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Henden and Torrens differ on how issues are being addressed | North Kitsap School Board District 4
POULSBO — North Kitsap School Board District 4 candidate Scott Henden and incumbent Val Torrens are concerned about similar issues. But their views on how the board goes about addressing those issues is another thing.
This is the first time Henden has run for school board. He ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner twice and fire commissioner once. Torrens, the incumbent and school board president, will complete her first term at the end of November.
The candidates are running for a four-year term on the school board. There are three races, but two candidates are unopposed: Dan Weedin, the District 2 board member; and Bill Webb, who is set to replace Ed Strickland as District 5 board member.
Members of the North Kitsap School Board are not paid.
While Henden has never served on a school board, he believes his knowledge as a businessman — he owns Henden Electric — would be beneficial to the school district.
His goals may be different at work — earning money and creating happy customers — but he said at least one thing should be similar: creating value.
Henden said the school board should begin working on the budget earlier in the school year and at the same time make it more accessible to get answers. Another top concern for Henden is the superintendent search process.
Though he agrees the board should seek input from the community about the next superintendent — Henden applied for the Superintendent Search Committee, but was not accepted — he said the public should be able to trust the board in its decision making.
“We send kids to school and expect them to do the right job,” he said.
Henden has two children who are students in the district. He has lived in Kitsap County for 47 years. He said the time he has spent in the area could be helpful if he’s elected to the board.
Regarding the budget, how the district should work on how it responds to questions from the public. When trying to find answers, Henden said the community uses up staff time. Instead, he wants easy access to all budget documents with explanations available to anyone via the district’s website.
Henden said the budget process needs to be less last-minute — including public comments, which continued until the board adopted the budget during a special meeting on July 28.
Henden said he has thought about running for school board in the past. If he was pleased with the job his opponent is doing, he said he would not have run.
He said he prepares for school board meetings by reading the minutes from the previous meeting. If he has further questions about the board and its decisions, he said he follows up with the district.
If elected he “will be an active participant on the board and do the necessary homework.” He said he would not hesitate to vote “no” — he does not see a lot of disagreement, which he said is not always the proper way to go.
“I’m going to be on a level of independence not currently there,” Henden said. “I don’t want to be a lone wolf, but at the same time, I have opinions that are well formed.”
Torrens was elected to the board in December 2007, succeeding Catherine Ahl. She ran unopposed. She is a lacrosse coach and an adjunct political science instructor at Olympic College. She also spent 10 years on the Kitsap County Planning Commision and helped form several committees used by the school board.
With the 2011-12 budget finalized, Torrens said the board’s focus is finding a new superintendent. The board will need to replace Richard Jones when he leaves at the end of the school year.
Torrens wants to create a more formal process for establishing community committees, such as the Citizens Budget Review Committee. Creating a more transparent budget that is more easily understood by everyone is another goal.
Creating a more widely understood budget could include what is known as scorecard management. A scorecard would allow each aspect of the district to be analyzed for more efficient management. Though the process has not been set in place, a presentation on the process was given to the board Sept. 8.
Torrens would like to see committee appointments finalized by summer. Currently, committees announce open positions when they become available — the Citizens Budget Review Committee and Citizens Facility Advisory Committee are currently seeking volunteers.
The impact of budget cuts on student achievement is another topic of concern. These concerns overlapped with larger class sizes this year after the district lost $500,000 in K-4 funding, which was used to maintain smaller classes; and other funding lost from Initiative 728, including money to add additional teachers into classrooms.
Torrens said the implementation of a “scorecard,” which could allow for an easier understanding of the school district by breaking down costs, may help the board avoid more cuts to classrooms in the future.
The scorecard approach may give board members a different perspective on the budget.
“I don’t think anyone is hiding anything,” Torrens said. “But they may not realize there is unnecessary funding.” Torrens is the second-most tenured board member. Tom Anderson will have served six years as of December. Kathleen Dassel and Dan Weedin have served two years.
During the candidate forum in August, Torrens noted it can take a while for a new board member to get up to speed. Recently, she said it takes most board members at least 18 months to understand how the district operates. The learning curve of a school board, she said, could be an argument against term limits — by the time someone is caught up, his or her term expires.
“It’s a learning process,” she said. “It’s like anything else.”
Besides serving as board president, Torrens serves as the board’s legislative representative, traveling to conferences around Washington, which she pays for out of her own pocket.