On the education beat: March 15, 2016

Heading for a levy “cliff?”
Look, out there on the horizon, is that the threat of teacher lay-offs?

School District officials say it’s possible if the Legislature doesn’t agree on stalling a “levy cliff” that’s looming for the 2017-18 school year.
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Photo by koratmember at freedigitalphotos.net

Higher local school levy lids (maximum collection amounts allowed) are due to sunset. A bill that didn’t make it through the regular session would have allowed districts to continue collecting at the higher amounts, at least for a year. Without an agreement, local funding will be slashed in the 2017-18 school year.

“This would clearly impact our ability to hire or retain staff for the 2017-18 school year,” Bremerton spokeswoman Patty Glaser said.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the levy cliff bill in the special session, now under way.

Coverage of lead in Ordway water continues
As last week wrapped up, we gave an update of the Ordway water quality issue, as a panel of experts reassured parents that their children’s exposure to lead from water at the school most likely had been low. The district continues to use bottled water at Ordway as a consulting firm re-tests all the faucets and water fountains.

Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with the Bainbridge Island School District facilities director to review water testing records to date. The district is working on a map showing how each faucet and fountain at six schools tested. I also plan to check in with other districts to see if any of them have done voluntary testing for lead in their schools’ water. The kind of testing BISD undertook in December will be required of school in 2017.

North Mason School District to transfer land for park
The district hopes to transfer property it owns on Sweetwater Creek to the Port of Allyn for use as a park.

The port is working with the Salmon Center to build a park and restore the water wheel at the site.
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The school district, which bought the parcel in 1997, had planned to build fish ladders for spawning chum, create trails and a small park. But the district already has its hands full with the Theler property, a wetlands and community center that was deeded to the district but which the district can no longer afford to maintain.

“This looks like a really good project for the community, but it’s not a good project for the school district,” Superintendent Dana Rosenbach said.

The Salmon Center has led efforts to get state grants for the park work.

Award winning bus mechanic at work
And in case you missed it, here’s a video of Maurine Simons, a South Kitsap School District bus mechanic who earned a place in a national competition. Simons was the first woman to compete in the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s annual bus mechanics competition.

Note, March 24, 2016: I have been out of town since March 16, tending to a family matter that came up unexpectedly. I did not have a chance to meet with BISD officials about water test results. Thanks in advance for your patience, as I regroup on coverage of the issue of lead in Ordway Elementary School water.

Howe family honored by Congress

Howe family history was honored Thursday in Congress.

As anyone familiar with South Kitsap knows, the Howe name is interwoven throughout Port Orchard’s 125-year history. It began with William Fenton Howe, who on March 6, 1891, moved his family from Tacoma to the shores of Sinclair Inlet in the town known as Sidney (now Port Orchard). The Howes were movers and shakers in the town’s early government and commerce. Members of the family, including the late Gerry Howe Bruckart, remained influential throughout the 20th Century.

Anyone not familiar with the Howes’ contributions to Port Orchard ought to be, according to Edwin (Scott) Howe of Pierce County, great-grandson of William Fenton Howe. Edwin pitched to Congressman Derek Kilmer a proclamation noting March 6 as the 125th anniversary of the Howes’ arrival in Port Orchard. Kilmer was instrumental in authorizing the proclamation, which he read into the Congressional record on Thursday, according to Kilmer’s spokesman Jason Phelps.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the William Fenton Howe family for their contributions to the history of the Pacific Northwest and to recognize their 125th anniversary of calling the city of Port Orchard, Wash., home,” Kilmer read.

The proclamation goes on to detail the lives of the Howes, who came to Washington in 1888 from Pennsylvania. They lived in Tacoma before arriving in Sidney in 1891. William and his wife Emma had five children: Harry, William, Edwin, Roy and Edith.

Sidney, incorporated in 1890, was the first town in Kitsap County to do so. The Howes established Howe Hardware, serving a the burgeoning lumber industry. Agriculture and a pottery works were other major economic drivers in Port Orchard’s early days.
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Following the death of his wife in 1985 and a fire at the hardware store, William Fenton Howe placed the children with families in the community and set off for Alaska to pursue opportunities in the booming mining industry there. Edwin Scott Howe joined his dad, and they provided stoves to the miners.

Back in Port Orchard, after the death of their father, Edwin and Harry Howe opened Howe Brothers Hardware. The family also owned Howe Motor Company, which supplied many of the first vehicles to the Kitsap Peninsula. Members of the Howe family served on the city council and were engaged in civic organizations. They rallied to bring electric power to the town and ensure the location of a veterans home in Retsil.

The Howe legacy continued with Gerry Howe Bruckart, a businesswoman and charter member of the Sidney Museum and Arts Association. Bruckart, who owned the Olde Central Antique Mall on bay Street, died in 2005 at 88.

Edwin Scott Howe tells us he is “the last of the Howe clan and never had any children. I am one of the original ‘Baby Boomers’ having been born March 13, 1946. I moved from Port Orchard in 1981 to Pierce County. My oldest sister, Judy Howe, is the sole surviving member of the original Howe family still living in Port Orchard. She was born September 12, 1942.”

Howe Family Proclamation

Former SKSD Super LaRose to leave Culver City

Former South Kitsap School District Superintendent Dave LaRose is leaving Culver City Unified School District at the end of the school year, according to The Wave Newspapers of Culver City.

LaRose cited personal reasons for leaving the job that drew him away from South Kitsap in 2012. He is not taking a position with another district, he said.
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“If the next chapter of my life was to be in a leadership role for a school district, there’s no place I’d rather be than here in Culver City,” LaRose is quoted as saying in The Wave article. “I’m not sure what I will be doing next, but it has truly been an honor to serve the Culver City community.”

LaRose said the next chapter of his career may include consulting, a sabbatical or even teaching.

LaRose, known during his tenure in South Kitsap as a charismatic evangelist of the “whole child, whole community” philosophy, accepted the job at the Southern California school district in 2012, saying at the time he wanted to be closer to his daughters, one of whom was living in California, the other who was attending college in Arizona.

LaRose was promoted to superintendent in 2008 by the school board after serving as the district’s assistant superintendent for family and support services and as principal at Orchard Heights Elementary School.

Echoing comments made by South Kitsap school officials when LaRose left this community, Culver City Board President Steve Levin said he was sorry to see LaRose leave.

“Dave has been an amazing, charismatic leader for the district, and we’re really sorry to see him go,” Levin said. “He has helped us make great strides in the right direction, and we are committed to keeping that momentum going. Dave’s legacy will benefit our students for years to come.”

During his time in Culver City, LaRose championed the Culver City Compact, “a signed document that outlines the community’s commitment and vision for a bright educational future that was adopted by a large group of community members, businesses and organizations,” according to The Wave. He also oversaw the launch of $106 million in major renovations and technology upgrades that are could take 12 years to complete.

South Kitsap School District serves more than 9,000 students; Culver City Unified serves roughly 6,500.

St. Vincent’s meets financial goal for construction loan

Just more than a week ago, St. Vincent de Paul thrift store lacked $65,000 needed to qualify for a construction loan on its new building. Time was running out for St. Vinnie’s, which for 25 years has offered aid to needy folks with profits from its sales. The thrift store was in danger of closing.

Today, St. Vincent met its goal to raise a total of $100,000, Sean Jeu, director of operations announced. The money was raised largely through small donations of $5, $10 and $20, plus several larger donations and a really big gift from an anonymous donor.

“The community’s really stepped up,” Jeu said.
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The thrift store must move from its Bay Street location, owned by Bruce Titus of Bruce Titus Ford, by January 2017. In December 2016 , St. Vincent announced it had secured roughly $400,000 in collateral but lacked an additional $100,000 the bank said would be needed to qualify for the loan. Renting was not an option, since there are no big enough spaces in Port Orchard the thrift store can afford, and building payments on land St. Vincent already owns on Bethel Avenue actually will be cheaper than current rent payments.

As of Feb. 17, St. Vincent had raised $35,300 through donations.

St. Vincent needed to apply for the loan by March 1 to start construction in April and stay on track for a move by early 2017, Jeu said. The funding gap seemed wide.

On Friday, Jeu was elated. He had met with bank officials and received encouraging news.

“I am very happy, so much weight off my shoulders,” he said. “The community is so amazing.”

Jeu said he can’t disclose the amount of the largest donation, which actually pushed St. Vinnie’s over the top of their goal. He also gave no information on the major donor, who wants to remain anonymous.

The additional money will be used for construction costs on the $1.8 million, 24,000-square-foot building, Jeu said.

St. Vincent’s board had come up with a plan B, should they fall short of their goal, which was to scale back the project and forego things like staff office space, awnings and other non-essentials, at least for now. Now, they will be able to go with plan A and possibly pay some of the principal on the loan, depending on the final cost of construction.

Bruce Titus was one of the donors who helped St. Vincent reach its goal. Jeu said he couldn’t disclose the amount, but he said Titus has been very supportive of the organization.

A message from NMSD superintendent on the shooting in Belfair

Two children were confirmed dead today by the Mason County Sheriff’s Department in a shooting in Belfair that left the gunman and two other people dead.

The home where the shooting occurred was nowhere near schools in North Mason School District and school continued without interruption. Inevitably, however, the whole community will be affected.

North Mason School District Superintendent Dana Rosenbach posted the following message, copied below in full, on the district’s website.

Take care. Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun

“Today has been a tragic day

Today has been a tragic day and we are all affected by the great loss. As parents you may want to talk to your children about today’s tragedies and their impact. Witnessing or even hearing of a traumatic incident may affect a child or adult in a variety of ways. Therefore, it is very important that children be given ample opportunities to ask questions and to talk about their reactions to the incidents. Currently children may also have concerns about their safety and security and consequently may need reassurance. Over the next two days, you may find your children need to discuss their questions and concerns with you. For that reason, we are providing the information at the end of this message.
Over the weekend, or at any time, you may access the Lewis/Mason Crime Victim Service Center at 1-888-288-9221 for 24 hour help in dealing with trauma. In addition, you can get more support at the National Traumatic Stress Network (http://nctsnet.org/).
For children, Dana Rosenbach
North Mason School District Superintendent

When reacting to a traumatic incident, a child may display behaviors such as the following:
• Clings close to adults
• Displays regressive behaviors (acting like a much younger child)
• Repetitively reenacts the event in play activities
• Appears not to be affected
• Thinks about it privately
• Asks a lot of questions
• Appears frightened
• Appears agitated and angry
• Appears sad and withdrawn
• Displays difficulty sleeping
• Stomach aches and somatic complaints
It is very important that you take the time to listen to your children. If they seem to need to talk, answer their questions simply, honestly and possibly over and over again. Below are some suggestions that parents may find useful in helping your child deal with the present events:
• Assure fearful children that you will be there to take care of them. Reassure them many times.
• Provide physical closeness. Spend extra time putting your child back to bed. Talk and offer reassurance.
• Encourage children to ask questions and to discuss, write or draw their feelings.
• Be a good listener. Listen carefully for any misconceptions or distortions the student may have regarding what happened.
• Talk with your child and provide simple, accurate information to questions.
• Provide play and fun experiences to relieve tension.
• Help the child develop safety plans and procedures (“What should you do if….?”)
• Remind them of concrete examples of where they are being protected and cared for by parents, adults, teachers, police, etc.
• Make sure the child gets rest and exercise.
– See more at: http://www.nmsd.wednet.edu/News/112#sthash.uggv8Yop.dpuf”

A clarification on paraeducator pay

Since we ran our article on paraeducators, several people have pointed out that the base salaries we cited from the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website seem high compared to what these employees are actually taking home.

The base salaries listed by the state are for full-time equivalent positions, and we should have made that clear in the original story, which has been updated with a note on the clarification.

Here’s the updated paragraph: “In Kitsap and North Mason counties the average base salary for a full-time equivalent position ranges from $32,354 in Bremerton to $37,317 on Bainbridge Island, according to the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The statewide average is $35,193, with average benefits valued at around $20,000. In reality, most paras work part-time, so their actual take-home pay is much lower.”

How much lower? Bainbridge Island para Mike McCloud, who is also president of his local classified employees union, gives this example. A para on Bainbridge earning $19.66 per hour typically works six hours a day, 180 days a year, which works out to $21,232.80 per year. Paras on Bainbridge get 11 paid holidays ($117.96 per day x 11), for an additional $1,297.56, making a total of $22,530.36 per year, or about 60 percent of the $37,317 allocated to Bainbridge Island School District per FTE para.

Mike adds that the state average of $20,000 in benefits for a FTE also is high compared to what virtually all paras actually receive. “Since paras work only about 30 hours per week, we only receive 3/4 (.75 FTE) of the state allowance for medical insurance benefits,” Mike said in an email to me.

The paras I talked to accept the part-time nature of their jobs. As I mentioned, some have spouses who have the primary job, but some work a second job or more. There are trade-offs and some perks to the job, as we mentioned. For example, summers off with the kids, the fact they do get medical benefits and the flexibility part-time work gives to, say, run a business on the side.

Oly cheer squad takes first in state

Olympic High School’s varsity cheer squad has brought home a state trophy … again. This is the fifth time since Coach Kristie Freeman took on the team in 1990.
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The competition took place Jan. 30 at the University of Washington. The 20-member Oly team competed in the co-ed cheer division of similarly sized squads (non-tumbling). Here’s a video from the team.

We asked Kristie what it takes to bust those moves. The answer is “a tremendous amount of athleticism.”

“I would say they work just as hard as any other sport in our school,” Freeman said.

The cheer season (like most fall sports) begins in the mid-summer. Besides learning routines, cheer squad members spend hours each week in conditioning, running, sit-ups, push-ups. In the video, you’ll see team members lift others in the air and deftly catch them coming down. That takes strength and coordination.

“We practice every day and sometimes Saturdays,” Freeman said

Throughout the fall, the squad takes part in regional competitions. Advancing to state requires a certain number of points, earned at lower level competitions. Meanwhile, the squad cheers on other athletes at football and basketball games. They are busy nearly every day July through January, and the season continues in February with basketball playoffs.

“I’m really proud of the kids. They worked really, really hard, and they did everything I asked them to do,” Freeman said.

This is not a sport for prima donnas. “There are no standouts. It’s a group effort,” Freeman said.

Routines are tightly choreographed. Freeman herself has never been a cheerleader. She began coaching cheer in 1978 in Raymond, Wash., when the cheer squad there needed a leader or would have folded.

“It is very time consuming, but it’s a passion,” Freeman said. “I’ve always had a passion for cheer. I love it.”

Congratulations, Oly cheer squad. You rock.

Samadpour’s company responds on Pavilion closing

Abadan Holdings, LLC, Mansour Samadpour’s property management company, on Tuesday responded to our Feb. 7 article about the impending closure of the Port Orchard Pavilion. Delilah Rene Luke said she can no longer subsidize operations for the event center, which she has operated since 2009. Luke said she and Abadan were unable to reach an agreement on rent that will allow the Pavilion to remain open.

In the article, Abadan attorney Mary Ogborn responded to Pavilion manager Joni Sonneman’s statement that Abadan now wants $6,000 a month for the place, by saying the future monthly asking price would be negotiated with the new tenant. She neither confirmed or denied that $6,000 is the current price for the Pavilion, and Ogborn said Abadan had no further comment on the Pavilion closing.

In fairness to Ogborn (and readers) I could have and should have pressed her for confirmation of other statements made by Delilah and Sonneman about arrangements between the Pavilion and Abadan through the years, including Sonneman’s statement that rent had at one time in the past been dropped from $4,000 to $3,000 per month then raised back up. Ogborn, in her response letter, stated the rent was never reduced to $3,000, and I have verified that is correct.

Ogborn gave other additional details about the lease agreement over the years that Pavilion representatives do not dispute, including an arrangement that gave the Pavilion some credit, in the form of one month’s free rent per year, for work done on the building.

Ogborn said the rent originally, in 2009, was $5,000 a month. In 2010, Delilah and company approached Abadan regarding installation of a sprinkler system that was required on the building and requested a tenant improvement allowance. “Abadan was happy to grant this allowance,” Ogborn said.

According to Ogborn and the Pavilion, this option was exercised over the next two years, but not in the following three years. There is some disagreement over who was responsible for initiating the free rent option.

In May 2012, at the Pavilion’s request for a rent reduction, Abadan agreed to $4,000 a month, and it remained at this amount through fall of 2015. As the lease expiration approached, the Pavilion and Abadan entered discussions on rent. The Pavilion proposed $2,750 per month and asked for its three years’ worth of retroactive free rent. Both parties agree that the Pavilion received three months of free rent in the latter part of 2015 and early 2016.

At the same time Abadan offered a one-year extension but stood firm on $4,000 a month. “Thereafter the lease negotiations stalled out,” Ogborn said.

The pavilion obtained a short-term lease extension to Feb. 15 at $4,000 per month and later was granted another extension to March 15 at $6,000 a month (which is apparently where the $6,000 figure came from). Abadan has said if the Pavilion wants to continue renting the space month to month and not enter a fixed term lease, the price is $6,000 per month, Ogborn said.

Samadpour owns multiple properties in Port Orchard, including virtually the entire 700 block of Bay Street, where the Pavilion is located.

Ogborn in a letter to me had this statement: “Abadan supports businesses in Port Orchard and has worked with the tenants at the Port Orchard Pavilion over the years to support them through their struggle to develop a viable business. Over the years, Abadan has worked with many of the tenants in Port Orchard to reduce their rent in order to help keep their businesses viable during economic downturns. Abadan has reduced the rent for the Pavilion in 2012 and has not raised the rent for the Pavilion in three years.

“Abadan takes issue with the characterization of the negotiations in your article because in actuality, tenants demanded Abadan reduce the Pavilion’s rent by $1,250 per month or no deal could be reached. Abadan cannot reasonably be expected to subsidize a failing business by continuing to offer rent reductions and believes it is unprofessional for the tenants to voice their displeasure with Abadan by presenting a one-sided and inaccurate version of the history of their tenancy and the lease negotiations between our businesses to you.”

Regarding Ogborn’s letter, Delilah said that renovations she made to the building, including urgent and critical repairs, tallied far more than the total the Pavilion received in the form of free rent.

Health District working with NKSD on air quality at Poulsbo Elementary

Update, 3:15 p.m. Feb. 10: North Kitsap schools Superintendent Patty Page informed parents via email that maintenance staff believe they have located the source of the odors at Poulsbo Elementary over the past several weeks. An inspection of equipment this morning showed exhaust was leaking out of a heat exchanger on one of the HVAC units on the roof.

Monitoring inside the building today showed no carbon monoxide, indicating the one (undamaged) burner they’ve been using since this morning is free of exhaust leaks. “Running the unit on one burner will provide adequate heat to the space it serves,” Page said.

Air Masters, the company that worked on the units this summer, will be on site Monday to inspect the unit and identify repairs. Monday is the earliest Air Masters can get there, Page said.

Note, this is likely not the end of the school’s HVAC woes, as the aging system gradually degrades. The district’s goal is to replace the sad, old thing, and they’re working on a plan. Read on.

Feb. 9, 7:45 p.m.: A few new developments today (Tuesday) on the issue of odors at Poulsbo Elementary School: a meeting with parents, new equipment to monitor air quality and an “evolving” plan for replacing the aging and cranky HVAC units sooner rather than later.

Superintendent Patty Page and other district officials met with parents at the school this afternoon to answer questions and field comments. The parents’ frustration was evident. Parent Lori Smith said it seems that the district is downplaying complaints of illness. “What’s the next step for the next time Friday happens?” Smith said, referring to reports of odors on Friday that brought the fire department and gas company officials out to check. The school was deemed fit to occupy and school was not cancelled.

“Nobody’s doubting anybody,” Page said in response to Smith. She said teachers have the go-ahead to remove students from a class, and Principal Claudia Alves has authority to evacuate the school without checking with central administrators. Parents are asked to report any odors to Alves or the main office. That’s the protocol, but no one will get in trouble for calling 911 if they are concerned, Page said.

The Kitsap Public Health District has loaned the district a sophisticated and fairly new air quality meter that measures for unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and relative humidity. The device also measures particulate matter, but unlike the other measures, there’s no health standard for that. The device is designed only for use in schools, and is available to the health district through a partnership with the state Department of Health and federal EPA. It will be in place in a classroom until at least Friday, as work to fix immediate problems with the HVAC units on the school’s roof continues. Health officials will analyze data from the device and determine if monitoring should continue beyond Friday in other locations of the school.

Maintenance staff purchased a hand-held gas detecting device, which they have been using since Monday. They also will regularly monitor air quality at the school.

“North Kitsap School District has a plan for investigating the odors. We support their plan and think they are taking the right approach to their investigation at this time,” said Karen Bevers, health district spokeswoman.

Health district officials have received 10 public health concern reports related to the school and “have responded to all those individuals,” Bevers said.

Finally, the district may be closer to replacing the units than earlier thought. Even a few weeks ago, district officials believed that fixing the system would require replacing not only the units but the entire air duct system as well. The projected cost would be on the order of items typically funded by a bond, and yet the district has no immediate plans to run a bond. Within the last few days, however, another potential solution has been suggested by Rashad Green, the district’s heating and air conditioning technician, who has been assigned to bird dog problems at Poulsbo Elementary. Green, relatively new to the district, has extensive knowledge of HVAC systems. He believes there are ways to replace the units without having to tear up the air duct system. District officials will be vetting that possibility with a contractor and checking on the price tag. Regardless of the cost, Page said, if this is a viable option, the district will make it work.

Green said he has two small children and understands the parents’ concern. He pledged vigilance. “I want you guys to feel that your concerns are listened to and that you’re being hear,” Green said. “We want to make sure you’re comfortable and that your kids are safe.”

Page said the problem with the schools HVAC has been ongoing for years. In an earlier renovation of the school, the HVAC system was not replaced. Now the system is so old it’s almost impossible to get parts. Problems date back to at least 2009, according to a local newspaper article, but Page said problems likely had been cropping up before then.

Full FEMA earthquake risk report for Kitsap County

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After publishing our series on Kitsap’s earthquake risk last month and a recent followup story, we’ve had several requests from readers that we post the full Federal Emergency Management Agency risk report for Kitsap referenced in some of the stories.

The 44-page report, which you can read or download in full below, assesses Kitsap’s risk to four natural hazards: flood, earthquake, landslide and tsunami.

The earthquake, landslide, tsunami and some of the flooding risks are related. In the report, FEMA chose a scenario in which the Seattle Fault rattles with a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Such a quake would trigger tsunamis, landslides, fires and other hazards.

Page 9 is where this information begins, starting with earthquakes and moving through landslides and tsunamis.

Pages 20-30 feature short risk assessments for particular areas, such as Bremerton, Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island. For each community, FEMA lists a few specific at-risk buildings and some strategies for reducing the impact of an earthquake and other hazards.

FEMA Kitsap Risk Report by tristan baurick