South Colby to celebrate 60th anniversary

South Colby Elementary School in South Kitsap is one of the oldest continuously operating schools in Kitsap County. The school first opened its doors in the fall of 1956.
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The only school that I know of that has South Colby beat is Brownsville Elementary in Central Kitsap. That school was built in 1954.

Naval Avenue Early Learning Center in Bremerton ties South Colby. The original part of that building was constructed in 1956, with a number of additions and renovations.

South Colby, home of the Bobcats, will celebrate its 60th anniversary from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday with games, music, cupcakes and punch. Staff will distribute 60th anniversary paw print magnets.

PO Mayor: Don’t call it Myhre’s anymore

At long last, work is under way on the Myhre’s building … at least the exterior.

Abadan Holdings, LLC, owned by Mansour Samadpour, in October told city of Port Orchard officials it would address the crumbling exterior of the building, that was gutted by fire in 2011. The city had fielded complaints about the building’s appearance and concerns about the safety of the rock veneer on the front and the wood canopy, which was loose.

The Rylander family had an interest in the property since 1930, operating a restaurant there and rebuilding after a fire in 1963. A couple who bought the property in 2005 lost it to foreclosure, after the 2011 fire, and the building was tied up in a legal morass, sitting fallow, incomplete and exposed to the elements. Samadpour, who owns seven other downtown properties, bought it at auction in May 2014.

The building’s appearance became a political issue last fall. Incumbent Tim Matthes was pushing for a derelict building ordinance — with Myhre’s as the poster child — while his challenger, Rob Putaansuu, said developers needed incentives to help projects “pencil out.” Putaansuu said at the time he had reached out to Samadpour.

In April, Putaansuu — who beat Matthes in the election — expressed frustration that the Myhre’s building sat as dilapidated as ever. But the mayor was hopeful work on the building would start soon, since the contractor, BJC Group, Inc., of Port Orchard, had applied for a permit. Apparently, however, the damage caused by moisture to the unfinished building was worse than expected, so BJC had to revise plans leading to yet another delay.

But, lo, here about three weeks ago, new siding started to appear. Last week, Putaansuu said BJC was working on permits to pull old plywood off the second story deck and jack up a corner of the building that is sagging. A little paint on the canopy, and the cosmetic fix will be complete.
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The interior remains a shell that would need extensive work, however. Putaansuu said he’s been networking to try and find someone to buy or lease the space. “Now it’s time to find a tenant and make it a vibrant part of our community again,” the mayor said. “I think it’s a fabulous location for a brew pub or restaurant.”

As it happens The Lighthouse is looking for a new location. But owner Brooks Konig said he is interested in the building that formerly housed the Port Orchard Pavilion. The Pavilion property also is owned by Mansour Samadpour and, like Myhre’s, is located on the 700 block of Bay Street.

Putaansuu wants people to quit referring to the Myhre’s building as “the Myhre’s building. “It’s not fair to the family that operated it as Myhre’s,” he said. “It’s been a thorn in our side in the community. It’s gotten some negative connotations, and I just want to refer to it as 737 Bay until there’s someone else in there.”

That would make “the Pavilion building” 701 Bay.

I hope we all can keep that straight, and not get the numbers mixed up. A better solution would be for both buildings to be quickly occupied, so we can refer to them by their new business names.

I test drive PO’s new public records system

The news that Port Orchard recently introduced a online public records request portal may not have exactly rang your chimes, unless you’re an avid local government watcher or a member of the media.

Whether you regularly request documents or have the occasional need, the software promises quicker, easier service. I recently tried it out and found it to be useful but also, to some degree, a work in progress.
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For one thing, you have to drill down a couple of clicks from a menu on the right of the homepage to get to the records portal. I would like to see a highly visible “Public Records” button on the homepage.

Court and police records are not yet available through the new portal. City Clerk Brandy Rinearson said she will try in the future to get them included in the “public records center.” To obtain court and police records, contact those departments.

You do need to create an account to use the system, but I will say it’s worth it, because you can track your requests and see them all in one place. Rinearson told me it’s more efficient on the city’s end, as well. For example, common and readily available documents like city council agendas, that are already on the city’s website, are a snap for staff to deliver. Other documents take more research on the part of staff.

Best of all, when your documents are ready, they appear in your account all set to download.

“It’s more of an instant gratification, if you will,” Rinearson said. “It’s going to save some time getting the documents to customers and them having easier access to it. It’s just another level of customer service.”

One thing I expected was a link to frequently requested documents. There isn’t one. There is something called a “knowledge base,” that has frequently asked questions about public records law, how to obtain birth death and divorce certificates, and answers to other questions the city clerk and her staff get all the time. I think they should have called it FAQ.

There’s also something that says “view public records archive” that I was excited about, thinking it was a list of records requests that have been made of the city. It wasn’t. The city keeps an excel sheet of all records requests, showing who made them, what was requested, how it was fulfilled and the cost to the city. This is a public document that I and others have obtained in the past. Rinearson said she would consider adding this as a feature of the new system. The public archive is a place for the city to put documents that suddenly become of wide interest.

Of course the city will still fulfill public records requests however they’re made, by a phone call, email, fax or in person.

Many cities and other governments are moving to some version of the records portal system used by Port Orchard. For us frequent fliers, it’s a welcome tool, and I look forward to seeing the city expand on its capabilities.

A map of Port Orchard’s billboards

Anyone remember back in 2011 when the owner of a Gig Harbor advertising company sued Port Orchard for delaying permits for billboards he wanted to place inside city limits?

The city banned billboards while Rick Engley waited for his ruling, but a federal district court judge decided the applications of Gotcha Covered Inc., were grandfathered in.

Engley also sued for damages and recently settled with the city for a quarter million dollars.

Our coverage of the settlement will be posted shortly at kitsapsun.com and run in print tomorrow (Aug. 1,2016). And with that, we’ll close the loop on this lengthy litigation saga.

Engley sold five of the six billboards to pay his attorney costs. I thought you might like to see a map of where all six billboards are located.

Is Pokémon Go the answer to Port Orchard’s road closure doldrums?

In a post Saturday (July 16) in the Port Orchard Facebook group, Aaron James Hillard notes, “Apparently all it took was Pokémon to get downtown bustling again at 9:15 at night! Strange days.”

Hillard posted a photo, showing waterfront park fairly bustling (for Port Orchard) as the dusk settled in. That launched a lengthy conversation thread on Pokémon Go, the recently released, location-based augmented reality game that has reignited the phenomenon of the 20-year-old franchise in Kitsap County — and around the world.

“Was on the waterfront today and it was very cool to see so many diverse people all coming together,” said Donna Mathis Webb. “Yes, almost everyone there was staring at their phones, but it was still good to see them out and to see that some people even engaged in interacting with others who were, until that point, strangers. It made me feel really good inside. I kind of wish my phone was smart enough to play!”

This is not Hillard’s photo. It was taken July 12 in Bremerton by Kitsap Sun photographer Larry Steagall.
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Port Orchard could use a little boost, regardless of the source. The town is experiencing the summer doldrums due to partial closure of Highway 166 (one of two routes into downtown) for most of the summer due to culvert replacement work on Highway 16.

Both lanes were closed from June 13 until a week ago, when the project moved on to a new phase and the lane heading into town opened. The impact is still being felt.  Businesses are hurting. One of our reporters who recently took the foot ferry from Bremerton to Port Orchard said, “It looks like a ghost town.”

We could use an infusion of whatever to bring people out and about, even if it does look like each is off in his own little world.
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I saw a number of Pokémon chasers as I biked through downtown yesterday. Their presence lent an almost festive atmosphere to the typically sleepy PO vibe.

“It’s easy to make fun of, but in this world of everyone worrying and being offended about everything, it’s nice to see people coming out of their homes and being active, interacting, and smiling and having a good time,” Aaron said. “Didn’t see one bottle of alcohol or smell one whiff of pot in the crowd of about a hundred people. Worse things could be happening. Hunt on hunters.”

Some people on the Facebook thread joked about players running into fences or other objects. I will say from my observations, Pokémon hunters are intent and most (apparently) not looking where they’re going. Like Donna, I don’t have the app on my phone, so I don’t know if you have a good sense of your surroundings while watching your screen for Pokémon or not. I was somewhat concerned for the folks walking casually on the side of a the road as I pedaled by. Would they suddenly lurch into my front wheel if Pikachu popped up in the middle of the road?

Later at a stop light, I crossed paths with a fellow bike rider, who said, “Watch out for those Pokémon players.” As he rode off up Sidney, he speculated aloud that there would be a serious accident or worse before the week is out. I certainly hope not, but seriously, folks, be careful out there.

Back to the conversation, Fred Chang, a city councilman who also plays Pokémon Go, suggested a virtual group for players.

“Now if they’d just all spend money in the shops on Bay Street….,” lamented Janet Karen.

What will it take for people focused on a virtual world to spend real cash in Port Orchard? Some people in the thread suggested business owners could capitalize on the craze by getting out on the street with munchies, beverages, cotton candy. To that, I’d add Band-Aids, Ace bandages, ice packs …

— Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter

NKSD Superintendent evaluations, contracts and goals

Related to our story on the North Kitsap school board’s recent evaluation of Superintendent Patty Page, I’m sharing below documents I received from the district as a result of public records requests.

Page in May received a vote of no confidence from the teacher’s union. The board on July 14 gave her a largely favorable evaluation for her performance in the 2015-2016 school year (and a raise), as we reported, but in her goals for the upcoming school year (the last for Page, who retires in June 2017) the board expects Page to foster better relations with the union and the community.

As you can see from past evaluations, completed in 2013-2015, the board has held Page in high regard throughout her tenure. “You are a great leader. Keep it up. Your energy makes a big difference in running the school district,” the board’s summary evaluation for 2015 states.

The 2015 report makes note of a “concern of one board member that information presented to the board is not balanced.” And a midyear report in 2015 notes room for improvement “in community engagement and collaboration.” Otherwise the board has glowing praise for Page.

The evaluation’s quantitative scale scale ranges from 1 to 4, as follows: Distinguished (4.0), proficient (3.0), basic (2.0) and unsatisfactory (1.0). Most scores awarded by the board in 2015 for Page’s performance on evaluation criteria are in the mid- to high-3 range.

The 2014 evaluation lauds Page for navigating the district through a budget crisis, school closure and negotiation of several open contracts. “Patty was tough but fair and kept us in the know throughout the bargaining process,” the board stated in its June 2014 evaluation. Other comments: “Finances are better than in a decade; district better each year she is here.”

The board’s evaluations stand in sharp contrast to reports from the teachers’ union that members disapproved of her leadership as early as 2013, about a year after she joined the district.

The 2014 evaluation shows the board was well aware of the teachers’ discontent. “Patty has taken a lot of heat from the teachers’ union and the public, mostly based on board decisions. This created a lot of negative press, and (she) never once tried to blame the board.”

One “area for improvement” noted in 2014, “Need to increase delegation and take care of self by not putting in so many hours.”

That year, the board scored Page lowest in the area of “family and community engagement,” a score of 2.6 out of 4, where her overall score for 2014 was 3.275.

Related to the evaluation process, the board established goals for Page for the 2014-2015 school year, also for the 2015-2016 school year, and they have proposed goals for the 2016-2017 school year (to be approved Aug. 18).

In Page’s past contracts from the 2012-2013 school year (her first with the district) through the 2015-2016 school year, you can see her salary was $140,000 for her first two years, $146,000 in 2014 and initially $148,920 in 2015.

Page’s contract for the 2015-2016 school year was revised in August 2015 to reflect a 3 percent raise the board gave her, since the state gave a 3 percent raise to all certificated public school staff. Her salary then was $153,388.

In her contract for the upcoming school year, the board gave Page a 1 percent raise over her 2015-2016 salary of $153,388, plus a 1.8 percent raise which all public school certificated staff received from the state, for a salary of $157,711, plus benefits.

Stacie Schmechel and Suzi Crosby, two NK parents who diligently watch the school board’s actions, were at the July 14 meeting. Schmechel and Crosby have complained about the superintendent’s evaluation process and did so again at the meeting.

Crosby said the board needs to be more detailed and explicit in explaining their evaluation of the superintendent, and she said, they need to connect the dots between goals set at the beginning of the year and the superintendent’s performance on those goals.

Schmechel, during public comment at the meeting, stood silent at the microphone demonstrating what she said is a lack of response by the district to public records requests she has made regarding Page’s evaluations, including the board’s deliberations in executive session. Schmechel disputes that deliberations on the superintendent’s performance should take place behind closed doors.

The state’s open public meetings act exempts from open session meetings “to review the performance of a public employee.” Although final action — hiring, firing, renewal of contract, non-renewal — must take place in public.

The state’s open public records act generally exempts evaluations of a public employee from disclosure. But not in the case of the director or lead employee of a public agency.

“This is an exception to the normal rule that public employee evaluation information affects employee personal privacy rights and is exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56. 230(3),” said Korrine Henry, North Kitsap’s public records officer. “The rationale for this exception is found in an appellate court decision involving a city manager. Like a city manager, a school superintendent manages the district and is evaluated directly by an elected school board, the same as the elected officials of a city evaluate a city manager, thus the public has a legitimate interest in knowing the results of the evaluation.”

The district doesn’t automatically make the superintendent’s final evaluations public, but will disclose them on request. Some districts make superintendent contracts easy to find on their websites. Why not final written evaluations?

Let me know if you have any trouble with the links or if you would like emailed copies of the documents. Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

Footnote: Board President Beth Worthington said Friday she was in error at the July 14 meeting in saying the board had set goals for the three previous years (only two). Going forward, she said the superintendent’s performance on the past year’s goals will be documented as part of the year end evaluation (as on the evaluation approved last night).

Precinct map of SKSD bond vote invites theories on bond’s failure

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Tad Sooter, the Kitsap Sun’s business reporter and all ’round data guy, created this interactive graphic map of precinct data from the April 26 South Kitsap School District bond election.

For the second time this year, voters turned down a 30-year $127 million bond to build a second high school and make technology improvements at South Kitsap High School. At least 60 percent approval is required; yes votes amounted to 59.39 percent. The margin in February was even closer.

So close, yet so far.

Bond supporters used precinct data from previous elections in their campaign strategy for the April 26 vote. The data is publicly available on the Kitsap County Elections website for every measure. How an individual votes is not shown, but anyone clicking on the website can see how many yes and no votes there were in each precinct. On Tad’s map, click on each precinct for details of vote tallies.

Looking at the map suggests voters in more rural areas of South Kitsap, Gorst and that odd area off Highway 3 that seems like it should be part of Bremerton don’t affiliate strongly with South Kitsap School District. Whereas, most of the more centrally located precincts that probably have a neighborhood school nearby gave strong support (61 to 65 percent) or very strong support (over 65 percent) to the measure. That’s just my theory of course.

Alternatively or concurrently, there could be an age demographic at work.

Most of the people we heard from who were strongly against the bond were retired people on a fixed income who said they were too tapped out with taxes to add more, among other reasons for opposing the bond. Do these people live in the more rural areas?

And what about relative affluence? Look at the Harper 240 precinct near upscale Southworth hanging out there far from the center of town, though not far from South Colby Elementary, with 65-plus support for the bond.

Sunnyslope 281 precinct, near where the new high school was to be built, was in the 56 to 60 percent range, not quite passing. Nearby precinct 220, encompassing McCormick Woods, was 61 to 65 percent. Across Old Clifton Road, two precincts full of affordable single family homes and probably many young children, hit the 65-plus mark.

It would be interesting to see economic and demographic data overlaid on the voting data. Well, get Tad right on it.

NKSD superintendent evaluation, what’s next?

There’s been plenty of news lately about Kitsap County school superintendents.

Last week South Kitsap School District Superintendent Michelle Reid announced she will be moving to the much larger Northshore School District in Bothell. And Faith Chapel, superintendent in Bainbridge Island School District for the past eight years, was lauded last Friday on her retirement.

In North Kitsap School District, Superintendent Patty Page has faced mounting criticism from the teachers’ union and community. A vote of no confidence by the union on May 26 was supported by members of the custodial and food service employees’ union. And on June 9, the school board received a petition from community members with 419 signatures asking the board for a leadership change, as union leaders also have suggested.

The petition reiterated the union’s complaints about a climate of intimidation under Page’s “top-down leadership” style.

Given all that, there is heightened interest this year in the superintendent’s annual evaluation process.

The board met last week in executive session (a meeting closed to the public) that was on a Wednesday (not the board’s usual Thursday meeting). Board president Beth Worthington confirmed that the special session held June 15 was related to Page’s annual evaluation and that the board had met in executive session June 9 for the same reason.

Districts all have slightly different methods for evaluating the superintendent. As in North Kitsap, discussion of a superintendent’s performance and goals for the upcoming year typically takes place in executive session.

In Bremerton, for example, both the mid-year and year-end superintendent evaluation are done in executive session, BSD spokeswoman Patty Glaser said. The superintendent’s progress toward his own goals are reviewed in executive session. The district’s goals, which may overlap with with the superintendent’s goals to some extent are presented and voted on in open session, before the public, Glaser said.

Worthington explained, “It has not been the practice of NKSD to discuss the content of the superintendent evaluation in public. The board works hard to have a relationship of trust, honesty and support with the superintendent and will work hard to have the same with future superintendents. Not discussing the evaluation of the superintendent performance in public allows for meaningful and productive communication for improvement for the benefit of NKSD.”

The superintendent’s final evaluation is, however, a public record. The state’s open public records act generally exempts evaluation of a public employee from disclosure. But not in the case of the director or lead employee of a public agency.

Korinne Henry (no relation to me), North Kitsap School District’s public records officer, explains, “This is an exception to the normal rule that public employee evaluation information affects employee personal privacy rights and is exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56. 230(3). The rationale for this exception is found in an appellate court decision involving a city manager. Like a city manager, a school superintendent manages the district and is evaluated directly by an elected school board, the same as the elected officials of a city evaluate a city manager, thus the public has a legitimate interest in knowing the results of the evaluation.”

In North Kitsap, the superintendent’s evaluation is a summary incorporating all board members’ input and consensus of the board on the superintendent’s performance in meeting goals and on a number of evaluation criteria, such as leadership, community engagement and collaboration, and improvement of student education and services. The superintendent’s contract, including salary, also is a public document.

Any action taken by a school board in executive session, such as voting to renew (or not renew) the superintendent’s contract, must be made in open session before the public.

Under NKSD policy and procedure, the superintendent’s evaluation is to be completed by July 1, but the board can extend or modify the contract before July 1. That will be the case this year, Worthington said. “Due to the complexity of current issues and scheduling constraints of individual board members, I believe we need more time.”

At Thursday’s board meeting (June 23), the board will consider a resolution to extend the July 1 date to the July 14 regular meeting, Worthington said.

The board at the July 14 meeting also will discuss Page’s goals for the 2016-2017 school year. “That has been our practice for the last several years,” Worthington said.

Page has said she is retiring at the end of the upcoming school year after a lengthy career in education

As leader of the district, Page’s annual goals are inevitably intertwined with North Kitsap’s Strategic Plan goals. There are three main goals in the plan, one of which is “stakeholder satisfaction and support.”

“The superintendent’s goals may relate to her individual performance in assisting the district to attain the Strategic Plan and goals,” Worthington said.

Worthington and Page in a May 25 letter to the public (the day before the no confidence vote) acknowledged they had not publicly addressed climate surveys by the teachers’ union in 2013 and 2015 that reflected negatively on Page’s leadership. In the letter, Worthington and Page pledged a commitment to improving relations with staff and the community. Public and staff comments at the June 9 board meeting indicate a growing impatience to see signs this effort is under way.

Chris Fraser, teachers’ union president, said frustration among her members is growing due to lack of movement. “The school board should strongly consider buying out the contract for our current superintendent and selecting an interim superintendent with input from stakeholder groups,” Fraser wrote in a June 9 press release.

The board meanwhile has made discussion of communication and public trust a regular item on its agenda.

Fraser has called for the board to meet with employees and has criticized Worthington for discouraging such meetings. Worthington said it’s not the board’s role to “address complaints directly with citizens, employees and employee organizations.” That’s up to administrators and supervisory staff, she said.

Worthington said that board members are indeed willing to meet with staff and receive their written complaints, comments and concerns. What the board shouldn’t do, she said, is meet in any context that would smack of taking administrative action or constitute negotiation of contract terms. Doing so could compromise the relationship between the district administration and the union, Worthington said.

However, Worthington said she supports suggestions from board members Jim Almond and Glen Robbins, who said they’d like to go out to schools on a listening tour.

“While we can’t really be the workhorse in resolving complaints, we find it valuable to know what people’s experiences are,” Worthington said.

It’s a subtle difference. How did it get lost in translation?

“We probably are not as competent and well versed in public relations as we should be,” she said.

SKHS grads revisit childhood at South Colby

A new tradition among high school graduates that gives a nod to nostalgia is spreading here in Kitsap County.

Last week, members of Bremerton’s senior class visited their elementary schools on graduation day, wearing their caps and gowns. The idea came from a Texas high school, whose images went viral after its seniors journeyed the halls of the local elementary schools.

On Monday, seniors from South Kitsap High School stopped in on South Colby Elementary for a trip down memory lane … and to inspire younger students.

The South Kitsap grads were greeted and cheered by students and teachers who formed a “tunnel of hope.”

Here are a few photos provided by South Kitsap School District.

This is Anna Somerville walking down the breezeway through the tunnel of high fives and cheers. Anna was the senior field marshal for the SKHS marching band this year, and she is going to The Honors College at WSU.
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Below is a group of grads (left to right): Richard James (who will be going on a mission to Utah in July), Kevin Morrison (low brass section leader in the SKHS band. He’s participated in wrestling and track, and is going to George Fox to study engineering), Analise Burko (president of the National Honor Society. She’s participated in basketball and tennis, and is going to the university of Washington to study biomedical engineering), and Chloe Meyers (low brass section leader in the SKHS band, who was on swim team and in the school play. Chloe is going to The Honors College at WSU to study chemistry and pre-med).
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South Colby students gave the graduates messages of encouragement.
From left to right: Karissa Gay, Hanna Spencer, Phoebe Chobot, Gracie Thompson, Alisa Young, Jayden Lynch, Emma Keddy.
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Renegade rooster finds a flock

Bitsey the rooster, who avoided capture for a year in South Kitsap.
Bitsey the rooster, who avoided capture for a year in South Kitsap.

Bitsey, the once elusive rooster, quickly found himself in a permanent home after being captured earlier this month in South Kitsap and taken to the humane society in Silverdale.

Last summer, Bitsey made the ravine above Port Orchard City Hall his own. City officials and neighbors weren’t pleased with situation where the rooster would crow at all hours of the day and night.

Animal control finally nabbed the rooster on May 4. He was adopted by Lone Rock Mercantile in Seabeck on May 13, a day after he was up for adoption. The owners of the store declined to be interviewed, although Bitsey now is happily spending his days with 15 hens, according to the Kitsap Humane Society.

Livestock tend to be adopted fairly quickly because of the rural area in and around Kitsap, said Meagan Richards, the humane society’s adoption program coordinator.

Roosters usually take the longest to adopt, she added.

Livestock are adopted in an average of 12-20 days, including roosters. Without counting roosters, livestock are adopted in less than five days, Richards said.

Dogs tend be adopted in less than seven days, while cats average about a 15 day stay at the humane society.

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Duck the rooster, who is up for adoption at the Kitsap Humane Society.

There is still one rooster, named Duck, up for adoption.

When Bitsey arrived at the humane society there were at least two other roosters up for adoption.

“Over here, he’s crowing up a storm with the three of ‘em going at the same time,” said Chase Connolly, an animal control officer with KHS. “It’s an orchestra of roosters.”

Now, only Duck is left.

For information on adopting Duck, contact KHS at 360-692-6977.