climate for more student comfort and safety.

District 4 incumbent Meghan Hein said one of her goals is to prepare students to live in a diverse community. In order to do that, she has a few plans.

“We are providing a more complete and diversified curriculum that celebrates the many cultures in our schools during different pride months,” Hein said. We are “teaching empathy and following our students’ lead by encouraging students to form clubs of their choosing. Our district also provides social-emotional learning to gain a sense of belonging in our school community.”

Rob Sanders discussed a mentorship program for elementary schools. The District 3 candidate hopes older kids can teach younger ones the ropes and help them fit in and feel secure, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gilham added inclusion is mandatory for CKSD students. He brought up the recent controversy about the two-gender shirts at Klahowya Secondary. “If you allow one side of an issue, you have to allow the other side as long as the students are able to voice their opinions without being offensive to each other or without making others feel like they aren’t welcome.”

The final question regarded how the candidates can help students deal with mental health and trauma.

Jackson spoke about community partners helping the district with counseling and other needs, including Palista Community Health. Jackson knows it is the district’s duty to put the students’ care first. “If the home is not taking care of and support is not there for them, then we’re doing an injustice for the student because we’re taking care of them in our district but then we’re sending them home to something that’s not supported,” Jackson said.

As the other candidates pushed for more counseling and services, Hein discussed the district has taken hard and soft measures to provide support for students. “Hard measures include the physical and building safety of our buildings and our person,” she said. “Soft measures include the social and emotional support our district provides to help our students feel a connection and belonging in their school community.”