Ballots are out and the clock is ticking down to the Aug. 6 local primary in Kitsap County and eligible voters living within the North Kitsap School District (NKSD) have the choice between three candidates.
In the running for a seat at the table are: current NKSD school board member, Cindy Webster-Martinson; maintenance lead for NKSD, Kim Gerlach; and longtime educator, Kelie Griffin.
The North Kitsap Herald chatted with the candidates to get to know them a little and learn why they are running and what they would like to accomplish if elected.
Kelie Griffin and her family first moved to Poulsbo in 1999 from West Seattle. In 2007, Griffin and her family moved to southern Washington to be closer to family, but returned to Poulsbo in 2017. Three of her five children attended schools in the district, with two graduating from North Kitsap High School. She currently has one grandchild in the school district.
Griffin earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and her teaching certificate from the University of Washington in 1988. She taught elementary school in the North Shore School District for seven years before going to graduate school at Central Washington University where she earned her Master’s degree in educational administration as well as principal certification. After graduating she worked as a technology and administration specialist before becoming a homeschooling principal.
Cindy Webster-Martinson grew up in Suquamish and is a Suquamish tribal elder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in education from Pacific Lutheran University in 1995 and completed her Master’s degree in education administration from Seattle University in 2013. She has been an educator at the Chief Kitsap Academy since 2008.
Webster-Martinson first served on the NKSD board in 2013. After relocating to Kingston she was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy left by Bill Webb in 2018. While on the board she has served as the liaison between NKSD and the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes in addition to her role as vice president of the board and its legislative representative. She currently serves as the board president.
Kim Gerlach has lived in North Kitsap since 1985 and has two children who have attended NK schools. She earned her Associate’s degree from Northern Montana College and did an electrical apprenticeship with the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee in Seattle.
Gerlach has worked as the Maintenance Lead for NKSD for 28 years and recently retired.
Why are you running for school board and how is your experience different from the other candidates?
Kelie Griffin: Now that my children are grown, I have the time to give back to a community that I dearly love. I’m choosing to do so by volunteering my time and talents as a School Board Director.
My graduate studies have prepared me to lead in any educational setting. The course work included diversity leadership, school personnel, school law, public school finance, school curriculum, school and community, principalship, educational administration, and a thesis in disproportionality.
I’m ready to bring my experience and expertise as a teacher, administrator and home school leader to the table.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: I have almost six years of experience as a current board member. I am familiar with the role and responsibilities, and I enjoy contributing to our community in this way.
I have appreciated the opportunity to develop relationships with fellow board members, board members of other school districts, and acquaintances with state legislators. I believe my experience would benefit the district and community.
Kim Gerlach: I worked at NKSD as Maintenance Lead before my retirement. This job was where I gained insight to 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 in spending. In my own life I consider needs versus wants. 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 spending before giving financial approval at meetings. 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 public education?
Kelie Griffin: When it comes to public education I am passionate about every child being valued and knowing they are loved. This kind of learning environment fosters a desire to learn, and graduates lifelong learners.
Along with this comes a passion I have to empower teachers to do their jobs well. They, too, need to know they are valued and loved. Teachers who are well supported go above and beyond in their work, and find joy in teaching our next generation. Teachers are valued when their salaries reflect their professional work, class sizes are intentionally kept low, support with classroom management is readily available, school day interruptions are kept to a minimum, and when pressures from Olympia are buffered so they can do their job of loving children and teaching them well.
Cindy Webster-Martinson: I am passionate about opportunity and equity for our students.
All students deserve every opportunity for success in K-12 education, as well as opportunities for a well rounded education that meets individual needs so that when a student graduates, they are ready to successfully proceed in their desired path.
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 trade work, the service industry, military, technology, parenting, or college, they should feel confident they have the skills and knowledge to pursue their dreams.
NKSD is facing a $3 million deficit, what would you do as a member of the school board to prevent budget shortfalls?
Kelie Griffin: I am a cheerleader with a vision for NKSD. We have so many good things happening in our district, I can’t help but shout, “Hooray!”
There are also challenges we are facing.
At every opportunity I will advocate for the most excellent way in decisions made by the School Board. The most excellent way to view NKSD finances is from an “abundance” mindset, even though we are facing a deficit. An abundance mentality fosters generosity.
Rather than increase the cost of facility rentals, food services, and athletics participation, let’s allow the community the opportunity to be generous. Let the community know what we need, and work together to achieve it.
Cindy Webster- Martinson: The present shortfall was a result of a perfect storm of rising labor costs (approximately 80% of our total budget) and an unexpected decline in enrollment after a prior increase.
Furthermore, there was a change in state funding and a lack of clarity in the same.
There has been tremendous work done to thoroughly review our labor force, transportation, and student needs for efficiency and prioritizing those needs accordingly. Such diligence has resulted in the ability to refrain from exercising any reductions in our teaching force.
Kim Gerlach: The budget shortfall has me extremely concerned. The minutes from the NKSD board meeting (March 21, 2019) study session shows some of what the State of Washington funds and what isn’t funded. I don’t agree with the Legislature’s definition of “fully funded.” I will encourage a more realistic definition of “fully funded.” 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 the district 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 do this?
What are some programs you would like to see integrated into the school district with regard to STEM, CTE and “Life Skills” education?
Kelie Griffin: The programs that we would like to grow in our schools with regard to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as well as our Career and Technical Education (CTE) need to be made known, and again, allow NK Community the opportunity to be generous.
My vision is that by having every school in the district partnered with specific businesses, churches, community organizations, skilled tradesmen, and entrepreneurs, our volunteer pool and support systems will be developed.
NKSD, has the community of North Kitsap surrounding us, a generous community, rich in resources including time, talent, and funding. We all understand it is in the best interest of the entire community to have children who are well-loved, well-educated and with hope for their future. So let’s do it together.
Cindy Webster- Martinson: NKSD has a pretty robust CTE program, but with additional funding we would love to expand opportunities there to meet student needs and interests.
Personally I think one area always open for expansion is computer technology as the industry continues to grow at such an exponential rate.
In regards to STEM, NKSD is part of a STEM consortium and takes part in Education Service District trainings, which serves to enhance our program.
In regard to life skills, I would prefer a required course for graduation that prepares students for independence: personal bank account handling, responsible credit undertaking, home rental contracts, home buying, food preparation and handling, etc. over a high stakes test. Testing can be good for evaluation on how well schools are doing and areas for improvement (the original reason for testing) but I personally believe such testing should not be tied to graduation.
The Washington State School Directors Association has a standing position supporting de-linking any high stakes tests from graduation requirements as well.
Kim Gerlach: At this time my knowledge as to what classes are offered at NKSD is limited to what I can find online. If elected to the Board I will know what all the classes are at NKSD. As I previously stated, I want all students to be prepared for their future, no matter the path they take.