Category Archives: Schools

More to the Raspberry Pi story

We wrote in today’s Kitsap Sun about Bob Cairns, the Port Orchard Rotary member who is working to deliver solar powered mini-computers to school children in Kenya. The system is driven by a device called Raspberry Pi, developed in 2012 by researchers in Cambridge. The effort dovetails with Cairns’ work on polio vaccinations and education scholarships in that country.
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Here are a few other things about Cairns you might like to know:

As mentioned in a recent Forbes article on the Raspberry Pi project, Cairns could be on a cruise ship with his wife Chris instead of bouncing around barely defined dirt roads in a Land Cruiser and holing up in African hotels, some crawling with insect life. Cairns, a Manchester resident, retired in January 2014 after 28 years managing the Manchester Fuel Depot, one of the Navy’s largest and most strategic fuel installations. He served on the Kitsap Sun’s editorial board in 2012.

Cairns, with his wife, has made five trips to Africa, the most recent in October to deliver the first set of Raspberry Pi systems. He and Chris actively take part in vaccination clinics, helping to administer oral doses to children. The cause is dear to their hearts, since Chris’ brother was “the last child in Illinois to get polio.” Her brother survived but is severely crippled by the now-preventable disease.

On the trip, Bob and Chris took their granddaughter, Ashley Carter, a student at Bellingham’s Western Washington University. “We wanted Ashley to see how much we have in our world versus how much they don’t have in the rest of the world.”

For example, Collins Nakedi, a young Kenayn man with whom Cairns has partnered to aid children in East Pokot (a region of Kenya), said getting an education there is “like organizing a journey to the moon using a vehicle.” The literacy rate is a dismal 4 percent.

That’s due to lack of resources and lack of cultural support for education among the largely nomadic people of East Pokot. That’s starting to change a little bit, thanks in part to the Raspberry Pi, Nakedi said.

Here’s an interesting fact about Nakedi. As a youngster Nakedi, the son of a goat herder, snuck into a local school and talked them into letting him stay. Thus began his education, which ended in a four-year degree, against astronomical odds. Cairns is helping Nakedi write a book about his life.

Nakedi, whom Cairns calls a genius, and two other young men who attended the same university in Nairobi from which Nakedi graduated, have started a NGO to aid youngsters in Kenya’s city slums and rural areas primarily through expanded educational opportunities. Cairns has partnered with their nonprofit, Hifadi Africa, to help distribute Raspberry Pi systems and to identify students for scholarships, which are essential for attending the mostly government-run boarding schools that constitute the public education system. This year, Rotary clubs in the northwest are providing four very bright Kenyan orphans with $600 scholarships that will provide a year’s worth of schooling.

Cairns’ involvement in Africa actually started with one of the other Hifadi Africa principals, Jovenal Nsengimana. Nsengimana lost his parents and sister in the Rawandan genocide at age 4. He ended up in a refugee camp with his older brother John, then 7, who took charge of the family including another younger brother, and who later was also able to pursue an education. Cairns and his wife heard about Nsengimana through a Rotary connection and ended up sponsoring his education through university.

In addition to education, Cairns, with help from Hifadi Africa and other Rotary members, is working to bring clean water to East Pokot. The area, partially within the Rift Valley, is extremely arid. There is virtually no running water or plumbing. People become ill from drinking water fouled by animal excrement. Rotary has supported efforts to drill a well in the area, but Cairns says they’re looking at other technology that is more basic yet more sustainable and effective.

In remote areas, machinery parts are hard to come by, and the water quality is poor. Cairns and others are looking at simple collection systems for harvesting the little rainwater that does fall. Another technology, not new, is to drill “riverbank infiltration galleries,” chambers on the banks of rivers that slow to a trickle most of the year. When rains do fall, water is directed to the underground chamber for storage. It’s not suitable for human consumption, but fine for livestock, which play a central role in East Pokot life.

Like the solar-powered Raspberry Pi, the water system solutions are simple and work with what’s available, Cairns said.

Don’t look for Cairns to slow down and take the cruise-ship route any time soon. There’s too much work to be done in East Pokot and beyond.

To help, donate at http://www.gofundme.com/raspberrypiafrica.

Investigation of alleged bullying unrelated to Canton’s resignation, superintendent says

Note Jan. 9, 2014: Michelle Caldier contacted me after this post was published and told me that she did not authorize for her Facebook profile to be added to the group Parents Against South Kitsap Football.

A complaint of bullying by the parent of one student on this year’s South Kitsap High School football team was not connected to head coach Eric Canton’s recent resignation, Superintendent Michelle Reid said Thursday.

Reid early in December authorized a third party investigation into the complaints of Jennifer Wilkinson on behalf of her son, a senior on the Wolves’ varsity squad. Wilkinson alleges that Canton and other staff intimidated her son in retaliation for criticism he and later she lodged with the coach and high school athletic director over concerns they had about safety issues and whether player time was handled fairly.

Wilkinson also alleges that her son’s privacy rights were violated in online discussions of his academic eligibility to play for the Wolves.

Canton resigned on Dec. 26 after meeting earlier in the month with the high school principal and later athletic director Ed Santos. Those encounters were followed by a Dec. 23 meeting with the district’s director of human resources, an assistant superintendent and a couple of union reps.

As Canton told Kitsap Sun sports columnist Chuck Stark, he felt he had no choice but to resign.

“I wasn’t going to fight it,” Canton said.

Reid said Wilkinson’s complaint trickled up to her some weeks after Wilkinson filed a harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) complaint on Oct. 14. Most such complaints are handled within the school and never actually result in a formal HIB report, Reid said.

Two formal HIB reports were filed within the district in the last two years, both at the high school. One was Wilkinson’s complaint about Canton; the other, filed last school year, was unrelated to Canton. Last year’s report did not result in a third party investigation.

South Kitsap High School officials conducted an investigation of Wilkinson’s complaint, but she wasn’t satisfied, and she appealed to the next level, the superintendent.

At that point, Reid said, she decided to engage a third party investigator.
“It’s an objective look at the facts so we can tone down the emotional intensity and tone down the rhetoric a little so we can just looks at the facts,” she said.

Were there complaints from other parents or the community about Canton?

“Complaints have not come to me personally about Coach Canton,” Reid said.

The investigation, which is still under way, is being conducted by Rick Kaiser, an attorney specializing in workplace investigations, with experience in handling issues related to risk management in schools.

Reid said she believes having an outside party review the facts and allegations is in the best interests of all concerned.

“Obviously we take those reports seriously,” Reid said. “We need to have a full and thoughtful look at all the events that took place. I have confidence that our staff at all times has the best intent for our young people.”

Reid said the investigator was in the district this week, although he has not yet interviewed her.

Unlike teachers, coaches serve on a year-to-year contract under authorization of the athletic director. Any “separation” must occur within 30 days of the end of season, Reid said. That explains the timing of Canton’s departure as coach.

He will, however, continue as a dean at the high school.

I asked Reid what protections the district affords to coaches, given the emotionally charged arena of high school sports.

“I will do everything I can to protect coaches. I think coaching is a difficult job in today’s world, and it’s an important job as well,” Reid said. “Part of the reason I have a third party investigator investigating the situation is to protect our coaches. My assumption going in is that our coaches have done the right thing.

“I think the best protection for our coaches is the truth. I believe the investigation is going to surface facts that will support the truth.”

Reid did not know when the investigation would be complete.

As for Canton himself, she added, “I think he’s a fine young man. I really appreciate Canton’s dedication and passion for South Kitsap School District and the athletic program here at South Kitsap High School. I admire his dedication and passion.”

Reid said she couldn’t comment on whether the Wolves’ less than stellar record during Canton’s tenure bore on his resignation, because “I’m not at liberty to discuss a personnel matter at this point.”

South was 6-4 Canton’s first season with the Wolves advancing to a Class 4A state preliminary round. South was 4-6 and 3-7 the past two seasons.

“I take full responsibility for not winning enough games,” Canton told Stark.
He added however, that “helping athletes become productive members of society” is a higher priority for him than winning games in high school.

Jennifer Wilkinson (Downey) is related to incoming 26th District State Rep. Michelle Downey Caldier, who is listed as a member of Wilkinson’s Facebook group Parents Against South Kitsap Football Program. The group had eight members on Thursday.

SKSD video message to Arne Duncan makes a top 10 list

Last year, when Washington State lost its waiver under No Child Left Behind, South Kitsap School District teachers and administrators got together to give U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a message. Lip synchingIt came in the form of a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” — as in all they want is a little — sung by music teacher Leslie Niemi, karaoke style, with lively backup from various school officials. Thus, they belted out their frustration with their schools being labeled as “failing” under NCLB standards.

Teachers and school officials wiggled their hips and clapped to the beat. In the video, Superintendent Michelle Reid, usually staid and suited, cuts loose in a pink feather boa in the video by the high school’s production crew. Small wonder visitors to the website Our Kids Our Future made it third among the site’s top viewed posts from 2014, according to the Washington State School Directors Association, which does a roundup of education news from around the state and nation every week.

Others posts on Our Kids Our Future included: “Emerald Ridge grad strikes it big as professional umpire,” “Being included means everything,” and “Put your ‘teacher’ hat on.”

Without question, the website draws an audience sympathetic to the district’s message. Our Kids Our Future‘s “campaign is led by a group of Washington education organizations, including WSSDA. The goal is to highlight excellence in Washington State public schools,” according to its “about us” page. Partners include the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, as well as state associations of school principals, school administrators, the state teachers union, PTAs, school boards and others.

Vested interests aside, pretty much everyone, including members of Congress, agree that NCLB was a good idea but flawed in how it was a carried out. Standards for all students, no exceptions, were ramped up over time until meeting them became all but impossible. In recognition, the federal government allowed a waiver for states whose districts were making “adequate yearly progress” toward the ideal. Washington lost its waiver this year when the Legislature — pressured by teachers and others — declined to support a teacher evaluation program relying on statewide test scores. That meant districts had to inform parents that their schools, some of which had recently earned recognition from the state, were “failing.” Schools that receive federal Title I money and which have been placed in one of five levels of “improvement” have to set aside some of their Title I allocation for parents who want their children transported to a different school or district, or who wanted tutoring outside the failing school.

In a story we wrote in August, as districts tried to figure out the implications, I cited a letter Reid wrote to families in which she called the “fail” label “regressive and punitive.” Clearly, SKSD’s performance was designed not only to stick it to Arne Duncan — with a great sense of rhythm, no less — but as a moral boost for the staff. And for my money, no matter where you stand on NCLB, it’s always a moral booster to see a school superintendent in a feather boa.
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Wonder what they’ll do for an encore.

How the death of an Ohio transgender teen relates to local schools

The apparent suicide of an Ohio teen has shone a spotlight on the anguish of transgender teens.

The teen, whose legal name is Joshua Alcorn and who goes by Leelah Alcorn, is believed to have committed suicide Sunday by going in front of a semi-tractor trailer on Interstate 71 in Southwest Ohio.

On a Tumblr page believed to belong to the Leelah Alcorn, the author talks about feelings of isolation and depression once she identified herself as transgender at age 17. According to WCPO in Cincinnati, Alcorn detailed frustration she felt because her parents did not believe or accept her. Her parents, who acknowledge the death of their son Joshua, have asked for privacy.

Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach called Leelah’s death a call to action.

“It has come to light that this person likely committed suicide because she was transgender. While Cincinnati led the country this past year as the first city in the mid-west to include transgender inclusive health benefits and we have included gender identity or expression as a protected class for many years … the truth is … it is still extremely difficult to be a transgender young person in this country,” Seelbach said. “We have to do better.”

The Kitsap Sun recently wrote about local schools approving policies acknowledging the needs and challenges faced by transgender students. One article cited a national study showing 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide. The national average is 1.6 percent.

After the first article ran, some commented that identifying transgender students as a protected group was overkill. What about other students who may be made uncomfortable by sharing a locker room with a transgender student? one person asked. Aiden Key, an advocate for transgender people who consults with school districts, said each situation is unique and solutions can be found that meet the needs of everyone involved in a respectful way. For example, different schedules for locker room use.

One person on Facebook accused us of liberal bias for reporting on this issue. The fact is districts are bound by federal and state civil rights mandates; they’re responding accordingly and we’re reporting on it.

Key and others who work “in the trenches” as districts grapple with this unfamiliar territory, say staff members sometimes struggle to understand what it means to be transgender and how they should respond, but eventually they get it, and it’s no big deal. Anecdotally, we heard that most young people already get it (or they don’t quite get it but they accept their fellow students who are transgender regardless without much fuss, and life goes on).

That may be a gross simplification, and surely at some schools in some classes, transgender students are still the target of bullying or harassment. Schools already have policies to address harassment in general. Now, in North Mason and North Kitsap, there’s an extra layer of protection (at least on paper) afforded to transgender students.

I welcome hearing from anyone who has thoughts or opinions on this subject. Thanks in advance.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun Education reporter
chenry@kitsapsun.com
(360) 792-9219

School discipline a hot topic, no quick fix

The Kitsap County Council for Human Rights on Friday hosted a conference tackling the school-to-prison pipeline, a term that encompasses the lower graduation rates and higher incarceration rates of minority, low-income and special-needs students.

Speakers at the conference touched on many of the topics the Kitsap Sun addressed in our February series on evolving thinking about discipline nationwide and locally. Articles and blog posts in the six-day series are collected here.
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Students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, according to discipline data shared at the conference by Tim Stensager, director of data governance for the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The same is true of low-income and special-needs students. And the conference touched on the high rates of incarceration, homelessness and suicide among LGBTQ youth.

Big data is being used to identify districts where disproportionate discipline is particularly evident, and the federal government is wielding a hammer over those that show a widespread, persistent or egregious pattern of discrimination.

But the consensus a the conference was that the solutions lie at the local and even personal level. Everyone — school staff, students, parents and perhaps most importantly members of the community at large — needs to chip away at the problem from wherever they stand.

Or as Robert Boddie, who spoke a the conference, put it, “When the train stops at your station, get on it.”
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Kelsey Scott, a Running Start senior at Central Kitsap High School, didn’t need the data to understand that black students are viewed as “different.” Scott has had fellow students question why she speaks “proper” and isn’t “rude.” Scott talked about how the bar for black students is set at once pathetically low, yet impossibly high. She is a hard-working student who avoids parties, yet she feels pressure to avoid any kind of trouble.

“I have to make sure I’m always on my best behavior, because anything I do can get blown out of proportion and it’s crazy,” Scott said. “It’s basic training. When we’re acting out, it not only reflects on how people see you, it reflects on how people see people like you.”

Durell Green, 30, of Bremerton spoke at the conference about his personal experience with the school-to-prison pipeline. A self-described book “nerd,” Green got bored and acted out in elementary school, earning the label of “disruptive,” which dogged him at every turn. First arrested at 14, he was sent to Walla Walla at 18. Today, Green works to pay back the community through work in a mentoring program at his church.

The reasons why kids get in trouble are complex, and, as a recent article in the Seattle Times pointed out, there is no easy or quick fix. But Stensager showed how some districts are defying the odds, achieving high graduation rates despite having high numbers of at-risk students. Stensager and others at the conference said there are “best practices” that have been proven to work. Here’s a summary:

— Teachers must develop relationships with students, especially the troublesome ones, many at the conference agreed. Lack of time is not an excuse, according to retired educator Patricia Moncure Thomas; it’s part of the job.
— Clearly teachers need support. That’s where the value of community mentoring programs come in. The nonprofit Coffee Oasis has been successful with outreach and mentoring of homeless and at-risk youth, said Daniel Frederick of the organization. It’s a daily battle, and it’s not easy but “There’s a story behind every single child.” Partnering for Youth Achievement, the program Green works in, and Our GEMS (Girls Empowered through Mentoring and Service), a program Scott found helpful in her life, are other examples. Boddie, who has led youth mentoring groups in Central Kitsap School District, said such programs must hold students accountable, and instill a sense of pride, respect and integrity.
— Many districts, including Bremerton and Central Kitsap, are training staff in “culturally responsive” teaching methods. Teachers and other school staff who lack understanding of cultural norms and values, may misinterpret students’ behavior or miss opportunities to connect. Boddie said locally Bremerton and CKSD are ahead of the curve in addressing the role of a cultural divide in the school-to-prison pipeline.
— While big data can diagnose the problem, schools and districts with local control are best suited to fix it, according to Joe Davalos, superintendent of education for the Suquamish Tribe. The tribe’s school, open to non-tribal members, has 80 students and weaves cultural knowledge in with academic learning. Expectations are high, defying data on Native American students. At the Suquamish school, 100 percent are expected to graduate, Davalos said.
— Districts locally and nationwide are moving toward discipline that has students take personal responsibility for their behavior and make amends. So called “restorative justice” brings the offender face to face with who he’s harmed; solutions are hashed out in person.

As we continue to cover the issue of student discipline, I’d welcome hearing from you about topics you’d like covered or experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with local schools. Find me on Facebook, email chenry@kitsapsun.com or call (360) 792-9219. Thanks.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

Does hip hop count as PE?

Anyone who’s met Debbie Lindgren is likely familiar with her bottomless exuberance. Lindgren, physical education teacher at Naval Avenue Early Learning Center, is a die hard advocate for giving kids more chances to be active in each day.

Lindgren is quoted in a story I did for today about the importance of recess for students’ bodies and brains.

She tries every which way to get youngsters moving. In one example, she brings recess to the classroom with “brain breaks” like full-body rock-paper-scissors students can do beside their desks. Teachers at Naval Avenue are now trained to lead their students in short bursts of activity that stimulate circulation and give kids a breather.

Lindgren’s latest get-moving scheme involves hip hop dancers, lots of them. Lindgren arranged for all first through third graders to learn a dance choreographed by Erica Robinson, a co-owner with her husband Ashley of the Kitsap Admirals basketball team. The students performed the dance en masse at the Admiral’s game Saturday.
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Lindgren got the idea for a school-wide hip hop dance because of her sense that some families, in particular African American families, feel a disconnect from the school.

“At first it was just, ‘What can I do to make sure we are inclusive of every culture at our school?'” Lindgren said.

Dance seemed a good place to start.

“It appears to me that our African American kids have more opportunity, perhaps, outside of school to dance within their family structure, because they come into this with better background in dance than the majority of Caucasian students,” Lindgren said. “In PE classes when the music turns on, our African American kids, the majority of them, their movement patterns are exceptional. … I thought, what can I do to celebrate their dances, their movement, their creativity?”
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Robinson is a member of the Admirals dance team the Flight Chixx. She grew up on Soul Train and affirms Lindgren’s gut feeling.

“If you think about African Americans in this culture, you think about hip hop, you think about break dancing,” Robinson said. “Some of the greatest dancers in the country have been African American.

“I think music and dance is just the way you connect,” she said.

Think of the choirs in African American churches. Music is everywhere in black culture and always has been, Robinson said.

“If you look throughout history, you see that music has really resonated with the African American community,” she said. “Music is something that has helped us through the hard times.”

Robinson appreciates Lindgren’s impulse to shine a spotlight on the hip hop genre.

“Coming from the East Coast, we had a lot of things that celebrated black culture, Puerto Rican culture,” she said. “In Kitsap here, we don’t find a lot of that celebrated culture. There’s a lot of quieting and shunning. In celebration, if we take the time to embrace each culture, we’ll find that as a human body, we’re all the same.”

Teaching several classrooms’ worth of students a single dance was no small feat.

“You just kind of teach it in pieces,” Robinson said. “The kids pick it up a lot easier than you think. … They wanted it.”

The performance was a hit with parents.

“We had a great turnout of kiddos. It was awesome, great support,” Lindgren said.

It was so much fun. They were so cute,” Robinson said.
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And although a few beats were missed here and there, what shone through was “the joy they had as group.”

Kurt DeVoe, photographer for the Kitsap Admirals, shared these photos with the Kitsap Sun. Lindgren’s husband was the videographer.

Student bullied for speech impediment takes a stand

State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn on Wednesday used the Marysville shooting as a cautionary tale about the role of social media in young people’s lives. Kids today live in two simultaneous worlds, one real, one virtual, both intertwined.

“Social media is all around them, and many young people feel safer and are more open with Twitter and Tumblr and other channels,” Dorn said.

That’s not all bad, but it can go south quickly when rumors or compromising photos and videos get spread online.

Dorn called out cyberbullying as a potential trigger for real-life violence in schools, and he offered a tip sheet (below) for parents and school staff to help them recognize warning signs of distress or conflict online.

These are uneasy times for schools. Sadly, lockdowns are becoming part of the routine for students, precautions against the unthinkable.

On Oct. 23, the day before the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, a threat by a Central Kitsap High School student put that school on lockdown. The threat against another student wasn’t made on campus (and it’s not clear whether cyberbullying was part of it), but school officials were taking no chances.

On Oct. 29, a man’s hostile text messages to his estranged wife, a Poulsbo Elementary School employee, led to a lockdown at that school and at Poulsbo Middle School.

On Wednesday, South Kitsap Schools briefly were on modified lockdown, as law enforcement agencies searched for David Michael Kalac, suspect in the murder of a Port Orchard woman. Kalac, believed to have posted pictures of the body online, was later found to have fled the state and was arrested late Wednesday in Oregon.

Speaking of cyberbullying, a student who identifies herself as South Kitsap High School’s “new gossip girl” began last week posting crude and potentially embarrassing posts on Twitter. The girl has gotten some push back from other students. And one parent called her out on the Port Orchard Facebook group, urging students and others to virtually shun her.

On Bainbridge Island, student Otis Doxtater took the fight against bullying (cyber and otherwise) to the next level.

Doxtater, a junior at Eagle Harbor High School, on Oct. 21 organized students from kindergarten through 12th grade to hold a silent procession and demonstration of unity against bullying on the campus of Commodore K-12 Options School, where Eagle Harbor is located.
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The students created a linked chain of paper on which each had written something unique about themselves on one side and what they would do to stand up to bullying on the other. The paper slips were orange for National Unity Day, which was Oct. 22.

Younger in life, Doxtater was painfully familiar with bullying.

“I’ve always had a stutter, so that was always something that would be made fun of,” he said.

And this wasn’t the first time Doxtater had made a public protest against bullying. He has spent hours in the parking lot near McDonald’s on Bainbridge Island with a sign that reads “Love and Equality” on one side and “Stop Bullying” on the other. On Twitter, he uses the hashtag #stopbullying, and he has a YouTube channel, otisdoxtater, demonstrating some of the positive uses for social media.

The response of his schoolmates after the Unity Day demonstration was gratifying.

“As I was walking down the hall, people were walking up to me and said I did an awesome job,” Doxtater said. “It made me feel really good. It made me feel accomplished and proud.”

Doxtater knows he’s putting himself out there, but he’s OK with that.

“I realize I am making myself vulnerable and people are going to criticize me,” Doxtater said. “But I realize it’s something I’m passionate about and I’m willing to get criticized for something that I know is right.”

Maybe Dorn should hire him as a consultant.


NKSD seeks school board member

The North Kitsap School District seeks someone to replace Dan Weedin on the school board. Weedin resigned last week. Here is the announcement.

The North Kitsap School District Board of Directors is seeking qualified applicants and nominations for qualified applicants for a recent vacancy in the Director District 2 position.  Interested registered voters residing in Director District 2 should submit an application and biographical summary to the following address by 12:00 p.m. Monday, November 3, 2014:  Board of Directors, 18360 Caldart Avenue NE, Poulsbo WA  98370.  Materials may also be emailed to khenry@nkschools.org.

 Application, District 2 boundaries, and timeline may be found on our website at www.nkschools.org, or Click HERE.

For additional questions, please contact Korinne Henry at (360) 396-3001 or khenry@nkschools.org.

We encourage you to share this information with anyone who resides in District 2 and who may be interested in serving on the Board of Directors. 

NK’s Page eyes end, but has not set a date

Patty Page, North Kitsap School District superintendent, said on Thursday she will not seek an extension on her contract with the district. That does not mean she is retiring anytime soon.

Page, who started with the district in 2012, signed a three-year contract with the board when she started and has seen one-year extensions each year since. This year she said she doesn’t want one.

Instead, from this point on, as she approaches retirement age she will work with two-year contracts, or go year-to year.

The conversation arose as the board continued conversations about how it will carry out its superintendent evaluation process going forward.

See a real struggle for a school district (not local)

No matter what kind of negative experience you have ever had with a school board, or probably any local government body, I have a hard time imagining it being as difficult as what’s happening in the East Ramapo, New York school district.

This story includes the federal and state governments, side deals and alleged and real racism, all ingredients for contention. And of course, some people get compared to Hitler, this time in a place where that would be an especially inflammatory charge.

The strangest element here though is that the school board is dominated by a group, a Hassidic Jewish community, who would never send their own children to public schools. You can look at the coverage from the Journal News, a Gannett news outfit in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York. That coverage includes amazing video of the district’s attorney actively mocking members of the public. New York Magazine has a comprehensive piece that explains so much of what is motivating the now dominant community.

One thing I think I can say without editorializing on who’s right here; The district needs nicer lawyers.

I first heard about this on the This American Life episode that aired locally here on KUOW on Saturday. I think it does a good job of being fair and it encapsulates the entire story well.