Peninsular Thinking

A conversation about Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Bainbridge Island, Kingston, Manchester, Seabeck, Southworth, Suquamish, Belfair, Keyport, Olalla, Bangor, Hansville, Indianola, Port Gamble, Allyn, Port Ludlow, Gig Harbor and every once in a while something about the good folks who don't have the good fortune to live here.
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Digging into Common Core

April 7th, 2014 by Steven Gardner

A few weeks ago there was a flurry of Facebook links critical of the Common Core standards being expanded in schools across the country. The primary method of those complaining was to take what seems like common sense to show how ridiculous Common Core is. In one case a dad did a simple subtraction equation instead of using the number line the math test question required. Another questioned the need for “friendly” numbers.

A friend of mine posted one of those, the number line one, and I responded with a tepid contrarian outlook. I saw the value of the number line. I say “tepid,” because I have to admit I don’t know as much about Common Core as I should, so I have to hold out that frustrated dad might have been correct in his complaint.

My 10,000-mile explanation is that Common Core emphasizes the process of getting the answer as much as the answer itself. That sounds like a good idea, but I plan to dig in further in the next several weeks to learn and present more, because unintended consequences usually come from good ideas. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I found this story from my old Vancouver, Wash. employer, The Columbian. It’s a short story about students taking a Common Core approach to history.


Bremerton-born blues man performs locally Friday and Saturday

April 4th, 2014 by Chris Henry

So, got any plans at 4 p.m. today (April 4)?

Bremerton-born blues man TJ Wheeler will present a free workshop today at the Opal Robertston Teen Center, 802 7th St. in Bremerton. He’ll also give a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Island Center Hall on Bainbridge Island, 8395 Fletcher Bay Rd NE; donations welcome. A 6 p.m. potluck precedes Saturday’s entertainment.

Wheeler graduated from an alternative school on Bainbridge Island and found music to be a grounding influence in his early life, which was full of challenges, according to Jerry Elfendahl, who is helping publicize the musician’s visit to the Northwest. He has earned many awards and accolades, including the W.C. Handy Keeping the Blues Alive Award in education.

Wheeler’s workshops combine music and inspiration. His educational program Hope, Heroes and the Blues, which started with a small grant from Ben & Jerry’s, has reached more than 450,000 students nationwide.
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The concert/workshop in Bremerton is sponsored by New Life Community Development Agency. Although the workshop is aimed at youth, everyone is welcome. There is no cost.

Wheeler’s calling his Saturday concert a 50th Jubilee, since he’s been playing guitar for 50 years.

“The next week the Jimi Hendrix Museum AKA EMP / (Experience Music project) have booked me to do a ‘Blues to Hendrix’ BITS (Blues in the School) residency and concert,” Wheeler wrote in his blog. “It is a blessing to be coming home and I hope I see all of you at one site or another.”


Fireworks: love ‘em, hate ‘em, tolerate ‘em

April 2nd, 2014 by Chris Henry

The city of Port Orchard will put a notice in upcoming utility bills reminding folks to be safe and sensible about fireworks. The decision was triggered by recent complaints from city residents.

Among them is Elissa Whittleton, who is weary of the traffic and — as she describes it — mayhem that take place on the 4th of July in her Tracy Avenue neighborhood. It should be noted that Tracy Avenue, perched up on the hillside above Sinclair Inlet, has one of the best views in the city of the annual Fathoms ‘O Fun fireworks display.
fireworks
The city council on March 18 brought in Port Orchard Police Chief Geoffrey Marti and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue Chief Steve Wright to talk about what could be done to maximize safety.

Whittleton would like the city to designate fireworks free zones, specifically areas like Tracy Avenue that become congested with pedestrians and traffic. But Wright said such zones would be “hard to enforce.”

Selectively designated no-fireworks zones may not even be something the city can do, Marti said, “To say that area is unique and deserves unique rules would be hard to defend (to other neighborhoods that may also seek such a ban).”

Illegal fireworks are the greatest source of incidents, according to SKFR data, Wright said. “The public sort of takes a liberty that they view this as their time to do something that is really outside of the norm.”

Wright recalled past efforts to impose a countywide ban on fireworks that fizzled out for lack of support.

Staffing for Independence Day is always a challenge, both chiefs said. Both the fire and police departments call in additional help, but officers and fire units can’t be everywhere. SKFR factors in weather conditions in planning for the 4th.

Marti advised people who call 911 for fireworks-related issues to specify first if there is an imminent danger: has someone been injured, is someone’s house on fire? People should also specify if they want an officer to contact them. The department will triage calls, but eventually they will get back to everyone who requests contact, Marti said, adding. “It may take some time.”

Mayor Tim Matthes noted that two years ago the fireworks were “pretty bad,” but last year, the Port of Bremerton prohibited fireworks on its property and had volunteers (identified as representing the port) patrol the property. Warning signs also reminded waterfront visitors. The result was a calmer atmosphere, Matthes said. He recommended the city recruit additional volunteers to help the port’s effort.

Bek Ashby, a council member who lives in the same general area as Whittleton, said she enjoys the festivities and is resigned to the drill.

“Every 4th of July, I have to be home after six to protect my home. That’s just the way it is,” Ashby said. “I just consider that the price I pay to have the best view in the city of the fireworks.”

Months later, she still finds spent incendiary devices in her flower beds.

“I for one don’t want to eliminate the fireworks in the city,” Ashby said later in the meeting. “It’s joyous in my neighborhood. It’s loud but people are having a lot of fun.”

Whittleton, at the council’s March 25 meeting, thanked them for discussing the idea but said, “not much headway” was made in resolving safety issues. She suggested charging a tax or fee on fireworks sold in the city and using the money to enforce the prohibition against illegal fireworks.

State law defines legal “consumer fireworks” (not to be confused with “display fireworks”) as “any small firework device designed to produce visible effects by combustion” under regulations of the United States consumer product safety commission, “and including some small devices designed to produce audible effects, such as whistling devices, ground devices containing 50 mg or less of explosive materials, and aerial devices containing 130 mg or less of explosive materials …”

What are your thoughts on fireworks? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Tolerate ‘em? What suggestions do you have regarding celebration of Independence Day where you live?

And finally, what’s the best place in Kitsap County for watching fireworks?


All on board with all-day kindergarten?

March 27th, 2014 by Chris Henry

From what we hear from school district officials in Kitsap and North Mason counties, the demand among families for all-day kindergarten is high.

Kids who take part in enriched early learning programs — including all-day kindergarten — have greater success throughout their academic career, the experts say.
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Local districts are joining the all-day kindergarten movement, using different models and funding sources. South Kitsap School District was the latest to announce its plans to expand all-day kindergarten to all of its 10 elementary schools.

By the 2017-2018 school year, all districts in Washington State will be asked to offer all-day kindergarten programs, and the state by then is supposed to cover the entire cost.

Steve Gardner, in his story earlier this month, quoted a North Kitsap parent, Stacie Schmechel, who said parents she’s heard from want half-day kindergarten as an option. Schmechel said studies show the full-day model works well for underachieving and overachieving students, but has little impact on those in between.

South Kitsap Superintendent Michelle Reid, in a recent memo to staff, said research shows the largest gains from an all-day program occur among students who enter kindergarten with the lowest skills, “though even students who arrive well prepared for kindergarten will benefit from an enhanced and extended day program.”

But what about those parents who just don’t want to send their 5-year-old off for a full school day?

Reid said the district, at least for the foreseeable future, would accommodate those families.

“We recognize parents are every child’s first teacher, and there are parents who are willing and have the time to provide enrichment for their children,” Reid said. “I think parents need choices, and we’re a district that believes in providing parents choices.”

But the have-it-your-way model presents some logistical problems. You couldn’t mix half-day and all-day kids in one classroom, Reid said. Districts already will need more space for the all-day programs, and if the numbers of families in each camp didn’t divide neatly, the district would have to make some hard choices or big accommodations, it seems.

Reid said the possibility that the half-day students could fall behind the full-day kids is a real concern. But until all-day kindergarten becomes a universal concept schools can’t/shouldn’t force families who want that half-day at home with their child, she said.

Schmechel argues that parents who elect to keep their children home probably have the time to devote to helping them learn, so it is unlikely they would lag behind their peers.

Brenda Ward, North Kitsap’s director of elementary education, said the request for half-day kindergarten when an all-day program is available would be unusual, based on her experience.

Peggy Ellis, Ward’s counterpart in the Central Kitsap School District, said she had not seen any parents requesting half-day classes there. CKSD will offer free, all-day kindergarten at all its elementary schools next year.

Some children, especially those who have had little preschool experience, have trouble adjusting, Ellis said. In that case, allowing half-day attendance early in the school year would be an option.

Where does your family stand on the option of all-day kindergarten? Do you welcome it as a constructive alternative to day care that you’d be paying for anyway? If you have the option to stay home with your child, would you take advantage of an all-day program? Or would you rather keep their schooling half-day for that one last year?


Tracyton residents want to keep their fire station

March 26th, 2014 by Rachel Anne Seymour
Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue is considering closing Station 44, on Tracy Street. Rachel Anne Seymour / Kitsap Sun

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue is considering closing Station 44, on Tracy Street. Rachel Anne Seymour / Kitsap Sun

While only a few Tracyton residents attended Monday’s meeting about the potential closure of the volunteer firehouse in Tracyton, a majority of those that did attend argued for keeping the station open.

“I don’t want to see it go,” Bob Kono said.

Bob and his wife, Kay Kono, have lived in Tracyton for 47 years and were both part of Tracyton’s Fire District 11 before a string of mergers that lead to today’s Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. Bob was the assistant fire chief when he left the Tracyton Station in 1981, while Kay was a volunteer at the station for 11 years.

“It was the heart of the community,” Kay said.

Station 44, on Tracy Street, is the original building made from masonry blocks in 1963.

Now, it requires about $500,000 in repairs, according to a report by Paul Anderson, CKFR repair and maintenance manager.

Parking lot repairs and stormwater requirements would each cost an estimated $150,000 of that amount.

Other repairs included settling issues, electrical updates, chimney removal, kitchen remodeling and lighting, among others.

Tracyton resident Gary Keenan argued that the repair costs were estimated too high.

“I feel these numbers are grossly exaggerated,” he said. “I don’t feel like these are things that should be presented to us as things we need to do.”

Keenan also argued that the cost of keeping the station open is relatively inexpensive.

Basic utilities cost the district about $4,380 per year, but that does not include routine maintenance and upkeep, Anderson said.

Last year, CKFR reviewed its facilities and vehicles to determine what maintenance and repairs needed to be done, and where money should be invested while the district deals with balancing its budget.

CKFR projects a $1 million shortfall in its 2015 budget if expenses are not reduced.

A majority of the fire district’s revenue comes from levy’s based on assessed property values, which have been decreasing for the past six years, resulting in a loss of more than $2 million.

One Silverdale resident, Ed Stebor, suggested closing the Tracyton Station and selling the land to make money.

If this does happen, Bob Kono, who also lives close to the station, said he is concerned with what will happen to the land.

CKFR will be looking into and considering the station’s zoning location and how much the land could potentially make the district, according Fergus.

CKFR also is considering the community’s safety in the decision to potentially close the Tracyton Station.

Response times will not be significantly impacted, according to the district. Tracyton’s volunteer crews were the first on scene for about 60 of the 3,404 calls in their response area.

The station’s coverage area also overlaps with Meadowdale and North Perry Station 45 on Trenton Avenue. Both stations are staffed with career firefighters.

If the Tracyton Station closes, residents will not see a change in insurance rates because of the station overlaps, according to Ileana LiMarzi, CKFR public information officer.

And Tracyton Station volunteers will be reassigned to Meadowdale Station 41 on Old Military Road.

The district has not made a decision, Commissioner Dave Fergus stressed during Monday’s meeting, but the Tracyton Station will definitely be an agenda item in the future.

The next board meeting is April 14 at CKFR’s administration building.


Long Lake taxing district map: where’s your property?

March 25th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Here, as promised, is a map of proposed boundaries for a lake management district to pay for control of invasive weeds and toxic algae at Long Lake in South Kitsap.

I’ve written a couple of stories about this recently: One explaining the problem of the weeds and algae, which in the past have degraded the lake environment and spoiled its recreational potential. Today I wrote a follow-up on a public hearing set for April 18.

Treatment of the lake from 2006 through 2010 was paid for with a state Department of Ecology grant, but that source is no longer available.

Property owners on and near the lake later this year will get to vote on whether to assess themselves to pay for weed and algae control.

The cost for lakeshore properties would be $252 per year, under the current proposal. Properties with access to the lake would pay $144 per year; and properties in “close proximity” would pay $52 per year. The boundaries and the assessment amounts, along with pretty much everything else about the proposal, is subject to change. A lot depends on what the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners hears from lake area residents, and other people with an interest in the lake at the public hearing on April 28 (we’ll remind you when and where as the hearing gets closer).

In the meantime, if you have questions, visit the website of the group Citizens for Improving Long Lake, which initiated the process for the election. Or contact Eric Baker, Kitsap County special projects manager, at ebaker@co.kitsap.wa.us or (360) 337-4495.

Long Lake Management District Map by sunnews820


Vacancy on board of Manchester H2O District

March 19th, 2014 by Chris Henry

The Manchester Water District is seeking applicants to fill the unexpired term of a commissioner who is moving out of the district and will be ineligible to serve the rest of his term.

Kyle Galpin, who has served on the district’s board since 2000, announced his resignation this month, said Dennis O’Connell, general manager.

Galpin was selected to replace outgoing Commissioner Jacki Masters in July 2000. He was elected to office in 2001, and re-elected in 2003 and 2009.

“In his nearly 14-years of service as commissioner, Kyle helped guide the district through two management changes, critical infrastructure improvements, and an occasional billing dispute,” said O’Connell. “His experience in the water utility industry as an employee of West Sound Utility District made him uniquely qualified to address matters of concern for Manchester Water District, and we’ll miss his expertise, sound judgment, and good humor.”

The other two commissioners and district staff are grateful for Galpin’s service and “wish him the best in his future endeavors,” O’Connell said.

Manchester residents who live within water district boundaries are eligible for appointment to the vacant position. Meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month in the Manchester Library and are open to the public.

Letters of interest, due by April 15, should be mailed to board Chairman Steve Pedersen, Manchester Water District, P.O. Box 98, Manchester, WA 98353.


Foundation incorporates crowdfunding as tool to meet local needs

March 18th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Kol Medina has been on both sides of Kitsap Community Foundation‘s philanthropic endeavors. Medina, who took over as KCF’s executive director a year-and-a-half ago, formerly was executive director of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter. In that role, he wrote and received grants from the foundation on behalf of the shelter.

Medina felt the process of awarding grants could be made more “transparent” and interactive by putting applicants’ profiles online and directly inviting the public to support the cause of their choice. This variation on crowdfunding is a supplement to money the foundation will award through its competitive grant program.

The foundation has supported worthy organizations in Kitsap County and vicinity since 1999 through traditional methods of soliciting applicants and awarding grants. In years past, a small committee that included some board members would evaluate applications and make recommendations to the board for disbursing funds from the foundation’s endowment. “It was a fairly subjective review process,” Medina said.

Last year, the foundation disbursed $80,000 in funds through the competitive grant program. Another $800,000 was disbursed through endowments that donors have designated for specific causes or organizations. The foundation manages $4.5 million in endowed funds (money invested for the purpose of generating annual grants). The board’s goal is to grow the endowment to $10 million. The foundation’s operating budget this year is $170,000.

New this year, the competitive grant program selection committee is much larger and is made up largely of people with no connection to the foundation. Each applicant was scored on a scale of 1 to 100, based on responses to application questions about mission, community need, budget, track record of the organization and viability of planned programs.

The committee will make recommendations to the board based on the applicants’ scores but not until after the online crowdfunding campaign, which runs through April 7. The committee’s recommendations could be adjusted based on how and where needs are filled.

The public can’t see numeric scores, but the applicants in each category are listed in order with the highest scoring groups at the top. The categories are: Arts, Culture & Humanities; Education; Environment & Animals; Health; Human Services; and Public/Community Benefit. The public can see an abridged version of each application and determine for themselves whether and where to donate.

“Because we are a community foundation, I feel that it’s important to try to make the process as transparent as we can and to try to involve the community in the process as much as possible,” Medina said. “Our job is to take the community’s money and use it in the best way possible and the most transparent way possible, because it’s not our money; it’s the community’s money.”

That, says Medina, is the difference between a community foundation and a private foundation, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Medina and the KCF board were inspired to try the crowdfunding approach by the Orcas Island Community Foundation, which launched an online funding model last year and distributed $120,000 to its local organizations. Surprisingly, no other community foundations that Medina knows of have leveraged the power of online solicitations. A foundation in Renton recently made inquiries about Kitsap’s model.

So how has it gone on Orcas Island? “It’s been a little bit of a learning process both on our end and our donors’ end,” said staff member Kate Long. “But for the most part, we have increased our donor base and we’re really happy with the results.”

Toward the end of the year, OICF placed online a “holiday catalog,” where donations could be made in someone’s name. They raised $6,000 for causes this way.

The Kitsap Community Foundation offers donors several methods: donate directly to your organization of choice, send a check via KCF or donate online through KCF, which doesn’t collect a fee. KCF prefers the last two methods because it allows them to track whether a group’s needs have been met and to evaluate overall community needs.

For more information on Kitsap Community Foundation, visit http://www.kitsapfoundation.org, email kcf@kitsapfoundation.org, or call 360.698.3622.


Woman first on scene of Baby Doll crash sells bracelets

March 12th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Aily Blaikie, the woman who was first on the scene of a fatal crash on Baby Doll Road Dec. 16, attended today’s memorial.

Family and friends of Rebekah Barrett and Shanaia Bennett gathered on Baby Doll to remember the girls (who were best friends) and to place roadside signs in their memory urging people to drive safely.
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On the night of the collision, Blaikie ran down the road after hearing the Toyota Camry Rebekah was driving racing with another car at high speed and the sickening crash that followed. Blaikie arrived at the car, which had collided with a tree, and held the two girls as they faded out of consciousness, saying a prayer for them. A third girl, who was in the back seat, survived.

Blakie, a young woman herself, left in shock after aid arrived. The next morning she was out on the road staring at the scene. The memory of the girls’ last moments haunted Blakie. She had nightmares and sometimes hallucinated, thinking she saw them in her house and carried on conversations with them.
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She often walked down to the scarred tree, where someone had set up a makeshift memorial. For hours she would lie on the bench. One day, she said, a man came to the site and they talked for a long time. She later learned he was Rebekah’s father, John Barrett.

Blaikie met the two families and has developed a bond forged through the tragedy. Slowly, she is healing emotionally. But she wanted to do something for the Bennetts and Barretts.

Blakie is selling memorial wristbands with both girls’ names, a music note for Shanaia and a soccer ball for Rebecca. Any money she raises will help the family with expenses they’ve incurred and for memorials like the roadside signs.

The bracelets cost $4 each. To order one, call Blaikie at (360) 551-1614


SAT changes: rewarding risk

March 12th, 2014 by Chris Henry

Among changes coming to the SAT college entrance exam in 2016 is a new provision that there will be no penalty for wrong answers.

It’s no secret that strategies for taking the high stakes test are seen as almost as (if not more) important than the content. In the past, students have been coached to answer questions when, by process of elimination and other methods of sifting evidence, they can say with near certainty which answer is correct, according to Franklyn MacKenzie, director of secondary education at Central Kitsap School District.

Calculated risk taking is a useful skill that schools endorse, Mackenzie said. Under the new standard, the SAT will reward that behavior to a much greater level. That is, they won’t be penalized for taking that risk if they happen to be wrong. Schools typically encourage such calculated risk-taking, MacKenzie said. Now the test will be more like what students experience in school.

Chris Swanson, career and college counselor at Bremerton High School, also sees the no-penalty-for-wrong-answers change as a positive. In the past, he said, SAT coaches have made kids crazy by telling them not to answer questions if they’re not almost 100 percent sure. For eager students it feels like slacking and counter-intuitive to what they’ve been taught on school tests.

Swanson believes the old strategies won’t work well on the new SAT. The new test also calls on students to demonstrate why they know something is right, a huge trend in schools these days.

“It sounds to me like in the future those strategies will likely not be the keys to success that they are today, but rather your ability to provide the evidence to back up answers,” Swanson said.

The change could be a good thing for cautious students. But what if you have a student who is perfectly comfortable taking risks, who sees the change as a green light to answer questions willy nilly. The College Board’s press release on the SAT changes doesn’t say how or if the test will screen for such an approach. Perhaps, as Swanson suggests, the call for evidence-based answers will weed out the wanton risk-takers.

Sample questions due out in April are likely to provide more insight into what new strategies will be called for.

Students, what SAT strategies have you found most useful? What was the hardest thing about the test? Knowing what you do now, is there anything you would have done differently to prepare?


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