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CK school district audits its communication with public

November 27th, 2012 by Chris Henry

Central Kitsap School District officials want to know how effectively they communicate with the public.

The district is contracting for an audit of its communications plan and materials, including its website, newsletters, press releases and other materials. The audit, to be conducted by an independent agency, is not required by any state or federal mandate, said spokesman David Beil, who gave a Powerpoint presentation on the audit at the Nov. 13 board meeting.

The purpose is to evaluate the district’s communication goals and methods. The audit will include a parent survey and one-on-one phone interviews with eight to 10 selected stakeholders, including administrators, staff, parents and community members. Beil and other district officials will review results of the audit in 2013 and implement suggestions for improvement.

Part of the audit will involve a review of media coverage of the district, and auditors will speak with members of the media who routinely cover CKSD. A review of this year’s media coverage by the Kitsap Sun shows reports of friction involving the school board, administration and teachers’ union.

The year began with voters narrowly approving a special two-year levy to help the district weather temporary loss of federal education funding for military communities. The levy passed with 50.26 percent of the vote.

In June, some members of the Central Kitsap Education Association issued a vote of no-confidence in Superintendent Greg Lynch. About half of CKEA’s 689 members attended the meeting, which included discussion about some members’ concerns and a vote. In the vote on the superintendent, 28 people abstained and 304 voted, of which 73 percent said they had no confidence in Lynch. Not a majority of the membership, in other words.

Later in June, friction within the board was apparent as board members Christy Cathcart and Eric Greene expressed dissatisfaction with Lynch over communication with the board. Board President Chris Stokke called the board into executive session. Nearly two hours later, they reconvened and Stokke read a short, typed statement expressing the board’s confidence in Lynch.

In September, the board issued its determination that complaints against the superintendent were unfounded, along with a public apology to Lynch and the administration for any “unintended, negative impacts to their credibility.”

On Nov. 13, the board considered an agenda item “To Receive and Determine a Process for Evaluating Complaints Against One or More School Directors.” The board will take up the matter again on Wednesday. At the Nov. 13 meeting, Stokke said the agenda item was related to letters the board has received from community members over the summer and fall. He did not identify the board members against whom the complaints were lodged.

The board debated whether to begin discussion of the complaints in executive session. A policy of the board allows for an executive session “to receive and evaluate complaints or charges brought against a director or staff member; however, upon the request of such director or staff member, a public hearing or a meeting open to the public shall be conducted on such complaint or charge.” The question was whether the person(s) against whom the complaints were lodged should have the right to call for discussion to start in an open meeting.

The board went back and forth on whether to use a facilitator. Stokke said it would be difficult for him to both mediate the process and participate in it.

Another question the board tackled was how it should determine when a complaint against a public official rises to the level that it requires a formal investigation such as is being proposed. Board member Mark Gaines ventured his opinion that the complaints in question do rise to that level. “I say we need to address it because of the serious allegations and the pall it could cast on the board,” Gaines said.

The board eventually decided to continue its discussion to Wednesday, with the goal of hammering out a proposed process for handling the complaints and a plan to vote on the process during its meeting Dec. 12.

Reporter Steve Gardner, who now covers CKSD, will be at Wednesday’s meeting. I’ll fill in for him as needed at future meetings, as we now share the education beat, and we will continue to cover the process for handling the aforementioned complaints, as the board makes its way through it.

Chris Henry, reporter

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3 Responses to “CK school district audits its communication with public”

  1. Robin Jensen Says:

    How much will the audit cost the district? Which budget category will provide these funds?

    Why didn’t the district use an independent auditor to determine whether complaints against the superintendent were warranted? Instead the board discussed the matter behind closed doors, and issued its own determination that ‘complaints were unfounded.’

    It seems to me the district is more concerned with whether its communication methods meet its goals (and what are the communication goals?) than whether it responds adequately or appropriately to challenges from its board members, staff and community members.

  2. TaxedEnough Says:

    The CKSD is probably thinking that the last levy didn’t pass by much and need to find out what it will take to influence voters to pass the next levy. Instead of wasting money on this, how about addressing the real concerns of taxpayers like bloated administration.

  3. Rich Jacobson Says:

    TaxedEnough: Your incessant negative tirade of endless broken record comments is annoying. Do you ever say anything positive about anything?

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