Two potential staffing changes in North Kitsap schools have some local folks stirred up. There’s a school board meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the district office, 18360 Caldart Ave., in Poulsbo. Folks who are concerned are promising to turn out in large numbers.
The first concern has to do with counselors and librarians at Breidablik and Pearson elementary schools. There’s a proposal in front of the NK Citizens Budget Review Committee and the Budget Advisory Team (it’s made up of administrators) that one counselor and one librarian be shared by the two schools. Each school now has a full-time counselor and a full-time librarian. NK Board President Tom Anderson said all options for budget cuts are on the table right now. The citizen committee and the BAT are set to make presentations of their recommendations to the board on June 24. The board won’t make a decision in the near future, though it will have to be this summer as the budget must be finalized by sometime in August.
NK Education Association President Pat Pearson told me today that the proposal, if adopted, would overload the counselor and the librarian and make them less effective with students. “Kids don’t have a crisis only on Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday,” he said. The counselor and the librarian would be responsible for 600 students between the two schools – about 200 more than the district’s largest elementary (Poulsbo.)
I’ve also heard from folks upset that long-time, beloved French teacher Keith Johnson might not be back at North Kitsap High School in the fall. Johnson was featured in a Sun story in April about a visit to NK by French students.
He has been teaching at NKHS for 40-plus years. I haven’t been able to talk with him today, but North Kitsap Education Association President Pat Pearson said that it’s true that Johnson will probably not return.
He retired a few years ago and returned to his old job under the retire/rehire system. Most local folks are familiar with retire/rehire after the controversy in Bremerton where then-Superintedent Bette Hyde retired and then was rehired a few months later. Not much was known by the public about the system until folks began to realize that Hyde could collect her state retirement and also a paycheck. It was viewed as unfair by some, though many defended the system as critical to filling education positions that were short applicants (especially in special ed, science and administration.)
Different districts deal with retire/rehire in different ways. Last year, the North Kitsap School Board indicated that the district should strictly interpret the rules around retire/rehire. People in retire/rehire positions must re-interview each year for their job. If no other applicant is found to be more qualified, the retire/rehire applicant can be hired. Pearson said it seems these rules apply to teachers but not to administrators.
NKHS mom Jessica Breitbarth called me this morning to tell me her son, Max, called upset by the news. Breitbarth said Johnson has inspired her son to learn French and to want to travel. Johnson is “unusually good and unusually inspiring,” she said. “I mean he is phenomenal!” Whatever the rules are around retire/rehire, Breitbarth said the bottom line is that kids clamor to get into Johnson’s class. If he’s gone, she said, “the kids are the ones who will suffer.”