Similar issues, different approaches | North Kitsap School Board, District 4

Scott Henden and Glen Robbins want much of the same things for the North Kitsap School District: More vocational training. Measurable goals. Local control of education. More community engagement. Where they differ is their approach and how they would accomplish those goals.

POULSBO — Scott Henden and Glen Robbins want much of the same things for the North Kitsap School District: More vocational training. Measurable goals. Local control of education. More community engagement.

Where they differ is their approach and how they would accomplish those goals.

Henden, seeking a second term on the school board, is the self-professed board outsider. An electrical contractor, he pushes to ensure students are prepared for blue-collar careers, as well as college. He advocates for less delegation of responsibility to the superintendent and less fluff (as he calls it) in the school board’s goals.

He sees the Common Core State Standards Initiative — a set of state-adopted academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, which outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade — as an example of top-down government.

Robbins is a retired career educator who spent 30 years as a principal in local schools, an education insider who believes in setting “smart” goals (“smart” being the acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound), and in working with the community to develop vocational training partnerships and implement Common Core in a way that “it works in our community.”

Henden and Robbins met with Herald Community Advisory Board members for a Q&A on Sept. 21.

The general election is Nov. 3. School board members are elected to four-year terms and are not paid.

The school board’s legal responsibilities, as outlined on the district website, are to establish general policy for the school district; adopt and revise the annual operating budget; select and evaluate the superintendent; employ school personnel upon the recommendation of the superintendent; exercise the power to administer schools conferred by the Legislature; and keep the public informed on the needs and progress of the education system.

Henden is proud of where the school district is today. Only two years ago, the district was still slogging out of the recession and declining revenues due to reduced enrollments; the district closed Breidablik School to save money.

Today, he said, “We’re $10 million ahead of where we were three years ago,” the district reversed a decision to charge student participation fees for certain activities, and reached a labor agreement with teachers before the start of the school year.

“We’ve got some great things going,” he said.

One issue he talks about a lot is ensuring students graduate from high school prepared for careers as well as college. He believes the district’s Career and Technical Education “doesn’t go far enough” in its depth of training, and likes the idea of starting a North Kitsap version of the West Sound Technical Skills Center, the Bremerton district school that trains 11th and 12th graders in 3D game design, automotive technology, biomedical research, collision repair technology, construction, cosmetology, culinary arts, engineering design, public safety and welding.

He said he’s softened on some issues — “I’m more pro-band, more pro-arts” — and he appreciates the passion of those involved in those programs. He’s also softened a bit on his stand regarding Tribal sovereignty, or self-government.

In 2012, he stated that he didn’t believe in the Suquamish Tribe’s sovereingty. On Sept. 24, he called the fracas unfortunate and said, “I accept the fact they have some sovereignty and some self-government.”

(Port Gamble S’Klallam and Suquamish are recognized by the U.S. as sovereign, though domestic dependent, nations. The treaties they signed with the U.S. are, according to the U.S. Constitution, the “supreme law of the land.” And they have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.)

Henden reiterated an earlier comment that “we have a responsibility to do the best we can for [all] kids” regardless of ethnic background, “to give them education and give them that college/career readiness …

“As a board member, I need to be careful that we’re looking out for all kids.”

Robbins presents himself as a collaborator. He volunteers at Wolfle Elementary School. He’s president of the Poulsbo Sons of Norway, and a member of the North Kitsap Schools Foundation.

He agrees with Henden on several issues, but said he understands the “processes” by which to get things accomplished.

Regarding preparing students for post-high school, he said the district needs a strong support system for children with special needs; and more Advanced Placement classes, for which students earn college credit.

His mantra: “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” He said he would “go out and recruit partnerships” that would give students real-world career training; personally advocate in Olympia for full funding of education; and engage with residents to encourage their attendance at school board meetings.

He supports conducting exit interviews with students and families that choose to leave the district, to document the reasons why. He said there needs to be quarterly reports that show where the district is at accomplishing goals.

Robbins agrees with Henden that the district delegates too much to the superintendent. “The superintendent is responsible to the board … the superintendent is not the decision maker,” Robbins said.

In his closing statement Sept. 21, Henden said the board needs someone who asks questions and challenges the norm. The school board “needs somebody with my perspective,” he said. “I bring a diversity that wouldn’t be here.”