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North Kitsap School Board: Henden, Torrens leading in early returns
POULSBO — Scott Henden and Val Torrens were the two top vote-getters in early results in the primary election for North Kitsap School Board District 4 director, Tuesday.
At 8:10 p.m. with 7,325 ballots counted, Henden led with 2,832 votes, followed by Val Torrens with 2,521 votes and Julie Edwards with 1,858 votes.
More ballots are expected to be counted, with updated results posted Wednesday at 5 p.m. As of Tuesday morning, some 22.9 percent of the North Kitsap School District's 22,297 voters had cast ballots, Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore said.
If their leads hold, Henden and Torrens will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
Henden, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the school board, said before polls closed that he felt he had a good chance of surviving the primary, but didn’t want to be overconfident.
"A lot of friends and family have been supportive," he said. "But usually the people that don't want to elect you won't tell you."
Henden received emails from concerned community members asking how his ideals would affect the programs they care about. Though everyone is concerned about budget cuts, he said what he's been telling people is each program needs to be analyzed to see if it meets goals. If not, there is a potential to cut.
"There's some great programs out there," he said. "I'm not saying they're not good, but we need the best bang for the buck."
Henden said there was not a single issue that drew him to run, but as a small-business owner he has something to offer.
He wants the board to "look at the big picture," and, if elected, wants to increase communication with the community members that don't make it to the school board meetings, but still have questions.
"I have to take the philosophy and do what I think is right and give the answers I believe."
With four years of experience, Torrens – who is currently the school board’s president -- felt she is still the right person for the position. It takes time to understand how the board operates and interacts with the rest of the district and the community, and developing a deeper understanding takes time, she said.
"There's a heck of a lot of stuff to understand to recognize the impacts of the decisions (the school board makes)," she said. "You're always learning something."
During the primary, Torrens said there was a general concern over maintaining programs while continuing budget cuts.
Torrens would like to continue serving on the school board because of the importance of the work, she said. While continuing to make the board more transparent — including a more "user-friendly" budget document — choosing a new superintendent is a top priority.
Working on the district's image, by highlighting the positives — student and teacher awards, accomplishments and successful programs — is another task she would like to take on. She said people tend to focus on the negatives, which is only about 5 percent of the whole district. The other 95 percent of the district is working fine, she said.
"For me, as I said before, this is very important work," she said, adding if she didn't have something to contribute, she would not continue on the board.
Edwards, who began serving on the district’s Citizens Budget Review Committee as vice chairwoman in fall 2010-11, said the concerns she hears from the community align with her own concerns. This includes how the budget is handled, the district's strategic plan and the direction the district is going.
"What I can say is most of my concerns have been validated," she said. "What we've been doing so far hasn't worked."
Edwards said she wanted to work on the school board so NKSD becomes competitive with other school districts.
Edwards wanted to expand the district's budget outlook from one year to three to five years. She said school districts, such as Central Kitsap, work on the budget beyond one year, with positive outcomes.
"We have to think ahead more than one year," she said. "That is one of my biggest concerns about the budget."
If the district does not improve, Edwards said she might take her own student out of the district. Though she is not running for her son's sake, as a parent, she would do what she feels is best.
If she did not advance to the general election, she planned to continue her work on the budget committee.
"Obviously my message didn't resonate well (with the community). I have the disadvantage of not being as well known."
There are two other director positions on the Nov. 8 ballot. School board member Dan Weedin is unopposed in District 2. Bill Webb is unopposed for the District 5 position currently held by Ed Strickland, who chose not to run for reelection.
School board members serve four-year terms. The school board is responsible for setting district policies, employing personnel, adopting the district's annual operating budget, and hiring and evaluating the superintendent.
Elsewhere in Kitsap County, residents of Bainbridge Island voted for candidates for two city council seats. Residents of Bremerton voted for candidates for one city council seat. Countywide, there were 48,713 ballots mailed out; as of Tuesday at 8:10 p.m., 25.68 percent of ballots had been counted, according to the Kitsap County Auditor's website.
Check updated results on the Kitsap County Auditor's website.