Candidates for school board share WASL, KHS site opinions

KINGSTON — One thing is certain: with three of the five directors’ positions up for election this year, the North Kitsap School Board will at least look different, if nothing else.

Candidates vying for the open positions met on the discussion grounds at Gordon Elementary School Monday night for a forum debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Gordon Elementary’s PTA Options program.

As the six hopefuls shared their views on everything from WASL testing to gifted student programming, there were few dissenting opinions, and agreement on a central theme of the need for greater community and parent involvement in district education.

The Dist. 2 election pits two old friends against one another — and Jonathan Hibbs and Dan Delaney saw most issues on the same level.

“I see myself as a sounding board,” Hibbs said. “People can come to me with questions, and I will raise them for the school board.”

Hibbs, a self-proclaimed stay-at-home dad with four children, was the least vocal of the six candidates, sticking to short answers to various questions. From Running Start to the Agate Program, he said he supports nearly all gifted student programming and believes WASL testing is important, but needs improvement.

Hibbs also said he sees the growing involvement of parents in school activities as crucial.

“We have to involve our parents more,” he explained. “We need to make it OK for parents to be there at school with children.”

Like Hibbs, Delaney is a stay-at-home dad. He said he believes testing the new Kingston High School site for chemical residues is adequate and worries that overemphasis on research of the high school site may actually be offensive.

“I think the bus drivers and everyone at Spectrum School who have been closer (to the site) for years might actually be offended by this,” he pointed out.

An educator with “teaching in his blood,” Delaney said he believes strongly in ensuring the board takes care of its district teachers.

“Teachers don’t get into teaching to get rich,” he remarked. “But if we expect them to be saints, we should at least pay them a living wage.”

Catherine Ahl, the only current school board member seeking re-election, drew on her experience in dealing with the legislature, and the need to keep pressure on the state to increase funding.

Ahl stressed three priorities: continued education reform, increased state funding and monitoring renovations and construction of the new high school.

“Our responsibility is that everyone in this community is educated,” she said. “Our primary concern is the kids.”

Running against her in Dist. 4 is former PTA president Mick Sheldon.

Sheldon agreed on the need to pressure the state into increased funding of education.

“The state hasn’t done the job for us,” he said. “Levies are now taking care of basic funding, not extra funding.”

Sheldon said he’s running because the board lacks a “parent representative” from the community.

“The school district hasn’t reached out to parents,” he said. “They feel left out.”

In the Dist. 5 race, Frank Spargo is running against Ed Strickland — and during the debate, were arguably the two candidates with the most differing views.

Spargo, a proponent of WASL testing, said his 25 years of experience in finance could bring an edge to the board.

“Throughout all of our conversations, finance is an issue,” he said. “That’s a skill I can bring to the board.”

He also said he believes that with EPA approval, further testing at the planned Kingston High School site is unnecessary.

“I’m no chemist, but when I hear the EPA say it’s OK, it’s time to quit,” he said.

His opponent, Ed Strickland, has been a teacher for 30 years. He drew heavily on past experience as justification for further community integration with educators, students, and their parents.

Strickland said he supports staff development when it comes to the “Guiding Principles,” the document North Kitsap School District uses as a map for the betterment of education.

“We need to train the staff to invent (the Guiding Principles) themselves, and ask them what they need and how we can help them,” he remarked.

Unlike the other candidates, Strickland was more outspoken about the issue of testing the KHS site for chemical residue.

“You might find a hazard down the road,” he said. “If they do find bad stuff down there, we’ll get all the money back. The state would have to pay for it.”

Strickland said he believed they were doing enough for the time being.

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