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Competition for school board seats intensifies

Summer temperatures in North Kitsap aren’t the only things heating up these days.

While a three-candidate race for the Position 1 seat on the North Kitsap School Board had ensured lively debate and a competitive race last week, Position 3 had only one resident — active Poulsbo schools volunteer Melanie Mohler — apply for the job.

That is, until last Friday.

Matthew Cleverley, a Suquamish resident vocal in many local political causes, has entered the Position 3 race. The Kitsap County Chairman of the Republican Party and a former candidate for the North End Commissioners’ post a year ago, Cleverley has three students in North Kitsap schools, and said his rationale for running was to increase his involvement as a parent.

An attorney by trade, Cleverley mentioned he has substitute teaching experience, and, had he not become a lawyer, admitted he was on the way to earn his teaching credential.

His main goals are to ensure the district is fiscally responsible and to encourage innovation in the classroom.

The district must be not only financially solvent but also work to make certain that as much of the budget as possible is going to the children and teachers in the classroom and “... not supporting (an administrative) bureaucracy,” he commented.

He is also concerned with enrollment in the schools as Kingston and Poulsbo continue to grow, and ensuring the new high school in Kingston is built on time and on budget.

As the current chair of the Marine Science Society of the Pacific Northwest — the former tenants of the currently defunct Marine Science Center — and an enthusiast for Suquamish Elementary School’s “Basket Marsh” wetlands project, Cleverley also wants to see increased innovation for greater learning opportunities.

“I’m hoping I can bring in new energy and new excitement that will help the board in continue to go in the right direction,” he said.

Mohler, his opponent, filed last Monday. A six-year member of the Poulsbo Junior High School leadership team, she decided to file so she could take her volunteering efforts a step further. Her goals on the school board would be to increase opportunities for district graduates and ensure a smooth transition as North Kitsap moves to a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade level configuration with the addition of Kingston High School in 2007.

While the candidates may face a tougher election season due to multiple entries in each race, the two retiring school board members see competition as a good thing.

Current Position 3 holder Bethany McDonald, who ran unopposed for her seat in 1997 and then against an opponent in 2001, said much can be gained from having a two-candidate race.

“I think there’s a great benefit for the community to have choice,” she said. “It strengthens the whole process. And it allows for greater clarity on the issues.”

Twenty year Position 1 seat-holder Dick Endresen, having been through five school board elections, said he’s certain that “the more (candidates), the merrier.”

Three candidates — retired Navy veteran and current substitute teacher Tom Anderson, travel consultant Brian Maule and Poulsbo detective Grant Romaine — have lined up to take his seat.

“At school board level, I think it’s important because it gets various points of view out there for the public to hear,” Endresen said. “It generates more community interest in the school system.”

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