By the end of this election cycle, the makeup of the North Kitsap School District Board of Directors will look very different.
A total of eight candidates are vying for four positions on the board with seven candidates being newcomers and just one incumbent.
Pamela Madden-Boyer and Mike Desmond are vying for the District 2 seat on the board. Breanne Martinez and April Ferguson for District 3. Nancy Moffatt and Karl Fidler for District 4 and incumbent Cindy Webster-Martinson vying for the District 5 seat against newcomer Kim Gerlach.
The North Kitsap Herald spoke to each candidate to get to know a little about them and the issues facing the district.
Why are you running to be a part of the school board and how does your experience differ from your competitors?
Pamela Madden Boyer: I went to college to become a teacher and wound up teaching adults most of my life. I worked for CKSD for 30 years and have a massive amount of experience working within other school districts and knowing what works for kids and what doesn’t. This experience coupled with the understanding of the difficulties my grandchildren have been experiencing within the school system is what drove me to run for the school board.
I would say my experience of working within the school systems gives me a level of knowledge that I don’t think my competitors can match. I would say I come with a unique perspective over a long period of time.
Mike Desmond: I am running to be part of the school board because I would like to serve my community, just as I served my country as a Naval Officer.
I feel that my experience as a veteran will allow me to bring a strong work ethic, the ability to foster extensive teamwork among the board, and a history of fiscal responsibility. Also, I am the proud parent of two children in the North Kitsap School District (grades 5 and 7). I feel that this will give me a unique perspective as a School Board Director because I would be directly affected by the same policies I would be debating, ensuring that they would receive my full attention and deliberation.
Breanne Martinez: I am running for a school board director position because I have a committed and vested interest in our community and schools. As a parent of two elementary school children, I believe that I can bring a different perspective to the table. As an active community member, I understand the importance of strengthening relationships between the schools, the board, and the community.
April Ferguson: I believe parents are the primary educators in a child’s life. Cooperation between parents, teachers and administrative personnel can only improve the quality of life for all students. I hope to strengthen community partnerships, address facility conditions, improve hiring, training, retaining teaching staff, and facilitate the growth of special needs programs.
I will promote fiscal responsibility in our district. It is important that our funds are used and distributed responsibly so that education and safety are never lacking. I will be an advocate on the board, speaking up for being responsible with our funds and to ensure that vital programs for our children are not cut.
As a mother, I understand how important it is to drop your child off at school knowing that quality education and safety are a top priority. I will represent parents on the board ensuring that we manage our district responsibly to ensure that your child learns in a healthy, supportive, and safe environment.
As for my experience in consideration with my competitor I do not know too much about her personally but I do know that I have been involved in local issues and that I am the chair of a political organization, giving me a vast amount of experience in parliamentary procedure, and how to effectively communicate within an organization, with volunteers and others as well as promote that organization. As a board member, I can use these skills obtained to promote the school district and strengthen community partners to help us compensate for the deficit.
Nancy Moffatt: I have chosen to run as I believe that I possess the skills and experience that will allow me to be a part of a strong board of directors for the North Kitsap School District. My education and professional experience have been focused on public education, public service, and public policy analysis.
Karl Fidler: I recently retired as a Merchant Marine and wanted to do something to give back to the community. I raised my daughters in this school system and have become familiar with its promises and struggles and wanted to do my part to help.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: I do not feel my work is done and I really enjoy contributing to our community this way. Working with our Board Directors and Superintendents has been a pleasure. I have also enjoyed forming relationships with board directors from other districts and the [Washington State School Directors’ Association] directors.
I already have six years’ experience, including extensive professional development and leadership roles with my board and WSSDA: WSSDA Annual Conferences 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018; Leadership WSSDA 2015; previously served as the Legislative Representative and Vice President of the NK School Board, and currently serving as President; WSSDA Director Area 4 Representative for the Government-to-Government Task Force. I really hope my experience can be used as an asset as we move forward as a dramatically different board.
Kim Gerlach: My work at NKSD as maintenance lead is where I gained insight into the workings of the district. I have extensive knowledge of the facilities at NKSD. Because of my background in construction and the knowledge of the facilities at NKSD I will be able to offer ideas from a new and different perspective.
I want to be involved with fiscal responsibility. I am conservative with spending, I will encourage NKSD to do the same. It will be my responsibility to know how and why the spending is being done. I will regularly review the budget report before giving financial approval. I will encourage cost-cutting that will make improvements for students and staff. The taxpaying public must know their money is being used efficiently and wisely.
What are you passionate about when it comes to access to public education?
Pamela Madden-Boyer: I’m passionate about making sure that all children will be able to learn as far as their ability will allow them. I want them to be able to have access to higher learning without having to work so hard to have that access. If they are motivated to move ahead of their peers, let them at it. Due to the access to the technology we have today, there is really no excuse for them to be held back from learning.
I am also passionate about addressing bullying and how it is handled by administrators. As a teacher, I got really good at redirecting bullying behavior and putting that energy to better use. I found that children who were bullies often weren’t taught how to function in a school environment. I also noticed that there was a lack of accountability on administrators and even up at the level of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. If you don’t have a safe and secure environment at school, children can’t learn. They need to know they are safe 100 percent of the time.
Mike Desmond: I am passionate about ensuring that all students are able to learn life long skills in the classroom such as personal finance and internet safety from elementary to high school. I would like to ensure that the school district is producing graduates that are able to fulfill the needs of local businesses by partnering with them to create programs that meet graduation requirements while teaching in-demand job skills.
Breanne Martinez: I am passionate about providing high-quality education for all students. Bringing students together from diverse backgrounds and providing them with the knowledge, skills, and tools to achieve professional and civic success.
April Ferguson: I am most passionate about creating meaningful access to public education. I would like to work on improving our approaches to the learning environment where students are given the tools, resources to learn with support staff working with their parents to best ensure they receive a quality education with an approach adapted to work with their individual learning style. There is a wide range of diverse learners so we must have our educational professionals able to adapt to each student’s style or some children will be overlooked and left behind. I believe we too easily label children rather than learning what they need to engage educationally and retain knowledge. Access to education needs to be meaningful not just accessible.
Nancy Moffatt: I feel very strongly that every child should be provided with meaningful and relevant educational opportunities. An important part of ‘access’ is offering students multiple pathways to graduation and education beyond high school.
Karl Fidler: I am passionate about helping the school district navigate this funding crisis, which is at the fault of the McCleary decision. We need to go to the legislature and explain that their remedy for fully funding public education isn’t working for all schools.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: I am passionate about equity. When we have equity in public education all students will get the specific services and experiences they need to succeed. Ample opportunities must be provided so that students will be ready to leave the nest, go to work, go to a vocational school, get on-the-job training, or attend college after they graduate.
Kim Gerlach: My number one priority is to know all of our children are prepared for their future no matter the path they take. Whether they choose the service industry, trade work, technology, military, parenting, or college, they should feel confident they have the skills and knowledge to pursue their dreams.
NKSD is facing $3 million deficit, what do you think should be done to address it and prevent future shortfalls without cuts to staff, facilities or programs?
Pamela Madden-Boyer: First, McCleary didn’t solve the school funding problem, it just made the numbers bigger. They did not think about where the schools were going to get the money for these increases. There was no logic — in my opinion — in this decision, no endgame.
The last place I would make cuts would be to paraeducators, especially on buses. The district just settled a lawsuit on this which caused the district’s insurance to go up.
The district also needs to be careful about how much it can allow its facilities to age. I’ve worked in general contracting with my husband since 1992 and every building reaches a tipping point where either the repairs need to be made or the building has to go. The latter is generally not a road you want to go down because you may end up needing that building.
Were going to have to look at the budget line by line to solve this issue.
Mike Desmond: I think it is important for NKSD to address the budget deficit, while not making any drastic changes. We need to continue to develop and adhere to a long term strategic plan, instead of making frequent reactive changes due to yearly deficits and surpluses.
Breanne Martinez: The deficit is not due to one single factor, but multiple factors. In order to address the deficit, it will require continued open and transparent dialogue amongst all the stakeholders. Accountability is a key ingredient that needs to remain at the forefront, especially when addressing the budget.
Collaboration at all levels within the [district] is key in moving forward to prevent future budget shortfalls.
April Ferguson: There is not a simple fix for the $3 million deficit.
The district has a long history of unwise spending and budgeting. This election is an opportunity to put a fresh perspective on budgeting and spending in our district.
We need to think before we spend and analyze the potential consequences of our spending and the ripple effect our decisions as board members will have on the safety, education, and environment for children. When preparing a budget and then determining where we can trim spending we need to openly engage the staff and community that could be affected by potential cuts.
Our board made a decision to trim paraeducator support without even examining how it would impact the classroom, safety on school buses and learning environments. If I was a board member, I would have consulted the educational professionals to research how my decisions would impact them and what the ripple effect would have on student safety, environment, and education.
We are in a mess now and the new board will be responsible for determining a solution to the budget shortage.
Nancy Moffatt: There are many components driving the $3 million shortfall. The most significant includes a state staffing allocation model that is not and never has been based upon actual requirements. School Districts are only funded for the number of employees included in this model. Employees needed outside of this model must be funded with local levy funds.
An unrealistic staffing allocation model is compounded by the cap placed upon on local levy collections that were enacted when the state increased the State School Property Tax in order to fund the Washington State Supreme Court mandates from the McCleary case, while simultaneously reducing the amount of local levy funds that school districts may collect.
Additionally, school employee benefits, now provided through the School Employee Benefits Board, are not fully funded and must be supplemented through local levy funds.
The short answer as to what should be done, is for the school district to continue to share its story and the consequences of legislative actions and to seek change at the state level.
Karl Fidler: Well, first off the teacher’s salary has been an issue for several years. They do not get paid enough for the job they do and their wages and benefits needed to be addressed a long time ago. The raises they received are justified, but the state is not supplying money to keep up with those raises and keep schools functioning. I don’t know how the where they think that money is going to come from for districts like ours and I don’t know how the district will keep up with those costs.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: I believe we are already addressing this issue in the best possible manner. The district has conducted a review to ensure that we are providing efficient service and meeting student needs. Continuing in that manner, and continuing to better understand the ins and outs of complicated state funding will aid to keep our budget in check. We passed our last facilities levy and continue to conduct that work as money is available and keep the community informed of the progress with what was done with the funds. Unfortunately, there is still much more deferred maintenance work to be done that will need to be addressed in the future.
Kim Gerlach: The budget shortfall has me extremely concerned. The agenda from the NKSD board meeting (March 21, 2019) shows some of what the State of Washington funds and what isn’t funded. I don’t agree that basic education is ‘fully funded’ by the state. I will encourage a more realistic definition from the Legislature of ‘basic education.’ Until we have secure, stable and realistic funding from the state, we must be cautious with our spending. The video from the June 27 board meeting states that NKSD will most likely need to spend down the reserves until a new levy request can be done at more than $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This scares me. What if the community isn’t willing to pass such a levy? I think rather than spend the reserves, the district should be cautious with spending.
What changes would you like to see in the district or build upon?
Pamela Madden-Boyer: I want to increase budgetary transparency. I think the folks that are going to vote, especially parents are going to be more inclined to vote, say on a levy if they know exactly what their money is being used for.
Another thing I would like to see is more clarity for high school students in running start and other programs that have seen changes in their structure which have caused a lot of confusion for students, this includes changes in the structure of the school day nearly every year of high school for some students.
Also, the district needs to encourage more students to pursue technical classes through its partnership with West Sound Technical Skills Center and other skills programs.
Mike Desmond: I would like to build upon the work done by previous school board members to ensure we maintain a safe environment for our children through physical security upgrades, address the projected rapid growth of the school district by studying attendance boundaries, and balance teacher pay with adequate staffing levels to ensure appropriate class sizes.
Breanne Martinez: I had the privilege of participating in the core planning for the NKSD strategic plan development. I am excited about the school board’s continued participation in the implementation of the strategic plan. I would embrace the opportunity to continue the good work already underway with many areas including safety, curriculum development, fiscal performance, community partnerships, and student equity.
April Ferguson: Communications – I believe that while the new superintendent has been working on community relations that the board is lacking in this area and as a board we need to reach out to the community, create more community partners and strengthen community relations. As a board member, I would want to visit each school periodically to communicate with staff and families to learn what needs they have.
Buildings – We need to work on building improvements and maintenance. Neglecting the maintenance of buildings will cost us more in the long run to repair.
Fiscal Responsibility – I believe that we need to be wiser with our spending and that we need to examine the consequences of our spending, budgeting, and cuts by first consulting with the staff that will be working directly in the areas that are affected by cuts. It is easy to sit behind a table and say “we can trim the paraeducators hours” but to engage with those paraeducators first to learn how the trimming of their hours will impact them and the classroom environment would be more responsible.
Special Education – I would like to see the special education programs more supported and better funded and the same for paraeducators.
Nancy Moffatt: Most important is the alignment of resource allocations with the Strategic Plan. Additionally, program expansion such as the online education program, robotics, applied mathematics, music, and arts, help to reach more students who bring varied learning styles.
Karl Fidler: Specifically I would like to see more options for students beyond college. Not everyone wants to, nor can everyone afford to go to college. The cost can be such a burden on students and their families, long after they graduate.
There are so many other opportunities out there, that the students aren’t aware of because schools in this day in age are so college-focused. There are options out there for kids graduating from high school that have the right training to be successful and if they wish to continue their education later, that’s always an option as well.
Cindy Webster- Martinson: There is a new English language arts curriculum (ReadyGen) that has been piloted on an incremental basis in the elementary schools. I look forward to seeing that implementation completed and see how testing improves as a result. I also hope that helps us to achieve (or at least get very close to) the goal of all students reading at grade level by third grade, a primary key to student academic success.
Kim Gerlach: NKSD has recently made changes that are good for the students. Choice Academy has received many wonderful comments from the community. I am happy to see a robotics program starting in this district. I would like to see this offered in Poulsbo as well as Kingston. Currently, the Poulsbo students are transported to Kingston.
Just for fun, what was your favorite subject in school?
Pamela Madden-Boyer: I liked school growing up, but what hooked me in was music. When kids get hooked on something it keeps them interested in learning and I think we need more things like that to hook kids in, whether it’s athletics, art, science or music, whatever gets them in the door and encourages them to learn.
Mike Desmond: My favorite subject in school was AP Biology. This was mostly because I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher. This experience highlighted to me the profound impact a teacher can have on a student.
Breanne Martinez: Science was my favorite!
April Ferguson: My favorite subjects were history and social studies. I would work to increase the programs teaching civics. I believe we should be encouraging more field trips to court houses, auditors’ offices, Olympia as well as we should be bringing those working in these places into our schools for presentations to the children. I believe we should engage with our elected officials more often and ask them to speak with the students.
Nancy Moffatt: My favorite subject in school was history. I truly enjoyed learning about the past. I disliked having to memorize exact dates, which was not my best skill but found a challenge in trying to understand potential lessons from the past.
Karl Fidler: In high school, it was oceanography, in college was spherical trigonometry which is used in navigation.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: My’s favorite subject in school was English literature. I have always enjoyed reading and became a fan of Shakespeare during high school in honors English. I continued on with all three available Shakespeare courses at the University of Washington.
Kim Gerlach: I really liked doing things with my hands, and I really wanted to take woodshop or metal shop, but growing up in the 1970s, I wasn’t allowed to. I petitioned the school board to let me, and they eventually did, but by that time I had moved and was going to a new school where my favorite class became horticulture.