Incumbent Eckert faces newcomer Duchemin for NKSD school board seat

Eckert served his first term from 2017-2021

As the Nov. 2 general election inches closer and with folks soon receiving their ballots around Oct. 15, incumbent Rick Eckert will be looking to retain his seat on the North Kitsap School District board against Michael Duchemin.

The specific position is for Director District 1, a four-year term. Eckert served his first term from 2017-21. Both answered questions from the North Kitsap Herald.

Rick Eckert

What is your education, work and political experience that qualifies you for the position?

I have bachelors’ degrees in history and social science. I am a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. I have served on the NK school board for four years, including three years as vice president and liaison to the city of Poulsbo.

What are your top 3-5 concerns for why you are running?

I am concerned with the financial stability of the district, both currently and in long-term planning. I believe that we must convince the state legislature it is time to address the state’s prototypical model for educational funding as it is outdated and inadequate. Counselors, mental health professionals, IT support and nurses were all underfunded before COVID-19.

Now more than ever we need increases in those areas, and the state must support us. To fund a district with 5,500 students spread across 11 campuses for only one nurse is inconceivable. Changes are needed. I want to continue to serve on the board to support those efforts. We also cannot fail to recognize that North Kitsap is growing and our schools will have to be ready for that growth. School construction takes years to fund and complete so we have to plan now for the future or we will end up with grossly overcapacity schools, something that hurts the learning of every student.

COVID has been and remains a critical issue. We must maintain the highest state of care in our approach to education to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff and community while continuing to educate those students. And we must address the learning challenges of the last year and a half due to COVID at the same time. I continue to be concerned about our younger students who need help in core areas of reading and math. I support the work our primary schools are doing in meeting those needs through focused education and data tracking. I continue to be concerned about graduation rates and increasing capacity in our high schools to give all students the classes they need to graduate as well as those that they want to take to make school enjoyable. I am extremely proud of our pilot program that allows students to take classes offered at the other high school not available at their home school. I would like to see more community involvement and interactions between the board and the community. The district has worked hard to vastly improve communications but there is always room to do more.

Why should voters vote for you rather than your opponent?

I believe that I bring a unique perspective as a retired military member, parent with a special needs student and a highly capable student who have both gone through North Kitsap schools and as someone who did not grow up here in Kitsap. In my four years on the board, I have participated in training with the state school board association that has given me a thorough knowledge of school finances as well as many of the issues facing education today. I believe strongly in building our relationships with our partners and neighbors and have worked to strengthen those relationships.

Michael Duchemin

What is your education, work and political experience that qualifies you for the position?

I graduated from West High School in Bremerton in 1975; I received my bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University in 1989, I received a Juris Doctor Degree from Puget Sound School of Law, cum laude (now Seattle University School of Law).

I served the public as a firefighter, ALS paramedic, lieutenant, medical services officer, captain and acting battalion chief during over 29 years of service for the Bellevue Fire Department. I served as an attorney for over 25 years (careers overlapped) advancing the interests and benefits of workers. I have never been a politician before but I can offer a professional fresh voice on the board. Serving my community as a firefighter and as an attorney are excellent qualifications for board responsibilities, in particular, if I had the privilege of being designated as a board legislative liaison because of my experience in public policy, lobbying the legislature, and writing and interpreting statutes.

What are your top 3-5 concerns for why you are running?

Budget and facilities: I would advocate for a few different budget and facilities priorities, focusing on re-balancing the resources dedicated to the smaller schools in the district and support expenditures adequate to hire a staff member, full time, dedicated to responding to parents and students questions and concerns and also to be responsible for providing the superintendent a summary presentation identifying policy and decisions that were considered and rejected by the superintendent or other school staff.

Covid issues: I would advocate that the board and school staff provide more feedback to constituents’ questions, needs and procedures with respect to the expectations that parents and students are required to follow when dealing with COVID responsibilities.

Parental and student involvement: I would advocate to create a board liaison specifically dedicated to increasing parental involvement and responding to parents’ questions and providing prompt feedback to them. I would advocate to provide parents more data on vaccination rates of staff and information related to success and unmet goals. And, since meeting the interests and needs of the students themselves is my highest priority I would seek to have student representatives participate in regular board meetings (with non-voting role), and institute a periodic survey program to directly elicit feedback from students.

Why should voters vote for you rather than your opponent?

I am not running “against” my opponent. I believe he is an engaging and responsible member of the board. Rather, I am running to provide a professional, committed and passionate fresh voice to the board, particularly in the areas for which I am uniquely qualified.