Category Archives: Schools

Discussion with Bremerton School District’s New Superintendent

The Kitsap Sun editorial board met Tuesday with Flip Herndon, the new superintendent of Bremerton School District. Below are the video and live blog of the discussion.

— Angela Dice

Bremerton Education Roundup

Two items for a Friday morning that I’ll just send you other places to read, if you haven’t seen them yet:

Just posted on the Sun’s main page is this story about state school superintendent Randy Dorn’s visit to Washington, D.C., where he shared some successful ideas from our state — including Bremerton — with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To me the surprising thing isn’t Bremerton — it’s that for once it’s not the early education model getting the praise.

The Associated Press reports that the program he highlighted provides incentives for Bremerton dropouts to return to school. It’s not something we’ve covered recently, though sounds akin to the new Washington Youth Acadmy in town, so I’d expect we’ll check in on it soon if it’s being proven as something that works for the district.

The morning’s second story is here, from the Kitsap Education blog by correspondent Marietta Nelson. The city council and school board heard last night from Robin Waite, who’s behind the Kitsap Pumas soccer club that will be playing at Memorial Stadium this summer. Waite floated the idea of a new soccer complex being built at the closed junior high on Wheaton Way. I’d heard about talk of some type of collaboration between different entities (city, schools, OC, parks department, etc.) on such a project last year, so maybe the Pumas can be the private-sector catalyst for that effort. Clearly there are a lot of what ifs on the venture, but Waite seems like a guy who dreams big and doesn’t wait around to make things happen. That’s how the soccer team got to Bremerton in the first place.

It’s worth a read, and we’ll keep tabs on where this plan goes. If the existing fields were removed (there’s two backstops and a football field there now), my softball team would have to move our practices. But that may be a blessing — ground balls are always reminding me that an infield the texture of the moon’s surface is not the place for a guy who values his teeth.

— David Nelson

Do You Know This Woman?

The city of Bremerton would like to know who the woman is pictured at the end of this entry. Gary Sexton, the city’s economic development director, picked her photo as one representing what went on at the shipyard during the first world war. A statue of the woman will be placed at the newest downtown park, expected to open in a few months.

If you know who she is, contact the city at (360) 473-5269 or by e-mail at

Another Glowing Review of Bremerton

Apparently news of Bremerton’s revitalization projects are still making the rounds in the tourism magazine circuit. Enter the January 2009 edition of Sea Magazine.

It’s a five-page splash with photos, factoids and a feature-length article. In break-out boxes, they highlight such fine dining restaurant experiences as Uptown Mike’s (don’t think there’s love lost there, they make a mighty fine New York Style hot dog and have Italian ice in the summer), and sights like the Naval Museum and Isella Day Spa.

“Bremerton is blanketed with an energy that makes the hair on your arms stand up,” the article states.

Now, being a born and raised Bremertonian, I have my own special love for the city, but I couldn’t help but think that the Port of Bremerton or the city paid for this glowing review.

Well, I apparently should’ve put my snarky bit of skepticism (at least some of it) aside.

I talked briefly with writer and Sea Magazine managing editor Brian Quines. Turns out, he’d heard about the new marina opening, was up here on a trip.

“I’m from Orange County, so any time I can breathe fresh air it’s a good time,” he told me.

But it apparently wasn’t just the light-headed giddiness of real oxygen sans smog. He spent a whole day here, got the grand tour and met with some good local folks.

“Everyone’s just warm and refreshing up there,” he said.

Read the whole thing at

– Angela

Why Don’t the Kids Like Dancing?

prom take 3.jpg
Oh no you didn’t!

Comes now Matt Evans, our reluctant yet courageous Bremerton High School senior who broke principle and went to his senior prom, even though it was in Tacoma. He was kind enough to send a report on the prom our way.

As I said about going to prom, I did. Taking the bus from the school to prom
was fun knowing that I had some friends going and someone to talk to.

When we got to the outside of the museum I thought it was going to be exciting,
seeing the lights in side of it from the outside seeing people standing
outside waiting to get in the elevator to go inside. Seeing the men in
their tuxes or outfits and the girls in their wonderful, beautiful dresses,
got me excited! Hearing the bass from the speakers in the elevator was
sounding interesting.

But when I left the elevator I looked around the music
was playing, the lights for the prom shinning everywhere. But no one was
dancing at first, and not for a while. They soon started to dance. I saw more
juniors there than seniors, but that didn’t bother me. The area seemed small
even though you could go up to another story to look down at the dance floor
and were able to go out on a balcony and enjoy the breeze if you needed to cool off.

The music was OK. The people, well, they were people. The food was OK. Not much of
a variety, but I still wouldn’t try the punch or the chocolate fountain. Later
on I started seeing people in the parking lot down bellow leaving. Kind of
figured they didn’t like the prom. I heard some people saying their
boyfriends were at the hotel or some people were going to leave to do
whatever. So soon before the night was over with it was a little bit less
people than it was before.

I danced once, but afterward just listened to the music and kept my friend
company. She agreed with me that it wasn’t that good either.
All in all I had an OK time and came back safe. I don’t believe anyone had
any problems coming back so that should be a positive thought.

Bremerton Prom in Tacoma Part II

Prom or gun show?

Matt Evans is 18, a senior, and none too thrilled that his prom is being held in Tacoma.

He hasn’t made a big deal out of it at school, he’s a little nervous his fellow students would say he was trying to spoil the party for everyone, and when he first heard it wasn’t going to be held in Kitsap he vowed not to go.

He changed his mind about going, but not about whether it should be held closer.

Matt has two issues: First and foremost, the prom for Bremerton High School should be held in Bremerton. Barring that, it should be held in Kitsap County. There’s a principle at work.

Second, which still weighs heavily on his mind, is the ‘What if.’ What if something happens, something bad. There is a chance something could go wrong if the dance were held here in Bremerton, but when it’s 34 miles away, one way, he believes the chances for accidents and injuries increase. And if there is an accident, it might be harder for parents to get information.

“If I’m able to get there and have fun and come back in one piece, and not have any problems, and not hear about anyone having problem, then yeah, it will be fine. There’s always a chance things will screw up.”

Krista Carlson, spokeswoman for the district, said the school will provide free bus transportation to and from the prom. And students will be able to decorate the buses, to add a festive flavor. It isn’t required that students ride the bus.

“The kids usually get to decide where they want to go,” Carlson said, adding that the students researched their options and decided to do something different. PTA President Dave Milligan said many were not overjoyed with the selection by the students, but they were standing by it.

Carlson also noted that it’s not unusual for Bremerton students to look to Seattle or the south sound for recreational and educational opportunities.

Matt’s still not satisfied. He’s going, but he’s not renting a tux, he’s not renting a limo and he’s bringing his own camera. He doesn’t have a date, but he’s the kind of guy that prefers to go to dances alone. (Maybe because he’s hoping to leave with someone? Hmm? Good luck, buddy!) But he plans to have a good time.

“That’s what I’m hoping to have, a good time.”

He works in carpentry, and he plans to save his money and then to school for something along those lines, building. He said he changed his mind about going to prom after realizing he won’t be eligible to go next year.

“I figured this is the only chance to got.”

Bremerton High Prom in Tacoma?

What’s that smell?.

This Saturday Bremerton High School students will kick up their heels at their Senior Prom.

And where else would Bremerton seniors want to party, but Tacoma.

The Museum of Glass, to be specific. Which is understandable, because Bremerton doesn’t have a museum of glass. It has a Naval history museum, a Kitsap County museum, a Pyrex museum and we here at the Bremerton Beat have been lobbying for a Seagull Guano Stains That Resemble Boy Bands from the 1990s museum. But no glass museum.

The idea of students driving 34 miles one-way to prom isn’t sitting well with all parents.

Consider this letter written by a parent. It’s short, so we’ll print the whole thing.

BREMERTON HIGH: Senior Prom Shouldn’t Be in Tacoma

As concerned parents, my wife and I try to guide our children to make responsible decisions. Bremerton High is having its senior prom in Tacoma. The school says this is a decision the senior class has made.

At home, if our 17-year-old or even 18-year-old made a decision to drive to Tacoma for a dance then drive back at midnight or stay in a motel, we would consider this a bad decision.

The high school has so-called responsible adults that over see class decisions; this is not a responsible decision.

Gordy Hanberg of Bremerton

Krista Carlson, spokeswoman for the district, did not return a call Thursday evening asking for comment. However. Bremerton High School Parent Teacher Association President Dave Milligan did.

And he said that he wasn’t crazy about the idea, noting that last year the prom was held at a local country club, and he thought the kids had a great time.

However, like the letter writer noted, it was the students’ decision.

“It’s not the best thing,” Milligan said. “It would be fair to say the adults of the community would rather have them more close to Bremerton.”

Milligan said he spoke to Principal Aaron Leavell, and said he shared the same reservations.

“The students have some sort of say in this, it is their dance,” Milligan said.

However, Milligan said the school has been making accommodations, offering a charter bus for students to and from the dance.

“Of course, they have to sign up for it, and pay for and go along with it,” he said.

Milligan said the decision was made by the students in a vote. Democracy in action.

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all other forms,” he said.


Andy’s Shameless Editorial: Every kid is different, and at 18 I couldn’t be trusted to check the oil in my car, but to add perspective to this debate, consider that less than a year from now some of these students will be at war, operating million-dollar pieces of equipment, holding people’s lives in their hands and being exposed to horrors beyond our reckoning. In five months most, if not all, will be eligible to vote for president. I’m not saying prom in Tacoma is a good idea, but I am saying that they have to grow up and be trusted at some point.

Ms. Elliot Liked Naughty Children Best

Margaret Elliot in 1943
Photo Courtesy of the Bremerton School District
elliot mug.jpg
Margaret Elliot in 1973

Margaret Elliot was a teacher and she liked naughty children best.
She liked to travel to faraway lands, like Italy. Not so faraway lands, like Mexico. And she liked to hike the woods here in Kitsap County.
She loved adventure.
“If something happens, I’ll be there.”
In 1940, when she heard Galloping Gertie was letting ‘er buck, she jumped in her car and raced from Poulsbo to the Tacoma Narrows. She wanted to watch.
“I was going to see what was what.”
When Mount St. Helens blew its top in 1980 she jumped in her car and headed toward the volcano. She was 69 years old and made it all the way to Chehalis. Ash ruined her car.
“I got down there and couldn¹t see anything.” She missed the action. But that wasn¹t the point.

“Don’t be afraid to go, just go.”

Margaret was a teacher by trade, and she tried to teach courage. “Gusto” and “spunk” are two words family and friends used to describe her. Until the end. She wanted to live to be 100.
Margaret died Feb. 24 at a nursing home in Tacoma. She was 97 years old. She spent 40 of those years as a teacher in Kitsap County, most in Bremerton, and 29 years at the Manette School in Bremerton, retiring in 1973.
If you said the words “Manette School” in Margaret’s presence she answered like you asked a question: “The best school in Bremerton.”
She was also a Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scouts volunteer, a camp counselor. When she wasn¹t teaching the children of Bremerton to be fearless, she taught girls about adventure.
And if she wasn’t teaching it, she was doing it.
She had a thousand children, as she liked to say, although she never married or had any of her own. She always wanted to be a teacher. As a girl she used her dolls as pupils and made believe she was standing in front of a classroom.

“I¹d like to do it again.”

Her voice was ravaged by 17 presidential administrations worth of stories and conversations and laughter and awkward silences and possibly curses – she was a perfect lady when we met.
“My voice is crazy.”
She didn¹t apologize for her voice. She didn¹t waste that breath, and she had more than most will ever have.
She had a pain in her side that made her wince and ask for help. Her vision and hearing had dulled. She couldn¹t remember the details of her stories.
But even as her body and mind faded and the things she cherished in life drifted farther away, people were drawn to her. She inspired a nurse with her optimism. She fascinated a chaplain. A newspaper reporter who met her once keeps her photograph by his computer.

Margaret had regrets, at least one that lived with her until she died, not two weeks after we met.
Those who knew her at the end, her nurse, her niece, said she talked of a little girl that Margaret had flunked. The only one in her career. The girl had cried.
Margaret couldn’t recall the details. Why did she flunk the girl? When? That part was gone, even the girl¹s name. All that remained was the fact and her sorrow.
“You don¹t know, Margaret, you might have made a positive change in that girl’s life,” her niece said.
Margaret paused, but didn’t blink. “I still feel so sad that I did. I don’t think it’s right.”
She also regretted not going to China and India.

Siblings passed through her classroom, one after the other. She had students who were the children of former students. Her career started in a one-room rural school house and ended at Navy Yard City school. She outlived many of her students.
“She’s from another time,” friends said of her. Not that she was an anachronism; she was a traveler.
It felt like sometimes she knew half of Kitsap County. Or at least half the county knew her.
“Every time I turned around there was somebody I knew. They say ‘hello’ and I have to try to remember their name.”

She liked opera, the symphony, and ballet, attended all the concerts she could. She supported Hillary Clinton, “She’s a good one. She knows how to think.” When the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built she took a trip across.

She also liked watching her kids.
“Fourth-grade romances were fun to watch,” she said.
She liked the naughty children best, the rebels and class clowns. She shared their sense of adventure.
“They knew how to think.”
Like the naughty children, Margaret didn’t always do what people expected.
She was engaged to a young man, who was so committed he even started building their house, but Margaret backed out. It was her mother-in-law-to-be that botched the deal. She had a character flaw that
Margaret couldn¹t abide.
“That was our problem,” she said of the young man’s mother. “Too bossy.”
Margaret grew up in South Kitsap. Her father, Lon, was a rural letter carrier, and drafted and sold maps of the area. She graduated from Kitsap High School in 1929 and went on to Pacific Lutheran College (now University) and the University of Washington.

Her big break came in June, 1932, when she landed her first job in a one-room school house six miles south of Port Orchard, the Wildwood School, (“12 kids – one problem boy”) where she was paid $95 a month and an extra $5 for tending the fire and being janitor. She swept the floor with sawdust and oil. For a restroom they had an outhouse. For toilet paper they had catalogs. Many kids had to walk as much as three miles through the woods to get to her class.

Here are some choice excerpts from Margaret’s diary during her first years as a teacher.

Sept. 12, 1932 – Another busy day. Robert said we should say “haint” instead of “ain’t.” Had to untangle cow’s head from swings.

Sept. 13, 1933 – May caught her leg in the seat and couldn’t get it out. Had to unscrew the seat.

Sept. 14, 1933 – May had to wear raincoat in school because Jimmy spilled ink on her dress. I washed it out.

She spent seven years teaching primary grades at Pleasant Ridge school in the Poulsbo district, where many children spoke Finnish at home. She lived upstairs in the school house. “Every spring we would hear a lively chorus of frogs,” she wrote in a memoir. “At the beginning of Spring the frogs had high shrill voices which deepened as the season passed.”

Then she started at Manette, teaching fourth grade.

“The next school for me was the Old Manette School in Bremerton. It was so crowded in 1943 that for half a year I taught in the basement of the old Manette Community Church. There was just a thin plywood wall between my 4th grade and a kindergarten class, with a squally kindergarten child. My desk was a shaky old library table which collapsed before the year was over and an old bookcase which had to be propped up. I thought I was in a palace when we moved to the old Mantte building. There we enjoyed the most beautiful view of the Olympics and the bay. The lunchroom in Manette was in the basement. Laura Newburn was the cook. The food was delicious. It was a tiny room way in the back. She cooked and we all ate in the tiny room. On rainy days the basement was a crowded, noisy place.”

I asked why she retired. She couldn’t remember why. After ending her career, she saw the world. She traveled around the country and went to Japan and Europe. She preferred going by train and ship.

For all her travels, she remembered working with children the best.

There was a chubby girl at camp near Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island, “Where all the rich people are now,” who didn’t want to go hiking. This was not something Margaret could understand.
She talked to the girl and learned that she had never owned a new pair of shoes. Her feet had sores on them, and hurt. It broke her heart.
Margaret believed in camp. For many children, it was the first time they slept in a bed by themselves, or were taught table manners.
Margaret bought the girl a pair of shoes that fit, and they went for a walk in the woods.

She had something to say to students: “Don’t be afraid to meet new people.”
To teachers: “Love the children and be happy you are doing it.”

Longview Seeing The Light (of Bremerton)

kid with paper.jpeg
Photo Credit

Bremerton schools has gotten props for its early reading programs before. In fact the district has a list of all the other districts that have stopped by to observe Bremerton’s program, teachers and students in action.

But according to this story, which ran Thursday in Longview’s The Daily News, a program targeting preschoolers soon to be unleashed will take its cue from the Bremerton program

Here is a recent story about Bremerton’s early education program.

Everything is coming up Bremerton.