POULSBO — Dick Lockwood and Beth Worthington have worked together on district committees. “We’ve been colleagues for a long time,” he said. But he’s running against her for North Kitsap School Board “because someone needed to.”
Trust in the school district has eroded in the last four years, he said. Communication between the district and the community has been lacking. The previous superintendent received a vote of no-confidence from teachers. The school board cut expenses to the detriment of teachers and students, for fear of dipping into reserves.
Lockwood and Worthington, candidates for North Kitsap School Board District 3, outlined their vision for the school district at a candidate forum presented by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap on Oct. 9 at Poulsbo City Hall. Also sharing their views were Richard Eckert and Daron Jagodzinske, candidates for school board District 1; Cindy Webster-Martinson moved out of District 1 and couldn’t run for reelection.
The general election is Nov. 7. School board members are elected to four-year terms and are not compensated.
In her opening statement, Worthington looked ahead to the next four years: building community trust in the school district, a staff that is harmonious, voter approval of levy funding for facilities and technology, a graduation rate that is in the top 5 percent in the state, all third-graders reading at or better than grade level, and classes in art and local and world cultures.
But the controversies of the last four years were never far from topic. During Worthington’s tenure as board member and board president, the district took some knocks for its delayed notification to parents on issues ranging from student sexual activity on a school bus to classroom evacuation because of an HVAC failure. Most recently, the district notified parents three months after the fact that a North Kitsap High School teacher was fired after he had been charged with sexual misconduct with a minor.
Each candidate is a parent of current or former North Kitsap students, and each is involved in the district. Eckert, a retired Navy chief petty officer, regularly attends school board meetings and provided input during the superintendent search. Jagodzinske, a local pastor, tutored for 12 years at Poulsbo Elementary School and served on the district’s budget committee. Lockwood, an engineer, served on four district committees and is president of the North Kitsap High School Choir Booster Club. Worthington, a chemical engineer, served on district committees and is seeking a second term as a school board member.
Opening statements were followed by a question-and-answer period; moderator Catherine Ahl, a former North Kitsap School Board member, asked questions that had been written by the audience on index cards.
Regarding the board’s role in addressing problems between the superintendent and district employees: The school board has one employee, the candidates said — the superintendent. All other district employees report to the superintendent. So, Worthington said, it’s important that the school board “not undercut” the superintendent by intervening in employee-superintendent disputes.
However, Lockwood — referring to the no-confidence vote the previous superintendent received from the teachers’ union — said the school board has the responsibility to meet with the superintendent and “make sure the root problems” in a dispute are identified and addressed. Jagodzinske agreed, saying “the buck stops” with the school board and that “we need to help when there’s conflict.”
All candidates said they support placing a tax measure on the ballot to raise additional funds for capital projects.
Regarding stemming the exit of parents and students from the school district: Eckert said he wants improved support for special-education students, more technical and vocational education for students who do not plan to attend college, and improved capacity in schools. Jagodzinske said he wants to see more college-credit courses offered at North Kitsap and Kingston high schools. Lockwood and Worthington support more Alternative Learning Experience, or ALE, opportunities, such as work-based learning and online courses.
Eckert and Worthington said the district could do a better job of reaching out to families who leave the district to find out how the district can provide, in Worthington’s words, “a healthier academic experience.”
Regarding overcrowding at Poulsbo and Vinland elementary schools, Lockwood supports moving some classes to an unused portable classroom on the Poulsbo Elementary campus, and ensuring the shuttered Breidablik Elementary School buildings are being maintained and ready in the event the district decides reopening the school is warranted.
Worthington said providing different programs at various schools could encourage students to move to other schools in the district; she prefers that to redrawing district boundaries. Lockwood said the district will need to improve bus service to make that feasible.
All candidates had praise for the new superintendent, Dr. Laurynn Evans, who joined the district in summer and succeeded Dr. Patty Page, a North Kitsap High School alum and career educator who retired. The candidates were asked what superintendent performance measures were most important:
Worthington: Academic achievement, community trust in the district, and “keeping the ship steady.”
Lockwood: Recruiting and retention of school personnel, budgeting skills, and communication skills.
Jagodzinske: Academic achievement and community trust in the district.
Eckert: Fiscal stewardship, “how kids are being taught,” and providing “a safe, secure environment for kids and staff.”
The candidates pointed out Running Start political science students in the audience who were volunteering in their campaigns. Communication and building trust were themes of their closing statements.
“I want our educators to know that I value and respect your talent and experience,” Lockwood said.
Worthington said, “I am committed to quality public education in North Kitsap and I believe that our community can come together and realize an educational system for our future prosperity. I respect the multiple perspectives of every issue and will listen with an open mind and an open heart.”
Eckert said, “I think our district is very good, but I think it can be great. I think with my military background and the world traveling that I’ve done and the things that I’ve experienced, I bring a unique perspective. I definitely bring a dedicated heart and an open mind.”
Jagodzinske said the two most important issues in the next four years are community trust and district finances. “I have a degree in accounting and I started my career as an auditor for Deloitte and Touche, so I feel confident that I can deal with numbers and finance,” he said. “With trust, I think it’s important to restore our trust with our community, I think it’s important to restore our trust with our faculty. My communication skills, both listening and speaking, can help with that. Relationships I have in the community can help with that.”
— Richard Walker is managing editor of Kitsap News Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.