Daily Archives: April 9, 2009

Parents rally to save school district’s outdoor education program

Blakely Elementary students yank ivy from Blakely Harbor Park on Wednesday
Blakely Elementary students yank ivy from Blakely Harbor Park on Wednesday

Andrea Pickett can’t remember the campfire songs she sang as a fourth-grader at her Bainbridge school’s outdoor education camp, but she has no problem recalling the lessons about nature she learned there.

“I remember how to catalog trees and understand the different chemical pHs of soils,” said Pickett, now the mother of a fourth-grader enrolled at Blakely Elementary. “Some of my most powerful memories when I was that age came from that experience.”

So, when Pickett heard last spring that the Bainbridge Island School District was cutting the three-decades-old outdoor education program, she and dozens of other parents rallied to save it.

Through various fundraising efforts, the parent-teacher organizations from Blakely, Ordway and Wilkes elementary schools raised enough money over the last seven months to revive the program, which includes annual two-night trips for fourth-graders to IslandWood and other environmental science centers.

“It’s been a phenomenal effort on the part of parents,” Blakely Principal Ric Jones said. “We’re facing some serious budget considerations, and the outdoor ed program was a considerable expense and undertaking.”

The district announced it would cut the $32,500 program last May as part of a larger effort to trim $1.5 million from its budget.

Many children had been anticipating the program for years, parents said.

“For many kids, it’s kind of a right of passage where they spend a night away from home for the first time,” said Kirsten Fitzgerald, the mother of an Ordway fourth-grader. “From a young age they start looking forward to it after hearing about from their brothers and sisters.”

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Bainbridge’s youngest artists put on a show


The above photo captures the look of one 5 year-old who takes art seriously. Sun photographer Larry Steagal caught Felice Francis this week as she selected her next crayon. Francis and the other students at Bainbridge Cooperative Nursery School explored various art styles – from pointillism to impressionism – as part of a six-week program.

The nursery is hosting an art show with the students’ work on Friday. Fancy dress is required. Kiddie cocktails will be served.

Click here for reporting intern Joseph Lyons’ story and more of Steagal’s photos.

City lays off senior staffers Katai and Hathaway

Assistant City Engineer Ross Hathaway and manager of current planning Bob Katai – two of the city’s most senior staff – were casualties of this week’s round of layoffs.

A total of eight staffers were given pink slips on Monday. See my updated post on the layoffs for more info.

Hathaway, who has worked for the city for 10 years, declined to comment on his own status, but praised Katai for his service to the city.

“Bob knows the code inside and out,” Hathaway said. “It’s a terrible loss. His institutional knowledge was critical.”

Hathaway expressed concern for other laid-off coworkers who face few job prospects.

“It’s the worst job market since the Great Depression,” he said.

Nixon visits Bainbridge

Richard Nixon’s brother, Ed, spoke at a Bainbridge Island Republican Women’s luncheon at the Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Wednesday.

The Sun’s Steve Gardner reports:

There was little talk of the specific politics of the resignation from Ed Nixon, though. His speech focused on the family and influences that shaped the political leanings of the Whittier, Calif.-based clan, just as his book does.

Ed Nixon was promoting his book, “The Nixons: A Family Portrait.”

Read Gardner’s full report here and check out Carolyn Yaschur’s video above.