SKSD Board Appointment: My Notes

Correction (from Kathryn Simpson): “I don’t have time for a longer post right now, but I did want to ask for one correction. Keith Garton made the motion to appoint Naomi Polen. I did second the motion. Then we had a roll call vote (required in this case). Keith, then Jay, then me. Then Patty Henderson paused and a moment later also voted.”

A story on the South Kitsap School District Board of Directors that ran last week is still hanging at fourth position for “most commented” among recent Kitsap Sun stories.

The story covers Naomi Polen’s appointment to the school board to fill the remainder of Chuck Mayhew’s term. Mayhew announced in February he was stepping down due to career obligations.

Polen, a business owner and mother of four children in the district, has served on multiple sports boards in South Kitsap and at the regional and state level for soccer. She currently serves on the district’s Citizens Budget Review Committee.

Among the threads of comments on the story, readers questioned why Polen was chosen over another candidate Gayle Dilling, who has 23 years’ experience in the field of education.

Even Polen was surprised. “I didn’t see it going that way. Everyone voted for Gayle,” she said.

By “voted,” Polen meant that Dilling was chosen by all four standing board members in a public straw poll (following a closed executive session) that allowed each to pick two top candidates. Pollen was chosen by Jay Rosapepe, Keith Garton and Kathryn Simpson. Board President Patty Henderson chose former board member Chris Lemke as her second pick.

I thought I’d go over my notes to see what, if anything, would indicate the board’s thought process.

On Dilling:
On why she chose to apply: She said she was raised in a small town where her parents served on many community boards. “It’s just part of the way that I was raised.”

On her role on the board: “Collaborative” … each person brings “strengths to the team.”

On her goals: Dilling is director of the early childhood education program at Olympic College and said that early childhood education is high on her priority list. More than once, she mentioned wanting to get more funding (specifically I-728 funds) for that program in South Kitsap. Patty Henderson said the board is somewhat limited in discretionary spending for these funds, which are supposed to supplement local levy funding, because budget constraints force the district to use the greatest portion off their I-728 allotment to pay for teachers. A little later, Dilling talked about representing the board by “building relationships in the community,” under which I have the quote, “It’s about marketing. This is who we are and what we want.”

Kathryn Simpson asked if Dilling would feel a conflict of interest between her role at OC and her role in SK. Dilling said, “Part of my role is to be out in the community which I serve, so I don’t see it as a conflict.” Earlier, on holding multiple roles in the community, Dilling said, “I’m used to PR-ing the program … I’m used to being in the public forum, too.”

On what she wants to accomplish: This is a repeat of my point above re. early childhood education, but here’s the quote (re. I-728 funds), “I’d like to see a little bigger slice of the pie for early childhood education. That’s obviously my passion.”

When asked how much time she expects to commit to being a board member, Dilling – who holds a managerial position and is raising two small children – said she would expect to spend an additional 20-40 hours a week on the board. Patty Henderson said that was a high estimate. As board president, she spends 20 hours in a heavy week. Dilling added that she could welcome the copious amounts of reading reports etc. that comes with the territory, calling study materials “fun reading.”

Will she seek reelection in 09 at the end of Mayhew’s term: Yes.

Closing statement: “It’s always been a goal of mine to be on a school board. I know that sounds kind of weird.”

My impression: Dilling presented herself as professional, poised and ambitious.

Here are my notes on Polen:

On her role on the board: “To be open-minded to the needs of the entire community. … People come with agendas. Once you get on the board, you realize there’s a lot more to it than that.”

On the board’s relationship to the district’s top administrators: Polen said you have to “build relationships” … “go into it with respect” … “It’s really important to be open to what everyone else has to say.”

On her commitment: Polen admitted that she got “overextended” serving on previous boards and, in part due to family matters, she took a break from community service. “I’m ready to start extending out into the community again.”

On what she wants to accomplish: “To learn as much as I can … I have no objective of my own … to be open to learn.”

On the amount of time she expects to spend on the board: “I’ve heard it’s time consuming, but I’ve heard it’s extremely gratifying. .. I’m not sure how much time it will involve.” (Polen keeps the books for her husband’s construction business.)

On what experience she brings to the board: “I will offer everything I can. I’ve learned on other boards, you really have to be a listener in order to be a responder.”

Will she seek reelection in 09 at the end of Mayhew’s term: “If this goes good, I would run at that time. I think things have to mesh. If I fit in with the board I’d definitely run in 09. But I know my limitations. If things weren’t working out, I’d go somewhere else.”

Closing comments: “If I’m not on this board you’ll see me somewhere else. .. I know you guys will make the right choice, maybe not me. If I’m chosen, I’ll do my best to fill the shoes of the previous board member.”

My impression: Polen appeared open, honest and sincere.

Board comments that may shed some light on the decision:

Rosapepe on the importance of finding someone who’s a “good fit” for the board: “It’s very important that the board be united and that the board may be able to reach a consensus.”

Simpson: “Some candidates look very good on paper, some understand the role of the board, some are team players.” Simpson said it was difficult for her to decide which of these characteristics was most important to her.

Henderson: Said choosing the top two was a “difficult choice” for her. Simpson raised concerns about Lemke, Hendeson’s second choice besides Dilling, saying, “I have some serious reservations with regard to Chris. We have places we as a board want to go. I’m concerned Chris doesn’t share that vision.” Henderson replied that she was concerned about Polen’s “lack of experience” with school board issues.

Rosapepe made the motion to appoint … Polen (not Dilling), and the vote was unanimous.

Dilling did not take defeat lightly. On the story, she made the following comments:
“Why would we pass on someone with 23 years experience in education, an advocate for early learning, and whom everyone on the board clearly voted for in a straw poll?

At the meeting last night, Keith said in his choice for a board member, he was thinking about the next 25 years for South Kitsap. If that were the case, wouldn’t we want to consider someone who works daily with the children and future teachers of our district? Wouldn’t we want someone who, on a state level, understands the trends and what is to come? Shouldn’t we encourage an individual who has written curriculum, taught in the classroom, worked as an administrator and served on several community boards the past eight years to contribute and advocate for what she feels is good and right?

To me, that sends a clear message to the children and families within our community. I mean no disrespect to Naomi–she seems like a lovely woman. I hope she will serve the community well. I am sorry that I cannot contribute to the group and support those who I feel would have benefited the most from my experience: the children.

In my Olympic College classes, I will continue to advocate for children. I will continue to teach our district’s future teachers. I will support my children’s principal and teachers. Maybe you’ll see some signs with my name on them in the next school board election. It depends on what happens in the next few years.

My impression: Dilling’s passion for education could be perceived as an intensity that made board members uncomfortable. Her ambition for the position, as she herself suggested, could be seen as just a little “weird.”

2 thoughts on “SKSD Board Appointment: My Notes

  1. Chris,

    I don’t have time for a longer post right now, but I did want to ask for one correction. Keith Garton made the motion to appoint Naomi Polen. I did second the motion. Then we had a roll call vote (required in this case). Keith, then Jay, then me. Then Patty Henderson paused and a moment later also voted.

    No one was more surprised than I at the motion or the result. But I firmly believe it was the right vote.

    Kathryn Simpson

  2. I honestly don’t remember saying “weird” but the rest of your quotes are right on, so I’ll take it as face value.

    I probably am intense when it comes to education–it’s what I know. And guess what, here we are, a week later, discussing the issues. I’m thrilled! (although not so thrilled by the comments from those who don’t know anything about me, or weren’t at the board meeting last week).

    Part of what I teach my students at Olympic College in our Multicultural Education class is that we have to stand up for what we are passionate about . . . be activists for children. I am practicing what I preach. To my students and my children–you CAN make a difference.

    Gayle Dilling

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