Monthly Archives: June 2007

Greatest Generation’s Contribution to Bremerton

Bud Hawk, a longtime Bremerton school teacher who was also a key member of “The Greatest Generation joined France’s Legion of Honor Thursday for what he did after landing at Omaha Beach in 1944.

“I came when I was called and did the best I could,” he said. “Anybody who can look in the mirror and say that has nothing to apologize for.”

I have an uncle who earned a Silver Star in World War II for what he did as American troops crossed from France into Germany. Like many of those from that or most wars, he’s reluctant to talk too much. I got him to share some of his stories last year, but like Hawk, said he did what he had to do — his job.

A Sign of Class

This story ran when I was out sick, so excuse my comments about it late.

A Bremerton school bus driver who picked up the job after he retired so he could learn to maneuver rigs as large as the RV he plans to use, decided to learn sign language so he could communicate with a single student.

That’s class.

Although Amber Silvers, 5, has implants that help her hear, she was born profoundly deaf, unable to perceive the sounds of her parents’ voices or her own cries.

When Amber first boarded the bus, peering at him through purple-framed glasses, Graden wanted to make her feel comfortable but he didn’t know how.

Graden first learned some basics from Amber’s mother, Elaine Silvers. Then he took classes to learn more.

“It was like he was saying she is somebody worth talking to,” Elaine Silvers said. “It meant a lot to us.”

No doubt.

Mirroring Bremerton Schools

Two items at illustrate two local districts at least considering following models laid out by the Bremerton School District. In one case it demonstrates that such efforts don’t come without some cost.

In South Kitsap the district has a $1.7 million shortfall, but the district plans to add an early childhood education program called “Ready! For Kindergarten,” using $60,000 from I-728 funding. The district is also partnering with a new Boys & Girls Club.

In North Mason the board of commissioners weighed adding all-day kindergarten, but the price was increasing class sizes in grades 4, 5, and 6. Too much, it seems. There wasn’t a formal vote, but the board appears unlikely to pass the idea at that cost.

While the Bremerton School District still deals with a stigma of having lower WASL test scores than neighboring districts, the district’s move to give students a better start are getting little but praise, so far.

Bremerton Shrunk

Lots of papers have stories about Washington’s population hitting 6.5 million, but the News-Tribune in Tacoma has an added bit.

• Bremerton is the only area city to see its population decline since 2000. Its population fell by nearly 1,500 people to 35,810.

In October we had another story about the county’s slow, but steady, population increase. The Bremerton population decrease was given some context.

The biggest drop came between the 2004 and 2005 estimates, when the population dropped from 37,520 to 34,580. In 2006, the estimates picked back up to 35,910.

The dip, local officials say, was likely due in part to the departure of the USS Carl Vinson and three fast-combat support ships that were decommissioned around that time.

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman sees the uptick in the population of the city and surrounding areas as part of a trend that’s just getting its legs.

“We’re starting to see the fruits of some of our labor,” he said, commenting on the city’s efforts to increase job opportunities. “A lot of it has to do with people’s ability to find work and live where they work.”

New condos along the downtown waterfront, an East Park development, another one in West Hills, the new Westpark and other scattered developments should have the city’s population increasing again.

J.C. Penney Building Hurdle Cleared

Last week Ron Sher, who’s planning to redevelop the former J.C. Penney site, said he and the Bremer Trust would hope to have the sales agreement signed by the fall.

On Wednesday city officials said they signed an agreement to lease parking spaces to the trust so it can continue to meet its parking space obligations to tenants and other clients.

How significant this is in terms of the sales agreement, I don’t yet know. I called trust officials and didn’t hear back. Sher didn’t want to discuss details last week, but you have to consider this to be at least one of the hurdles to overcome to get the dealt signed.

Best Places on Bremerton

On my desk for several weeks is the book Best Places Northwest, edited by onetime Sun reporter Sally Farhat. She had my job before Eric Williams did.

The book has entries on a number of Kitsap communities. The book calls Bremerton “up-and-coming” and “just on the cusp of being cool.”

“Bremerton is experiencing an influx of people looking for metropolitan comforts without the traffic and smog.”

Is the air quality here better than it is on the other side of the sound?

Bremerton’s First Health Nut

Helen HiggenPerhaps there’s little better evidence of healthy life choices than almost making it to 100. Then again, I think George Burns smoked cigars until the day he died, at 100.

Nonetheless, the woman acknowledged as Bremerton’s most prominent “health nut” died last month at 99. On Sunday friends and family were scheduled to have a memorial in her honor.

“She calls me over and says, ‘I can help you get rid of that unwanted pregnancy,'” Bruce Pregnall, 52, remembered of his first meeting with Higgen. “She was sharp as a tack. Oh, that woman had a sense of humor, and did a lot for the community.”

She opened a store, gave classes and sent her kids to school with lunches that prompted their friends to tease that they were eating “cow food.”

Unwanted pregnancy? I must be expecting triplets.

Bremerton Kindergartners Post Impressive Results

An assessment program that tracks children’s reading levels in the early grades indicate Bremerton school kids are showing marked improvement since 2002.

The kindergarten class that just ended had 92.3 percent meet or exceed reading expectations based on the Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Learning Skills assessment. It’s 7.7 points away from the ultimate goal, but it’s also 36.4 points better than the kindergarten class of 2002 and 13.2 points better than the class of 2006.

District officials say it’s the result of increased emphasis on early education in Bremerton.

Watch for the WASL scores later this year, because this year’s numbers could demonstrate whether Bremerton’s efforts are beginning to bear results.

Port Orchard’s Encino

Years ago Saturday Night Live did a skit in which a postmaster informed the horrified masses in Beverly Hills that part of the city would be losing its 90210 zip code and sharing one with Encino.

Apparently, some think Bremerton is comparable to Encino, which would make Port Orchard this area’s Beverly Hills. In Chris Henry’s story, she quotes Nicole Thomas who is moving from East Bremerton 98312 to South Kitsap 98312.

“I just moved out of East Bremerton, and 98312 is the worst part of Bremerton,” she said. “There’s pawn shops and paycheck loans. There’s low-income housing. Every time you look at the Kitsap Sun, the Code 911 is always about Bremerton. We wanted to get out of there,” Thomas said.

She also worried that her kids would have to go to school in the Bremerton School District and that perhaps her real estate value would be down because it’s a Bremerton address. Alas, nothing to worry about. Her kids can go to SK schools, where the adults just failed another levy, where kindergarten kids are in no danger of learning Spanish and high school kids don’t have to worry about going to a school that has too few students.

That sounds like I’m minimizing her concern. She is clearly moving to a safer neighborhood, but mostly because it’s new and away from activity. That it’s Port Orchard matters depending on where. While we’ve had stories about Bremerton being the number one violent crime city in the state per capita, Port Orchard was in the top ten. I’m guessing your real estate agent didn’t tell you that.

Read more about this issue and leave your comments on Chris Henry’s “Speaking of South Kitsap” blog.

Volunteers Get Their Due

Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun had a story about volunteers working as part of the United Way of Kitsap County’s annual Day of Caring.

With about 250 more volunteers than last year, the turnout set a record, said David Foote, the county United Way’s executive director.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said, surveying the 20 or so volunteers scurrying around Kitsap Child Care & Preschool to lay down bark, repair tiles and paint sheds.

At Wednesday’s Bremerton City Council meeting three council members thanked volunteers, with Mike Shepherd naming a group of Mormons who descended on several city properties to help spruce things up.

“It’s that kind of volunteering that’s we’re going to need to continue to develop,” Shepherd said.