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Two new members of North Kitsap School Board
POULSBO — From campaign to election, Scott Henden’s priorities have remained the same: the budget and superintendent search.
Henden defeated Val Torrens Tuesday for North Kitsap School Board District 4. Updated election results Wednesday showed Henden with 5,865 votes to 5,029 for Torrens, the school board president.
Henden is one of two new school board members. Bill Webb ran unopposed for Ed Strickland’s District 5 position. Webb is business development manager for Parametrix, an engineering firm.
The election will be certified on Nov. 29. School board members are sworn in Dec. 1.
Henden said he will first put together a profile of what he wants to see in the next superintendent. He understands he is one of five members, but would like to see a superintendent who respects more “traditional values.”
The win was a sweet one for Henden, who previously ran unsuccessfully for county commission and fire commission.
“First thing’s first,” Henden said. “I’m grateful for those who have worked for me and voted for me … It says people are ready to think about getting away from the status quo.”
Henden was not endorsed by any office holders or media outlet or teachers’ union. He sent out a limited number of fliers through the community and added to his political signage with illustrations of pencils. He did not do any “doorbelling,” but did have a presence at Port Gamble’s Old Mill Days.“This can be a lonely thing,” Henden said of campaigning. “I’m not crying on anyone’s shoulder, but it can be hard.”
Henden said his campaign has been an eye-opener for him. He better understands how the district operates and what is going on. He said he will continue to seek community input, along with information from school staff, to help him better understand the position.
School board members are elected for four-year terms. The board is responsible for adopting and revising the district’s budget, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, establishing policy and keeping the public informed on the needs and progress of education in the state.
Torrens, the board’s president, said since her campaign began, the same issues — budget, superintendent — continued to arise. She received “a lot of positive feedback,” including supporters who carried campaign signs along the side of roads.
After four years of serving on the board, Torrens said she has a deeper appreciation for digging into district issues. As she became more tenured in her position on the board, she said she better understands the ramifications for each decision the board makes.
Sometimes, she said, the board needs to table a vote in order to understand what it is voting on. It takes time to know when that is necessary and when it’s wasting time, she said.
“I wouldn’t say (the board makes) faster decisions, but I would say more well considered, better thought-out decisions.”
Henden said the board needs to ask more questions. Recently, principals from Brazil visited the district — Henden cited this as an example. He said the cost to the district and how much staff time was taken for the visit should have been considered before it took place.
“I don’t want to be a killjoy, but these are the questions we need to ask,” he said.
District spokeswoman Robyn Chastain said in an email there were no costs to the district associated with the visit. “All expenses were paid for through a federal grant. When they were visiting our schools and board meeting, they were observing so there was no extra staff time needed,” she said in an email.
Henden was criticized for saying that he would suppot cutting art from the budget if needed. He also said he tried to be clear where he and Torrens differed; he doesn’t believe Torrens was clear on where she stood and what she believes.
Before the polls closed, Torrens said no matter the result, one critical aspect of the board will be looking at district revenue and expenditures. The superintendent search, which is under way, will continue to be a top concern as well.
In reflecting on her campaign, Torrens said she did not know what she would have done differently.
Will she run again?
“You’d have to ask me that three-and-a-half years from now,” she said.