Monthly Archives: February 2008

SK Blog to Have its Own Iditarod Correspondent

While Natalie Kathan’s fellow students at South Colby Elementary School are studying the Iditarod in the classroom, she’ll be in Alaska March 1, riding in the ceremonial start of the legendary dog sled race.

Kathan, 11, is taking this trip of a lifetime thanks to her big sister Celena Kathan, 35, of Seattle who placed a winning bid of $1,500 on the IditaRider auction. Winners of the auction earn the chance to ride bundled up in the sleds of mushers who will be taking part in the grueling 1,100-mile race. The ceremonial race, which starts in Anchorage, is only 11 miles long, however.

Watch for Natalie’s posts on this blog around the start of the Iditarod, March 1 & 2.

Iditarod fever runs in the family thanks to South Colby teacher Bonnie Kimball, who has made the race an integral part of her curriculum since 1989. All of the Kathan clan, including brothers, Matt and Jake Kathan, now 26 and 23 respectively, have had Kimball.

The two sisters have been planning a trip to Alaska for the Iditarod for two years. But the IditaRider prize was a total surprise to Natalie.

While the sisters are in Alaska, Natalie will be the official Iditarod correspondent to Ms. Kimball’s class and Speaking of South Kitsap. She’ll report on the start of the real race, March 2, and on what it’s like to eat bison burgers in sub-zero weather.

Stay warm Natalie!

Howard Minor’s Downtown PO Swan Song

Perhaps you’ve noticed the gaping hole in Bay Street.

Demolition of the building that formerly stood at 731 Bay Street, in between Myhe’s restaurant and the former Mako’s bar, is nearly complete, according to James Weaver, Port Orchard’s new director of development.

Howard Minor, a retired dentist and active property manager, said he got tired of trying to keep up with flooding that plagued the two-story building over the 45 years he has owned it. Although he fixed the problem (multiple times), he said, he could no longer get insurance coverage.

Apparently the city had issues with the building, as well.
“As part of maintaining public safety downtown, the abatement, demolition and removal of the asbestos from the unstable building has been a two-year effort to resolve the outstanding issues with the boarded up structure,” said Weaver. ” Considerable efforts have been expended by city staff in cooperation with the building owner since November of 2005 to provide a safe downtown environment on Bay Street while the dangerous entryway and sidewalk collapse were resolved.”

There were adjacent marquee repairs next to the building to make sure that facade was not further compromised “while the owners resolved theissue of the failing building,” Weaver said. “The owners ultimately arranged for demolition of the structure in lieu of necessary repairs.”

Minor applied for and received permission to raze the building, which required asbestos abatement, and he will sell it. The asking price is $340,000. Not bad for a place for which he he paid $15,000.

Over the years, Minor rented out the five units within the roughly 5,000 square foot building. At one point he owned four properties in the downtown area and multiple properties elsewhere.

Minor, 87, known most recently for his cantankerous rants at city council meetings, built a small empire in South Kitsap properties. “I started the world with $4, and I’ve made over a million,” he said.

But things have changed drastically since Minor began investing in downtown Port Orchard.

“It’s not the same,” he said. “When I first came to town, I was the young buck, and they sure let me know it. When I first came to town, you could buy everything you needed downtown. We bought all our clothes there, our groceries, our doctors were there.”

Then came the department stores in Bremerton, the South Kitsap and Silverdale malls, and ultimately the big box stores everywhere.

Port Orchard merchants are struggling to shrug off the tacky cloak of an economically depressed town center and reinvent Port Orchard as a trendy, upscale place to live, shop and play. It’s a work in progress, a glass-full, glass empty thing. New stores, including a new independent movie theater, new paint jobs and planter boxes are promising signs. But half-painted buildings and less than sufficient infrastructure (as evidenced by major flooding during the Dec. 3 & 4 rain storm) shows PO has a long ways to go.

Minor retired from dentistry just a few years ago. A heart operation “was the only excuse I could come up with” for calling it quits, he said. Otherwise, he’s still going strong.

“I lucked out. I’ve got the longevity of my mother and the brains of my father,” said Minor, who has no plans to retire from the rental business, at least outside the downtown core.

The 731 Bay Street property is the last of the downtown sites he owns, and he is currently entertaining offers from interested parties. Minor in the past could be seen standing on a ladder painting his buildings according to a color scheme he proposed, but he’s ready to hand the metaphorical brush over to someone else.

Weaver said there’s a chance other antiquated downtown buildings could go the way of 731 Bay St., but it’s too early to elaborate, he said.

Contact Weaver with questions or concerns at (360) 876-4991.

Cedar Heights Families Receive Health Advisory on Miningococcal Disease

A letter that went home today with students at Cedar Heights Junior High School advises families that a student at the school has been diagnosed as having “probable meningococcal disease,” a serious and, in severe cases, potentially fatal disease caused by a bacteria. The letter, from Dr. Scott Lindquist, director of the Kitsap County Health District, indicated, however, that there is no cause for alarm. Transmission of the disease occurs by having “close, intimate contact” with someone who has the disease, Lindquist wrote. That would be along the lines of kissing, sharing utensils or other contact that exposes a person to the oral secretions of the infected person. The student in question is a wrestler, and as a precaution, members of the school’s wrestling team will receive preventive treatment. Other students need not be treated, Lindquist said.

I am writing a story on the district’s press release that will appear later at Lindquist’s letter can be found at Cedar Heights’ Web site.

PO Utilities to go Underground

As part of its plans to upgrade the look and function of the downtown area, the City of Port Orchard plans to take the lead on running some utilities underground. For a complete description, see the press release from City Engineer Maher Abed, below. Work done by the city, as described in the release, will allow business and building owners to tie into underground utility junctions as future development takes place.

A Public workshop on the plan is set for 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers.

Here’s Maher:

(My note: Say it with a “Heeeer’s Johnny” voice and it’s kind of funny on a Friday afternoon. Cheers, Maher!)

Background: The City of Port Orchard Mayor and Council had agreed to take the lead on the franchise utilities (power, phone and cable) in the Downtown area in 2007. Initially, the City considered doing the full undergrounding through the Downtown area, however, this effort was abandoned because of the cost and the risk of not knowing how the new business redevelopment plans would be executed in the future. Instead, the City agreed to underground franchise utilities within the main corridors in the Downtown at: Geiger Street to Kitsap Bank location, Frederick and Sidney intersections. Provisions will be for the future undergrounding effort of downtown businesses as development occurs within the corridor. This project is being done ahead of the State Department of Transportation’s scheduled overlay of the state Highway including Bay Street through the Downtown area.

Scope of Work: It consists of implementing an approved traffic control plan, mobilization and staging of equipment, saw cutting and demolition of surface features in the work area, excavation of prescribed trench sections, installation of Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Qwest, and City owned conduits and vaults, coordination for installation of Wave owned conduits and vaults, backfilling of trench sections with Control density fill within the State Highway, restoration of surface features and any disrupted services, demobilization and clean-up.

Preliminary Timeline for the project:

Bid Opening due at 2:00 p.m. February 29, 2008
Bid evaluation Completion March 6, 2008
Projected Contract Award March 14, 2008
Projected Project Start March 24, 2008

Engineer’s estimate for the Project: $238,683.47

Project Anticipated Duration: The project is projected to be completed within 60 days of the start date.

City’s Point of Contact: Maher M. Abed, P.E., Public Works Director/City Engineer, 216 Prospect Street, Port Orchard, WA 98366, Phone Number: (360) 876-7034.

SK School Board Member Resigns

Chuck Mayhew, vice president of the South Kitsap School District Board of Directors, announced at Wednesday’s board meeting he is resigning.
I’m awaiting a call back from Mayhew, but board president Patty Henderson today said Mayhew’s decision is related to a career change, and that there are no hard feelings on any front.
Mayhew’s new commitments leave him without the time required to attend to board activities, said Henderson. The short notice she said was “totally understandable.”
Mayhew was elected to the board in November, 2005. He has lived in Port Orchard since 1999 and has five children, three of whom attend SK schools.
Mayhew is a former civil engineer for what is now West Sound Utility District. He most recently has worked for Stan Palmer Construction. Henderson said she believes he is going into business for himself,
The remaining board members must appoint a replacement for Mayhew, whose term expires in 2009.
Henderson said qualifications for serving on the board include “open-mindedness” and a commitment to teamwork. Anyone, with or without children in the district, is eligible to apply as long as they have the necessary enthusiasm, said Henderson, who as president spends 10 to 20 hours a week on board activities.
“We really, really encourage anyone who’s interested, even if they don’t think they could do it, because it really is a great experience,” Henderson said.
Potential applicants should contact the district office at (360) 874-7000 or via the Web site at

How Do You Make an Attorney Blush?

No, this isn’t the latest lawyer joke.

It was part of my research for today’s story on Espresso Gone Wild, the stand in Gorst that has been attracting attention – positive and negative – for it’s “Pastie Days.” And, as I mentioned in the story, we’re not talking “pastries” misspelled.

At one point, I thought the stand might be in City of Bremerton boundaries (it’s actually in unincorporated Kitsap County). I spoke with city attorney Roger Lubovich and asked him if there were any regulations pertaining to businesses and attire, or lack thereof.

Roger was stumped and momentarily at a loss.

“We have no regulations on anything like that. This is new,” he said, “God, what next? Oh, man, kind of got to write a regulation for everything. … I’m sitting here blushing.”

On further exploration, I found out there are no rules restricting what baristas (or baristos for that matter) can or can’t wear.

The Kitsap County Health District’s regulations address the handling of food, not worker safety, and include only a “very vague item about clothing being clean,” said Bonnie Latham of the district’s food and living environment program.

The state’s Department of Labor and Industries’ A-to-Z list of regulations says nothing about safety rules related to “baristas,” “clothing,” “coffee,” “espresso stands” or “restaurants.” And there is nothing in Kitsap County code that addresses the issue of attire in establishments selling food and drink, said Philip Bacus, deputy prosecuting attorney with the county’s civil courts division.

Well, as they say, litigation abhors a vacuum. I wonder how long it will be until we see signs, “Caution the contents of this espresso stand may be not be suitable for children under 13 years of age.”

Come to think of it, a little heads up might be helpful. I can just see a soccer mom fueling up on her way to the tournament with a mini-van full of pre-adolescent boys. …

Now, a word from Mary Keller, owner of Natte Latte, also in Gorst, where the baristas wear pink leather hot pants. Mary came up with the idea in 2001, and has developed it into a brand with a boutique, calendar and other Natte latte goods.
“My focus is on my business and not theirs,” said Keller, in an e-mail to me today. “As I mentioned to you yesterday, for us and any company to survive you need to have sustainability, a marketing idea and a plan how to carry it out. And that is the premise that I operate under and that keeps us growing. Like any product, I founded and created a marketing niche and have fine tuned and focused it and others have tried to ride my shirt tails for years and that is capitalism at its finest. Someone will always try to copy a fine product and create something similar, they think, to be even greater. But it is usually the inventor, or the person who takes the first step that prevails and that is us.”

Coppola Chafing at, Adjusting to the “Glacial” Pace of Government

Update 2/15: I got this e-mail from Larry Coppola this evening:
I was somewhat disappointed that you didn’t mention the fact that I said I wanted to Master Plan the Sedgwick-Sidney area, before too much more development occurs. As I pointed out, Walgreen’s is already under construction, Target has an option on some property, several other retailers are actively looking, and that MultiCare has plans to expand its presence there.

But I also added that since this is going to happen on my watch, I believe Master Planning that area — which is going to become the new economic center of the City — is absolutely essential so it didn’t end up like Silverdale. I believe that’s an important element that shouldn’t have been left out of the story.

Lary Coppola, Port Orchard’s new mayor, spoke bluntly today at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the learning curve he’s experienced going from the private sector into the world of local government.
Coppola, owner of West Sound Publishing and publisher of the Kitsap Business Journal, has sat on government boards, including the county’s planning commission, but when it comes to getting business done, he admitted, he’s been used to doing things Lary’s way.
“One of the biggest frustrations has been the glacial pace of government,” he said. “I’m getting used to it. I don’t like it, but I’m getting used to it.”
Public process on the appointment of former Kitsap County senior planner James Weaver to them post of city Director of Development, for example, took a whole month, Coppola groused. Weaver replaced City Planner JoAnne Long-Woods, who retired without comment within a month of Coppola’s installation.
For Coppola there have been other adjustments.
“For the first month, I was drinking out of a fire hose, it seemed,” he said. “It seemed like everyone who had ever been told ‘no’ was standing in line and everyone who had ever been told ‘maybe” was standing behind them.”
Now the fire hose has subsided to “a trickle” as he’s gotten a handle on the job.
City Hall staff have been adjusting, too. Under Coppola’s administration, he said, the city will have a greater focus on customer service.
“I come from the private sector, where customer service is job one,” he said. “That’s the way it’s going to be, and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy had better be polishing their resume.”
Coppola actually went to Staples and cleaned out their supply of “Easy” buttons, distributing them among city staff.
Coppola noted that city council meetings have been moved to Tuesdays in order not to conflict with the county’s new Monday evening schedule, and he said he’s been making good on his goal to keep council meetings down to around two hours instead of three-plus, as it has been in the past. The addition of a hearing examiner to preview complex land use issues and bimonthly study sessions for the council have helped increase the efficiency of city government, he said.
Coppola also praised the city council, which includes three new members, saying, “You have elected a great group of people. He said council members will be using their areas of expertise to help the city make improvements. For example, Councilman Fred Chang, who works in computer technology industry, will be updating the city’s Web site.
Coppola went on to give a state-of-the-city address, listing items on Port Orchard’s agenda within the next year and beyond.
Comprehensive Plan: One of Weaver’s main jobs will be to update the city’s comprehensive plan, without which Port Orchard is currently ineligible for numerous grants that could be used for city projects, Coppola said. The city council on Tuesday approved a contract with Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes of Grant-Solutions, Poulsbo, who has done extensive grant writing for the county.
Bethel Sinkhole: Federal and state funds will cover most of the cost of repairing the aging pipe that resulted in the sinkhole on Bethel Ave., Coppola said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover 75 percent of the cost; state emergency funds will cover 12.5 percent and the city will be responsible for 12.5 percent. The city council on Tuesday awarded a contract to West Sound Engineering for “up to $80,000.” (Note added 2/15: That represents the city’s portion plus additional funds to reroute a 24-inch main.) Repairs should start in April and be completed in a couple of months.
Sedgwick and Sidney Interchange: Expect to see major development at this once sleepy intersection. Target has put an option on some property there, said Coppola. Walgreens and Multi-Care also have plans to build.
Downtown Development: Coppola is forming a task force to attract new businesses to the area. But, he said, he will be selective. The former Mako’s bar, which saw a disproportionate share of 911 calls, has been sold. Coppola said he wrote the new owners welcoming them, but he also fired a shot across their bow, saying if they can’t keep things under control, he will advocate to have their liquor license suspended.

Threatening Message at Cedar Heights Found “Not Credible”

A message found in a girl’s bathroom at Cedar Heights Junior High School this afternoon was investigated and found not to be a credible threat, according to letter sent home with students.

“The message stated, ‘The school will be shot down on Thursday and everyone will die,'” the letter said.

The note was found about 12:30 p.m. The school resource officer investigated and determined “there was no viable threat,” said Gina Glynn, of the district’s office of school and family support.

School officials believe they know who wrote the note, and the investigation continues, said Glynn. A report has been filed with the Port Orchard Police Department.

There will be a police presence at the school tomorrow.

A press release on the incident will be posted shortly at the Cedar Heights Web site.

Last Call to Weigh in on Proposed North Mason Bond

North Mason School District Facilities Community Advisory Committee will discuss a proposed $50 million bond to build a new middle school and make major improvements to North Mason High School at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district office, 71 E Campus Dr., Belfair. The school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, same location, to consider the committee’s recommendation.
The district conducted a survey in January to help gauge public support for the bond. If the school board decides to go forward with the bond, it will likely be on the May ballot.
The survey, conducted by an independent company, didn’t specifically ask if respondents would support a bond. Instead it asked a number of questions to document public perception of issues that could bear on the success or failure of a bond.
North Mason’s last bond in May, 2006 failed to meet the required 60 percent “super majority,” with 54 percent voting yes, 46 percent, no.
Washington voters Nov. 6 approved a measure allowing for passage of school levies with a simple majority, but it does not apply to bonds.
If the bond passes, usable classrooms at Hawkins would be converted into a vo-tech center for high school level students. The bond would also cover a new cafeteria for the high school.

EDU: Finding Time for Science

Note: Here in the Kitsap newsroom, we each get to wear multiple hats. I’ll now be doing occasional general education stories, as well as covering South Kitsap School district as part of the SK beat (Kitsap Caucus blog host Steve Gardner is now covering the county).

We don’t have a separate education blog, so for now, I’ll post education related items on the SK beat blog with the tag EDU. Recent blog entries show up temporarily on the Kitsap Sun home page, as well as permanently on each blog’s home page. If you’re particularly interested in education (or if you just want to keep track of recent entries) you can subscribe to be on the blog notification list. To do so, enter your e-mail in the window at the right of the page. Any problems, call me (360) 792-9219.

OK here’s the post:

A story in today’s Kitsap Sun describes the Washington Aerospace Scholars program, a public-private-business partnership aimed at drawing highly capable science and math students into the aerospace field. Six Kitsap and North Mason students were selected for the program, with a chance to get a summer internship at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

These kids are the proverbial cream of the crop. As Jim Daniel, the chemistry teacher of one aerospace student, puts it, “If I had a classroom of Rebeccas we’d be in good shape.”

But what about the mainstream students, whose cumulative scores on the Washington Assessment of Student learning have fallen short of the target standard?

The 2007 state Legislature passed a bill to beef up math and science curricula, in part by providing funding to better train teachers in those areas, even as they delayed having results of the math and science WASL count toward graduation until 2013.

Daniel was not happy with that move. “The problem is, as long as we continue to take the (science) WASL and it doesn’t count, they’re going to continue to do poorly because there’s no motivation.”

Another problem with the science WASL, as it now stands, said Ron Ness, a chemistry teacher at South Kitsap High School, is that students are tested in their sophomore year, before they’ve really had a chance to learn the upper level concepts included on the test. No wonder many students do poorly said Ness. He thinks schools should provide more science instruction in lower grades.

Daniel, who teaches at Olympic High School in Central Kitsap, said he would like to see three years of science required at the high school level. Speaking of the notorious gap in science achievement between American students and their foreign counterparts, Daniel said it is an “apples to oranges” comparison, because in England, for example, students specialize in their area of study at the high school level. The students who take primarily math and science are those who have shown an aptitude for it, while the U.S. model seeks well-rounded students.

“I would say I have to come down on the side of the U.S. model,” said Daniel, “There’s a lot of negative PR about the U.S. system.”

The trick, of course, is finding the time and money to make students well-rounded yet proficient.

I talked to Dan Whitford, South Kitsap’s director of instructional services, about the constraints districts face in this regard. Based on Ness and Daniel’s observations, it would seem one way to address the issue of poor achievement in science is to add more science instruction time. I asked if there’s been much discussion about extending the school day or the school year.

“Discussion goes on constantly,” Whitford said. The problem is that the state already doesn’t fully fund basic education. Districts rely on levy funding to fill the gap between what the state allows and what it actually costs, he said. The Legislature is working on solutions, but there’s no quick fix, because of the many competing and compelling needs, including the environment, transportation, health and social services to name a few, Whitford said.

School districts in the state and around the country have sued their respective legislatures over the issue of basic education funding.

Washington’s Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance, on which Bremerton School District Superintendent Bette Hyde serves, met throughout 2007 and will continue to meet through 2008 to look at the current definition of “basic education,” to redefine it and propose options that will lead to adequate financing. They next meet March 24-25.

In the meantime, South Kitsap is overhauling its science curriculum, with some help from state funding aimed at improving WASL scores.

Teachers at the elementary level are receiving training to help them be more effective, said Whitford. Science in South Kitsap’s grades K-6 is woven into the daily curriculum, Whitford admitted science has sometimes taken a back seat to reading, writing and math.

“Our teaches are well aware of the issue,” he said. “But the problem is getting everything covered every day. Once you take reading, writing and math, it leaves about an hour a day for social studies, health and science.”

To get more bang for the buck, so to speak, the district is encouraging teachers to integrate science into other curricula, for example by having students keep science notebooks.

Currently in South Kitsap’s junior highs, students in 7th grade get one semester of science; 8th graders get a full year, and 9th graders get one semester. Next year, 9th graders will get a full year of science.

At the high school level, 10th graders currently get a full year of science. To graduate, students must have at least two credits of science, with one being a lab science.

The state Board of Education is reviewing all credit requirements, so that may change, Whitford said. The board has said a third credit in math, rather than the current 2, will be required by 2013. The board could make the same decision about science, Whitford said.