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Three vie for North Kitsap School Board District 4 seat: Here's what each would do
NORTH KITSAP — Of the three North Kitsap School Board positions on the ballot, the position held by the school board president is the only one with a contest.
The District 4 position drew three candidates from a variety of backgrounds: Julie Edwards, vice chairwoman of the Citizens Budget Review Committee; Scott Henden, an assistant coach and local business owner; and incumbent Val Torrens, an adjunct political science instructor at Olympic College.
The two top vote-getters in the Aug. 16 primary will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
Dan Weedin is unopposed for a full term in District 2. Bill Webb is unopposed for election to the District 5 seat. School board members are elected at large. District 4 covers portions of Poulsbo, areas on both sides of Port Gamble Bay, and west to Breidablik.
School board members serve four-year terms. They set policy and manage the district’s budget of more than $64 million.
Edwards, a Poulsbo resident, began serving as vice chairwoman of the Citizens Budget Review Committee during the 2010-11 school year. The review committee is a non-elected group that makes recommendations to the school board about the budget. Edwards said there was a breakdown of communication between the review committee and other committees during the 2010-11 year, making it difficult to collaborate as they try and help the board draft a budget for 2011-12.
Besides the communication between committees and the school board, Edwards said she would have liked the board to begin the discussion of budget cuts earlier in the year.
Among other concerns, Edwards noted that none of the current directors have children in the school district. And though the board brought in two student representatives to give reports on the high schools at each meeting, Edwards said the board could use more student input.
“I think it’s important to have that perspective,” Edwards said, adding that having student representatives is a good idea, but the student reps need to be utilized more.
Edwards has about 20 years working in construction management, she said. Her current job is “mom,” and past work includes management of condo complexes, Seattle’s waterfront trolley and Pier 66. She has lived in North Kitsap off and on since the 1990s as a military family and is now here to stay, she said.
If elected, she would like to focus her efforts on communication.
“That’s my plan — getting out into the community, going to events, talking to parents and other people,” she said. “The community is reflected in the school board.”
Henden does not have a single issue with the district. However, as a small-business owner, he said he has something to offer.
Henden has lived in the school district for about 46 years. He has owned Henden Electric for 25 years and has two children in high school.
Though he has not been directly involved with the school board, he sponsors teams, helps coach and helped out with the wrestling programs.
Looking at how district money is being spent should be the top priority, Henden said. An example, he said, was the district’s decision to spend money on a hybrid, more environmentally friendly, school bus. The bus would have been enough money to pay for two elementary school teachers, he said.
Henden’s priority would be staffing.
“The reality is we want to look at the numbers,” Henden said. “(The bus) is kind of an example of the things I would look at and say ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ ”
Henden also questions the development of Kingston High School on a wetland and former Nike anti-aircraft missile site.
“There’s a lot of issues you could talk about, but I think the biggest one is going to be the budget,” he said. “How many decisions are we making that are not getting the teachers in the classrooms?”
Torrens would like the school board to increase its transparency with the public.
Torrens, who ran unopposed four years ago, said bringing the community further into the decision-making process is an area she would continue working on if re-elected. Though she said it may seem like a small accomplishment, Torrens advocated getting agenda planning on the board meeting schedule. Before that happened, the public was left in the dark in regard to upcoming board meetings until a few days before, she said.
Looking at how the district office is structured is another topic she would like to address.
“The people that I have come to know in the district are very dedicated, hard-working people,” Torrens said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything better.”
Right now, budget cuts make it difficult to concentrate on anything but potential funding reductions, she said.
Besides her school board and Olympic College experience, Torrens spent 10 years on the Kitsap County Planning Commission, coaches the North Kitsap girls lacrosse team and helped establish the school district’s Equity Advisory Committee, which she is a liaison to now.
When she first ran for school board, people told her it was a “thankless job.” That does not stop her from wanting to continue to serve.
“I want to serve again, because I think there is more that needs to be done that I would like to see accomplished,” she said. “... I do care, very much. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t go for the job again.”