Category Archives: Schools

On the education beat: Jan. 28, 2016

Catching up and looking ahead on the education beat here at the Kitsap Sun.

Next week (Tuesday) we’ll have a story about how to pick the best kindergarten class for your child.

I’m also working on a story about special needs students and the people involved in their education. I’d like to hear from students, parents, paraeducators, special ed teachers and anyone else with thoughts on the intersection of special needs and public education.

Contact me at (360) 792-9219, or

Now for a recap of this week’s education news:

Voting on education funding
First and foremost, did you get your ballot? Voters throughout Kitsap and North Mason counties on Feb. 9 will decide on bond and levy measures. In case you missed it, this story gives a summary of measures by district.

Theler Center, school district asset or albatross?
Following up on Arla Shephard Bull’s comprehensive history of the Mary E. Theler Community Center and Wetlands, North Mason School District, which owns the property, hosted a meeting to bank suggestions about what to do with Theler now that the trust established to support its upkeep is depleted. Ideas ranged from burning down the community center to starting a GoFundMe account.
A Mardi Gras themed murder mystery fundraiser is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mary E. Theler Community Center, 22871 Highway 3 in Belfair; 360-275-4898.

When caring parenting crosses the line
Do you meddle in your children’s business? Have you ever kept a reminder sheet of upcoming tests? “Helped” them with a project, or, let’s be honest, did the bulk of it yourself? Excused them from chores because they have “so much homework?”
It’s a habit that can escalate, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford and author of “How to Raise an Adult,” who will speak on Bainbridge Feb. 3. One college student she knew had never learned to pump gas because her parents visited every weekend and filled the tank for her.
Although the author observed the problem of hovering parents (she tries not to use the helicopter parent tag) as one of upper middle-class and affluent families, it is by no means limited to the 1 percent.
Lythcott-Haims’ talk is not limited to Bainbridge families. Here are the details: 7:30-9 p.m. Feb.3 at Bainbridge High School, 9330 NE High School Road; Cost: $15. Register at:

Education tidbits
A Bremerton elementary school teacher earned her masters degree through classes at Woodland Park Zoo.
And South Kitsap School district will host a meeting 5:30 p.m. Thursday (that’s tonight) at South Kitsap High School to explain the International Baccalaureate program it hopes to bring to schools, including the high school. We wrote about the program last spring.

Article on corporal punishment gets folks talking

For some reason an article written Aug. 15, 2015, on the subject of corporal punishment in schools, has been widely discussed recently on social media.

The article, by Nate Robson of Oklahoma Watch, talks about a policy allowing for paddling of students at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools, about 25 miles east of Tulsa.

Oklahoma is one of 19 states that allow schools to physically discipline students, according to Robson. Washington State outlawed corporal punishment in 1994.

“Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to produce in-depth and investigative journalism on public-policy and quality-of-life issues facing the state,” its website states.

Washington State, with others around the country, is taking a hard look at discipline practices, given that data show minorities, male students and special education students, among other groups, are disciplined at a higher rate than the general population of kids.

In 2011-2012, the data year in question for the Oklahoma Watch story, special education students made up 15 percent of Oklahoma enrollment but were more than 20 percent of students who were physically punished.

The Kitsap Sun has done articles on disproportionate discipline. In earlier stories, we discussed the impact on minority groups. With the recent release of new discipline data by Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, we plan to take a close look a discipline as it affect special education students.

We are looking to talk to parents of special needs students, students themselves, teachers and para-educators about their experiences with discipline.

Contact me, education reporter Chris Henry, at (360) 792-9219 or

Kitsap education news, Jan. 2 – 8

And now a roundup of this week’s education news in Kitsap and beyond.

Follow the news as it happens at and on Facebook at

Contact Kitsap Sun education reporter Chris Henry at (360) 792-9219 or

Chief Kitsap Academy basketball gaining steam
The Chief Kitsap Academy Bears are coming into their own. The basketball team, the first sports team at the tribal compact school, is now in its second year. The Bears’ two coaches George Hill III, 22 and We-laka Chiquiti, 19, are possibly the youngest high school coaching staff in the state.Bears

Paying for public schools remains a problem in 2016
As the short session start, legislators in Olympia are under the gun to agree on a complete overhaul of public education funding. Kitsap teachers who held one-day walkouts in the spring over pay, class sizes and testing held back on longer strikes in the fall but will be watching for signs of major progress.

Lawmakers from both parties and both houses announced Friday they may have a plan to fix the way the state pays for education. Getting legislators outside this bipartisan working group on board will be a challenge, said Christine Rolfes, D- B.I., a member of the group.

Bainbridge Montessori school eyes expansion
The Montessori Country School turns families away each year. Administrators at the private school on Arrow Point Drive hope to change that with an expansion that would combine its two campuses, add classrooms and increase enrollment from 115 to 145.

Seaquist formalizes run for state K-12 superintendent.
Former 26th District Rep. Larry Seaquist announced Thursday that he will run in November for state superintendent of public instruction, hoping to fix a system that is “slipping into crisis.” Seaquist says the law that replaces No Child Left Behind offers Washington State the chance to tailor public education to its own needs. Among the adjustments, Seaquist mentioned a “radical change” in testing.Seaquist

Speak Out Tuesday on South Kitsap Bond
There’s a public hearing set Tuesday on South Kitsap School District’s Feb. 9 bond ballot measure. The Port Orchard City Council wants to hear from the public before considering endorsement of the $127 million bond to build a second high school and make $2 million in technology upgrades at the existing South Kitsap High School
The hearing will be part of the council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216 Prospect St.

Coming up next week: What local high school choir will be singing in Carnegie Hall this spring?

Education stories on a lighter note

In today’s Kitsap Sun, we ran a roundup of top stories on the education beat for 2016.

Teachers’ walkouts, McCleary madness, the Kennedy flap over school prayer, the end of No Child Left Behind … It was a whirlwind year.

Not all the education news coming out of Kitsap County was serious, however. Here are a few of the stories that still make me smile.

In late January, a fourth-grade class at Mullenix Ridge Elementary in South Kitsap decided to do their own scientific investigation of De-flategate, the uproar over allegations the New England Patriots weaseled their way into the Super Bowl using underinflated balls in the AFC championship game.
Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 6.45.06 PM
Ashton Smith, the lone Patriots fan in the class, defended quarterback Tom Brady, but quickly became a bitter old man, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld a four-game suspension imposed on Brady for his part in the scandal. A federal court later tossed the suspension, for lack of due process in the investigation.

In February, acting students at South Kitsap High School made a regional ripple on social media with the hashtag #SKvsFallon. The students and their coach Scott Yingling issued a video challenge to late night host Jimmy Fallon for an “Improv-off.” The video racked up 30,000 views shortly after it posted and SKvsFallon was briefly a trending topic on Facebook in Western states.

In March, Brownsville Elementary School Principal Toby Tebo kissed a goat for a school fundraiser. “Kissing goats, it’s a good idea. It’s going to be fun, and I can’t wait to pucker up,” Tebo said, before giving Peanut the pygmy goat 21 kisses, one for each goat the students sponsored for an African village.

In December, we asked students at Pearson and Vinland Elementary schools what advice they’d give Santa. Here’s Rachel Seymour’s video with their response.

Districts offer events for sampling coding, multicultural celebration

Two events this week hosted by local school districts offer the public a chance to sample the joys of coding and cultural traditions.

On Thursday, South Kitsap School District will host a public Hour of Code from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at South Kitsap High School. Doss Bradford, the high school’s computer science instructor, will open up computer labs to let community members try their hands at the increasingly important skill of coding. The event piggybacks on the recent Hour of Code events in which South Kitsap students (along with others around the world) took part.

After the coding activity, the district will offer a free screening of CODEGIRL, a documentary, released in November, which follows female student teams in the Technovation Challenge. The Technovation Challenge aims to increase the number of female app developers by empowering girls worldwide to develop apps for an international competition.

“We hope the movie will encourage girls in our district to give coding a try, possibly entering the Technovation Challenge themselves,” said Greg Kirkpatrick, the high school’s assistant director of career and technical education.
On Friday, Bremerton School District will host its second annual multicultural night. The Kitsap Sun covered the event last year, and it was a blast with students performing traditional dances from Mexico, Guam and other countries. There are ethnic foods to sample and other interesting presentations. It’s one of the ways the high school honors its ethnically diverse student population. The event is at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Bremerton High School Commons.

There is no charge for either event.

BSD beefs up its legal fund in light of Kennedy issue

After our story Sunday on how Bremerton School District and Joe Kennedy are handling legal costs related to their dispute over whether Kennedy has the right to pray on the field after games, district spokeswoman Patty Glaser gave me some updated information.

As mentioned in the story, when and if Kennedy sues the district, the matter will be turned over to BSD’s insurance risk pool. The district’s annual premium for the risk pool (School Insurance Association of Washington) is $579,536, Glaser said in an email Monday.

Glaser and others took me to task for implying in the original story that legal posturing between Kennedy and the district short of a suit is not directly impacting the district’s budget and diverting money that would otherwise go to the classroom.

On Monday, I updated the story to clarify that legal costs the district has incurred so far in its dispute with Kennedy are covered by a legal fund that is part of the general fund, and so potentially have a direct impact on the classroom.

Last week, when I spoke with Glaser and Superintendent Aaron Leavell, they said the legal fund had been adequate so far to cover legal counsel related to the Kennedy issue. On Monday Glaser said that the dispute arose at the start of the district’s fiscal year and the fund could fall short, requiring the district to tap other sources. Furthermore, money in the legal fund is money that, were it not needed, could be diverted back to the classroom, she added.

On Monday afternoon, Glaser got back to me with updated legal costs in October (which were not available for the story Sunday). The district in October incurred $10,512 in legal costs. The legal bill in September, when the issue arose, was $6,600. The district has increased the amount in its legal fund from $140,000 to $190,000 “in anticipation of legal costs for JK.”

“We have not calculated the staff time diverted to this matter,” Glaser said in answer to a question raised by several people who read the story.

BHS JV game cancellation not related to prayer issue, school officials say

Monday’s Bremerton High School JV game at Centralia was canceled Sunday, but it had nothing to do with the school prayer issue, staff from both schools say.

BHS JV coach Joe Kennedy, an assistant coach for the varsity team, is embroiled in a legal battle with the district over his right to pray after games.

BSD officials, including head football coach Nate Gillam, said the game was cancelled because the Centralia team had a number of injuries and could not field a team.

Chamberlain, the Centralia athletic director, said that was partly true, although his team would have been ready to play. There was, Chamberlain said, a miscommunication among himself, his coaches and Bremerton’s coaching staff.

In days leading up to the BHS homecoming game, Chamberlain and his coaches agreed to touch base on Monday’s JV game before the weekend. The Centralia JV’s quarterback had had a concussion, and the previous week’s game was cancelled.

Chamberlain was out of town and didn’t speak with the coaches before they headed to Bremerton. At the game, the Bremerton coaches heard about the injuries, and on Sunday BHS athletic director Jeff Barton emailed Chamberlain calling the game off.

“I talked (with) a couple of your coaches Friday night about Monday’s JV game,” Barton said. “They stated that they would have to piece-meal a team for a JV game on Monday. After considering this and where we are at this time, I feel it is in the best interest of our program and possibly yours that we cancel Monday’s JV game.”

Chamberlain notified Kennedy by email late Sunday that the game was cancelled. On Monday, he said, he spoke with his coaches and saw how the decision had evolved.

“There might have been some misunderstanding,” Chamberlain said. “It was kind of a mix of both teams saying maybe this isn’t the best for everybody. … They didn’t say anything about coach Kennedy. That was never mentioned.”

Early Monday, after Kennedy opened the cancellation email from Chamberlain, he emailed back, “Bummer we couldn’t play today. Just wanted to say that your Team and Coaches are incredible!”

“Us to (too),” Chamberlain replied, citing the email from Barton. “We were ready to play.”

If Seattle teachers’ strike has you wondering about Kitsap schools

Schools in North Mason and South Kitsap opened on schedule today. Bainbridge, Bremerton, Central Kitsap and North Kitsap schools opened Sept. 2 as planned. That’s not news … unless you’re North Mason celebrating the opening of a new high school.

Earlier this spring, there was talk among local union leaders of a possible long-term strike this fall to follow up one day-walkouts. Four of the six teachers’ unions (South Kitsap, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island) were protesting lack of progress in the state Legislature over funding of K-12 education. So if you’re a Kitsap or North Mason parent reading today about the the teachers’ strike in Seattle, you may be wondering if teachers on the Kitsap Peninsula will follow suit.

True, Kitsap and North Mason teachers, along with others in the state, have complained about stagnant wages, saying a teachers’ cost-of-living increase and temporary pay boost allocated by the state, is inadequate compensation to attract and retain high quality teachers. They say that the $744 million in new spending for schools approved in Olympia over the 2015-2017 biennium doesn’t meet requirements of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

Seattle teachers have the same complaints, but they are also in the midst of contract negotiations. According to the article by the Associated Press, “The district has offered a pay increase of nearly 9 percent over three years, and the union countered with a 10.5 percent increase over two years. Phyllis Campano, the union’s vice president, said the district came back with a proposal that the union ‘couldn’t take seriously.'”

The strike, which began Wednesday, affects 53,000 students.

Teachers in Pasco, with 17,000 students, also are on strike.

But these strikes are mainly about local issues and not tied to the larger debate about education funding, according to Rich Wood, a spokesman for the Washington Education Association, quoted in the AP article.

Most educators and legislators agree that the current system, which relies heavily on local levy funds, results in inequity in teachers’ pay and student opportunities from district to district. An overhaul is needed, most agree. In the meantime, districts negotiate with unions to supplement the state’s pay schedule.

North Kitsap School District recently completed negotiations with its teachers, and the school board on Wednesday (today) will consider the new contract.

With local schools starting on time, it would seem like talk of a strike has died down. But at least in South Kitsap, union members did consider a longer term strike, electing to hold off pending the Legislature’s response to recent court sanctions.

The state Supreme Court held the Legislature in contempt over McCleary and, in the absence of a special session, is fining it $100,000 a day. Nineteen senators, including Republican Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who caucuses with the Republicans, issued a follow up statement saying the court had overstepped its authority.

On Aug. 31, the South Kitsap Education Association opened the floor to discussion of a long-term strike, according to union president John Richardson. Members did not vote on a strike but approved a proposal to leave their options open. They authorized their representative council (leadership) to bring a strike motion before members in January, or not depending on progress the Legislature makes as it goes back into session.

“They’d like to do more action, but at this point, they’re not sure what will move the Legislature,” Richardson said. “Also, they want to see what happens with the contempt order.”

I have not contacted other local union leaders, since schools were opening as scheduled. I will be following this and other developments related to McCleary as the saga continues.

Chris Henry, education reporter for the Kitsap Sun

With school starting, what do you want to know?

If you’re like Brian Lewis, the Kitsap Sun’s coding guru, you may have left school supply shopping to the last minute. Well, we’re not exactly to the last minute yet, but getting close.

School starts Sept. 2 for most local districts, except South Kitsap and North Mason, which start on Sept. 9 (after our late Labor Day, Sept. 7).

Brian, a devoted uncle, had the bright idea to make his and your lives easier by compiling all school supply lists on one webpage, along with other relevant links.

As the Kitsap Sun’s education reporter, my theme for the upcoming school year is “here to serve you.” I’d like to focus on providing families with useful, relevant information about local schools, as well as state and national trends in education that affect your kids.

I compile the Kitsap Sun’s education stories (and other education news) on my Facebook page. You can always reach me with your questions or comments on stories by Facebook message (friend me please so messages don’t go in the dreaded “other” folder), by calling (360) 792-9219 or emailing

Some of the topics we covered last year were bullying, state funding for schools, teachers’ pay and the rolling-one day walkouts in which teachers’ protested for higher pay and smaller class sizes.

We also tried something new this year, offering live chats on trending topics, like the one we did on South Kitsap’s plan to bring ninth graders up to the high school.

In the upcoming year, I hope to dig into Common Core and find out how it’s playing out in the classroom, and how (if?) it’s impacting students’ lives and education. We hope to follow up on our series on discipline and equity by looking at the role of paraeducators, who work with students with disabilities. Statistics show these students are disciplined at higher rates that their peers. What’s with that? And I’d like to write about preparing students for college, not just the academics, but equipping them to navigate in this new environment (and — considering how much has been written about helicopter parents these days — being able to let them go).

Anyway, these are just a few of the ideas I have. I hope you’ll contact me with ideas for education stories that would be useful and interesting to you. I can’t promise we’ll get to all of them, but we’ll do our best.

P.S. Yes, I still cover South Kitsap, so stay in touch as well if you live or work in that part of the county.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun reporter
(360) 792-9219

Your kid, your school district’s budget

It’s school budget season. As we at the Kitsap Sun wrote last week, schools got a modest boost in funding from the state for the 2015-2016 school year, as part of the Legislature’s effort to fulfill mandates of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

What will that mean for your child and your family? More on that later. First, some talk about school district budgets. I know; it’s exciting. Try to contain yourselves.

Some members of the NK Education Facebook group got themselves copies of North Kitsap School District’s draft budget, all 133 pages of it. The budget will be the subject of a public hearing on Thursday. Other districts have given recent presentations and plan to hold hearings on their budgets before the Aug. 31 deadline to finalize them.

What does this mean to you? You’ve got kids to shuffle to swim lessons, family vacations, back-to-school shopping. Summer’s going fast. Who has time to pore through 133 pages of financials?

A post from Suzi Crosby, the NK Education group administrator, inviting discussion of the budget was met with a response of zero comments in this normally active group. The post began, “Do you love number crunching?” which no doubt explains the lack of boundless enthusiasm.

As the education reporter for the Kitsap Sun, I’ve had to learn to read budgets, but it took me some time. I had to ask a lot of questions of district finance officials, and I’m still no pro. The thing to know, if you are interested in digging deeper, is that districts are required to provide you with a copy of their budgets, both draft and final versions. You also are welcome attend school board meetings and ask questions.

So here’s my invitation to parents: If you want to know more about your district’s finances and/or how to read the budget, I’m available at (360) 792-9219, or via Facebook message. Find me by searching “Chris Henry Kitsap Sun.”

We’ve written about school budgets twice this month. The good news is that the years of budget cuts and staff layoffs seem to be behind us for now. As the Legislature works to fulfill its own goal (and the McCleary decision mandate) of “fully funding” K-12 education, districts for the past couple of years have gotten increased allocations from the state.

The amount each district gets is based on enrollments and a host of other factors, such as the relative poverty of children at each school. The allocation formula is so complicated that the state has an online tool districts use to project their allocations for the upcoming year.

In Central Kitsap, for example, budget officials estimate the district will see an extra $10.2 million from the state in its general fund budget of nearly $129 million. The district, with more than 10,500 students, is the largest in Kitsap County.

Bremerton School District, with about half as many students, will see an estimated increase of $4 million. BSD’s general fund budget for the upcoming school year is $63 million.

Most of the extra money this year will go toward an increase in teachers’ compensation, lower class sizes in grades K-3, and more money than in past years for all-day kindergarten. So in essence, the largest chunk of that is spoken for before it’s even released by the state.

What will this mean for your child? If he or she is in kindergarten through third grade, class sizes may be smaller but buildings may start to feel crowded, as the need for classroom space increases. Funding for smaller classes is higher in schools with large numbers of low-income students, so if your child’s school falls into that category, the effect may be amplified. The Legislature needs to address this increasing need for space in upcoming years, as it works its way toward a 2018 goal for class sizes specified in earlier legislation.

As for the impact of class size reduction, this is just the tip of the iceberg, since the Legislature shelved I-1315, which would have shrunk classes in all grades this school year. Legislators have pledged to fulfill the initiative … when they can find a funding source. And they’ll have to pony up more money to build or expand schools, or the crowding your kid may feel this year will only get worse, local school officials say.

“Our burden will continue to be reclaiming space for the inevitable additional classrooms that will be needed to achieve the state’s goal,” said Patty Glaser, Bremerton School District’s spokeswoman.

As for the increase in teachers’ salary, it includes a COLA and a temporary pay boost that expires after 2017. The Legislature has agreed that they need to revise the way they pay all school employees to make sure their wages are competitive to comparable jobs elsewhere. And that work is wrapped up in a proposed overhaul of school funding that’s supposed to take the burden off local taxpayers. But the Legislature has barely moved the needle on this task. So as you can see, there’s still a long way to go to satisfy McCleary.

Money for teachers’ compensation amounts to money in, money out for districts. So, unless you count happier teachers, you and your child may not directly notice the impact of this extra money for Kitsap and North Mason schools.

Teachers are happy with the COLA etc., but they’re still pushing for the big overhaul that includes major changes in compensation. There’s been talk among unions about a possible long-term strike in the fall. We’ll keep an eye on that.

So the bottom line is, districts have discretion over relatively small amounts of the extra money from the state. When the dust settles, Central Kitsap for example will get to make local spending decisions on only about $1.2 million.

CK is considering long-overdue replacement of equipment, increased intervention staff, new sports and co-curricular equipment and an upgrade to the district’s internal assessment system. And North Kitsap will use its $1.8 million in discretionary revenue from the state and other sources for academic and behavioral support, technology and staffing upgrades. Bremerton will use most of its discretionary funding for technology and new curriculum aligned with Common Core standards.

“We are thankful for the additional funding but believe the state needs to ‘keep their foot on the petal’ to ensure continued progress is made,” Glaser said.

Remember, if you’ve got school budget questions or other questions or comments about Kitsap and North Mason schools, call me at (360) 792-9219 or email Your input and news tips are appreciated.

Finally, I keep an archive of local education stories on my Facebook page, so you can follow the Kitsap Sun’s coverage,