Late South Kitsap School District administrator’s legacy lives through ‘Wine with Wags’

Annual event begins at 6 p.m. Sept. 12 at McCormick Woods

It was an annual tradition among his closest friends: a wine and hors d’ oeuvres tasting event at Kurt Wagner’s house.

After Wagner succumbed to cancer at age 57 on April 13, 2012, fellow members of the South Kitsap Rotary and his friends brainstormed ways to maintain the event — and his legacy.

That culminated in the “Wine with Wags” event, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 12 at McCormick Woods. The event is $50 in advance — $60 at the door — with proceeds benefiting the Kurt Wagner Education Fund.

Seven wineries — Waterbrook, Canoe Ridge, Watermill, Mosquito Fleet, Browne Family, Ginko and Basil, along with Silver City Brewery and Heritage Distilling Company, will participate in the event.

“We just want to continue his legacy,” said Burley-Glenwood Elementary School principal Darek Grant, who helps coordinate the event and taught with Wagner at East Port Orchard Elementary. “This is something that would be really important to him.

“It’s neat to be part of something like this that is going to South Kitsap kids.”

Grant said each attendee can sample as many as five beverages with their ticket and hors d’ oeuvres and also receive a commemorative glass.

As of Tuesday, Grant said 120 tickets were sold. He said they would like to have 200 attendees.

The charity assists four South Kitsap High School graduates with college scholarships and also provides funding to low-income students in South Kitsap School District’s elementary band to aid them with instrumental rental fees and those needing assistance with athletic fees at the high school. Rob Putaansuu, who is a Rotarian and also helps coordinate the event, said the organization decided to assist with those needs because Wagner was passionate about both.

Wagner played the saxophone and volunteered at high-school track meets. He also ran track at Central Washington University.

In February, the Kurt Wagner Education Fund also awarded five classroom grants to teachers within SKSD. Four elementary school teachers — South Colby’s Courtney Janes, Hidden Creek’s Nicole Endsley, and Burley-Glenwood’s Chris Lund and Carol Sears — each were awarded $500. SKHS’ Nikki Bleich, per her request, received $300.

Along with that, Grant said they are looking to do more. He said they have raised $60,000 toward an endowment fund. Grant said the goal is to accumulate $100,000.

This is the third year of the event. Putaansuu hoped to have the first event in 2012, but that was delayed.

“Unfortunately, shortly after he passed away we realized we knew nothing about how to put a wine-tasting event together,” he said.

The first event was in October, but Putaansuu said they moved last year’s date forward because many wineries are not able to participate during that time because they are busy with their crush.

In addition to the “Wine with Wags” event, Grant said they have a couple of “Wednesday Brew Nights” throughout the year, along with a “Winterfest” celebration. For more details on those, visit

Wagner was South Kitsap School District’s deputy superintendent at the time of his death. He had an array of administrative duties, which included overseeing the district’s special-education, gifted and career-technical education programs.

Wagner also mentored a student through Peer Assistant Learning from East Port Orchard Elementary, where he was principal from 1995-2000 and began his career as a teacher there in 1980.

He also served as an administrator overseeing curriculum and instruction before becoming an assistant superintendent in 2002.

Between stints in SKSD — he took a sabbatical in 1987 to earn master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington State — he spent time in the Central Kitsap School District as an assistant principal and principal from 1991-95.