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Sara Thompson

Sara Thompson

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 13:55

Regional writers conference comes to Gig Harbor

Words will reign supreme Nov. 6 and 7 at the Gig Harbor campus of Tacoma Community College. Write in the Harbor, a regional writers conference crafted by writers for writers, brings authors, editors and publishers to present to local writers.

We have had writing classes as part of continuing education for years, said Janine Mott, executive director, Gig Harbor Campus and Continuing Education, Tacoma Community College.

It was time to do something cool. We have known for some time, based on the interests and requests of those attending our adult continuing education courses, that there is a tremendous interest in a writers conference. And now, after almost two years of planning, it is coming to fruition, Mott said.

Maria Hays, instructor in written communications, is the conference coordinator. She brims with enthusiasm as she anticipates the event. We have a huge writing community in our region, organized at varying levels, she said. We wanted to take advantage of this, pull in people who have been teaching and have developed networks.

This conference will have general appeal –– the focus is on general fiction and it is designed for both beginners and intermediate/advanced writers, Hays said. It comes after years of conversation with staff, writers and students at the Gig Harbor campus.

Whatcom County Community College, with its Chuckanut Writers Conference launched in 2011, served as a model, according to Hays, and the staff for that conference was a valuable resource. 

A Friday keynote talk by Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, will kick off the conference. On Friday there will be additional activities including a waterfront walking tour of Gig Harbor and classes. Saturday will be filled with an early plenary session –– a master class with Garth Stein –– followed by 50-minute concurrent sessions with a mix of panels, hands-on workshops and individual speakers. Appointments with agents will be offered for an additional fee ($15 for 15 minutes).

Mott and Hays hope that this marks the beginning of a bigger vision. They would like to see Write in the Harbor become an umbrella to encompass all writing –– song, poetry, perhaps nonfiction. And they envision quarterly workshops throughout the year along with the annual conference. Future conferences, depending on interest, might explore writing beyond general fiction.

Enrollment is open now, with early-bird savings through Sept. 15.

 

Two fee waivers will be available for TCC students who qualify. The conference can accommodate up to 100 participants. Registration is available at continuingedtacoma.com/write-in-the-harbor/.  

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 13:54

The responsibilities of the school board

Editors note: Because 80 percent of Key Peninsula households dont have children in the public schools, we wanted to provide an overview of our schools through a series. The first article provided a brief snapshot of the three elementary, one middle and one high school that serve our students. Articles on school funding and testing followed. This, the final in the series, describes the role of the school board, as a reminder about the boards role as the November election approaches. Questions and comments are welcome.

In the Peninsula School District, students routinely outperform those in other districts. Principals sing praises for the quality of the teachers and support staff, and many parents are thrilled with what their children learn and experience. The Peninsula School Board, a nonpartisan group of five elected directors, plays a critical role in shaping the schools.

According to Chuck Cuzzetto, Peninsula School District superintendent, the major board responsibilities are to approve the strategic plan every four to five years (the current plan was approved in 2014), approve the budget and hire and evaluate the superintendent.

The board sets policy, he said. The superintendent and staff then implement that policy.

At a day-to-day level, the responsibilities include attending meetings that are generally twice monthly (once in July, October and December) and participating in one or two committees, which are staffed by district employees. Committees include audit, early learning, core 24 (graduation requirements), diversity, legislative issues and levy.

Each board director is elected to a four-year term. Voters cast votes for all directors but each director represents a specific district this means that directors are responsible for all students but they also should be aware of needs within their own individual regions. (In some school districts in the state, all members are elected at large and represent all students, while in others members are elected only by those living within their defined region.)

Four director positions are open this year: Districts 1, 2 (the current board member moved out of the area), 3 and 4. A map is available online at psd401.net/index.php/board-of-directors/board-boundary-map. 

District 1 covers most of the Key Peninsula; District 2 covers the northernmost Key from the Minter area and extends to Purdy and Canterwood; District 3 covers Rosedale and Maplewood; District 4 covers the Wollochet area and District 5 covers Artondale and Fox Island.

The board sets the vision, Cuzzetto said. We need strategic, visionary thinkers. Directors need to represent all students, to understand that needs can differ in the different regions. They need to care about all kids from those struggling to the high achievers.

Collaboration is also essential with peers, community and partner organizations, he added.  And each director needs to be connected to his or her own community.

How does the work of the local school board fit within the context of federal and state legislation? In Washington state, unlike some other states in the country, school districts are not under the control of city or county officials. The Peninsula School District is one of 295 in the state.

According to the Washington State School Directors Association (www.wssda.org), Washington states public school system is shaped by federal law, the state Constitution, state law, administrative rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education, as well as by court decisions.

The state Legislature establishes general requirements and provides the money, which is allocated by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The state board of education and OSPI adopt the more specific rules needed to implement the laws. Federal funding requires adherence to federal mandates 5-10 percent of district funding comes from the federal government.

Within that framework, the legal language describing the school boards responsibility, from the Washington State Legislature website, is as follows: “… each common school district board of directors shall be vested with the final responsibility for the setting of policies ensuring quality in the content and extent of its educational program and that such program provide students with the opportunity to achieve those skills which are generally recognized as requisite to learning.

Those policies cover such areas as establishing an evaluation process of the superintendent and other staff, providing information to the local community, determining of the number of instructional hours necessary, establishing curriculum standards and evaluating teaching materials.

Three candidates ran in districts 1 and 4 for the primary election, and results narrowed the race to two in each district. On the ballot in November are:

District 1: Marcia Harris and Matthew Wilkinson (incumbent)

District 2: Deborah Krishnadasan, unopposed for the remaining two years of the term

District 3: Geralyn (Lyn) McClendon and Rand Wilhelmsen (incumbent)

 

District 4: Leslie Harbaugh and Garth Jackson 

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 13:49

Fiber Arts Festival returns during farm tour

All things fabric are featured at this years Fiber Arts: Threads Through Time, a show that is an integral part of the Key Peninsula Farm Tour on Saturday, Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The definition of fabric truly runs the gamut from silk, rags and oil cloth to crochet and duct tape. And the range of fiber arts on display will also run the gamut from traditional techniques to modern adaptations, from utilitarian uses of fiber to the purely artistic.

Eight years ago, the Longbranch Improvement Club was asked to open its doors and perhaps show a few quilts during the first farm tour. What has come to pass is a far cry from that initial request.

Twenty-four artists will display their work indoors. Outside, Creighton Cheney will show his willow-and-maple furniture and Fred Leenstra will display his antique tractors. The Girl Scout Troup 40956 will host Weave-a-Wikki demonstrating how to use yard trimmings to build compost bins.

Patty Carroll of Longbranch is the featured artist this year. Working with fabric for the past 15 years, she now describes herself as retired but she still creates work for friends, family and special commissions. She shows her work at exhibits once or twice a year and in 2014 was chosen as a participant in An Occasion for the Arts, a juried exhibition in Williamsburg, Va.

Her path as an artist was a winding one. After starting a career as a nurse and then becoming a homemaker, she found herself creating costumes for her daughter in school drama productions.

I had been sewing since grade school and took design classes in high school, Carroll said.

She took a class offered by a shop in Seattle and, in her words, got hooked on silk. She began designing silk flowers and fell in love with the flow and color that silk offered.

As time went on, Carroll began to incorporate ribbons and kept introducing new materials and techniques to keep herself and her customers engaged.

She saw soutache at a museum exhibit and was intrigued. It is a quarter-inch, flat braid used to trim clothing such as matador costumes. Carroll said it took a year to find out more about it she then took courses, started working with it and began to create jewelry, wrapping the braid around stones and pearls.

In the last year, she has expanded yet again, combining soutache with ribbons and silk into kumihimo, a Japanese form of braiding used in such things as samuri costumes.

Her creations are time-consuming.

You have to love sewing, Carroll said. I may work over a period of weeks on a given piece, considering the color and design.

Delia McGinnis, LIC events co-chair; Robin Gould, LIC fiber arts committee chair; and Carolyn Wiley, Key Peninsula Farm Council president, all thanked those helping to make this show a success. They also thank the sponsorships of Angel Guild and Bruce Titus Automotive Group that make it possible to keep the event free to the public.

Fiber Arts will have something for everyone. There will be food including tomato bisque, corn chowder and Pegs famous apple crisp. Everyone is invited to enjoy the exhibits, meet local and regional fiber artists and watch them demonstrate their work.

 

 You may find the perfect hat, scarf, jacket, basket, rug or adornment, McGinnis said. Or maybe you will learn how to make a duct tape billfold, tie flies or build furniture after all, wood is fiber, too!

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 13:29

Lakebay Marina closed following complaint

According to Lakebay Marina owner Mark Scott, Key Peninsula residents and local boaters have been thrilled to have the Lakebay Marina back in business he reopened the landmark spot in 2013.

This summer there was a setback.

Following a Beatniks concert in mid-July, Scott said someone called Pierce County expressing concerns about the pier. The county Planning and Land Services sent an inspector, who declared the pier supporting the café and outdoor picnic area to be unsafe. A barrier was erected and the café will be closed until further notice.

Scott had an engineer assess and draw up plans for the repairs. He said just a few of the 42 pilings need replacing at this time, but it is expensive work. The initial bid was for about $150,000, and the county then told him that additional lateral support for earthquake safety would be required. Those plans have been submitted and he is awaiting approval. He expects that the additional work will increase the cost significantly, and will also impact the historic architecture of the pier.

It is frustrating, Scott said. We were really just taking off this summer and I have been planning to steadily make the improvements and repairs that are needed. The café is really an anchor in this community and I want to see it here for many years to come.

He also pointed out that eight employees lost their jobs as a result of the closure.

When asked what his next steps will be, he said he will keep everyone updated on the Lakebay Marina Resort Facebook page. He plans to start a community-based funding campaign for the current repairs.

In addition, he is developing a strategy to get historic landmark status (at a local or a national level), which may help with future fundraising needs. Scott said that support with letters would be very helpful, and he will post details about whom to contact as soon as he has completed the plan. 

Friday, 31 July 2015 14:07

Local schools and students: Testing

Editors note: Because four out of five households in this area dont have children in public schools, we wanted to provide a useful overview through a series in the KP News. The first article provided a brief snapshot of the three elementary, one middle and one high school that serve our students. The second article covered basics of school funding. Here we review testing. The final article will cover the local school board. We welcome questions and comments.

Testing has become an emotional issue for students, teachers and parents over the past few years. For some, it represents an unwelcome intrusion, a symbol of encroachment by authorities into the classroom, a cause of anxiety for students and possibly even a threat to teachers integrity. For others, it is a way to measure student progress, a tool to identify gaps and find approaches to improve outcomes for students, teachers and schools.

The role of the federal government

The federal government first became actively involved in public education in the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson, who had been a teacher, identified education as an important tool in fighting poverty. In 1965, Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as part of the war on poverty. Title I, federal funding to support the education of students living in poverty, grew out of this program.

No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001 with broad bipartisan support, was a reauthorization of the ESEA. It expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress report cards, teacher qualifications and funding changes.

It did not establish national learning standards but it did require states to develop assessments in basic skills. To receive federal school funding, states were required to assess all students at select grade levels.

Race to the Top was a program established in 2009 during the Obama administration. Using competitive grants, it sought to encourage educational reform. Grant recipients were required to adopt the Common Core standards and to use data in a more sophisticated way than is required by No Child Left Behind students were followed for progress longitudinally and in addition, teacher evaluations were tied to student achievement.

The first two rounds of Race to the Top grants were opened in 2010. Washington applied for the second of the two rounds and was not awarded the grant.

History of standards and testing

It is impossible to talk about the history behind the current tests without including the history of common learning standards proficiency tests are meant to measure whether or not students have mastered the concepts outlined by the standards. Jennifer Dempewolf, director of assessment and accountability at Peninsula School District, noted that Washington state was an early adopter of common learning standards.

The states first standards (in reading, writing, math and science) were established in 1994, with testing for assessment (Washington Assessment of Student Learning or WASL) starting in 1997. Passing exams as a high school graduation requirement started in 2006. Over the past 20 years, tests and their acronyms have changed, as have the learning standards, testing intervals and graduation requirements.

During this time, at a national level, governors and business leaders joined to form Achieve, a nonpartisan group helping to lead education reform. Their resulting report in 2004 concluded that high schools were not providing the skills necessary for students to succeed in a world with increasing demands for college and career readiness. In response, the National Governors Association convened a group to develop the Common Core standards. They were released in 2010 and Washington adopted them in 2011.

Chuck Cuzzetto, superintendent of the Peninsula School District, had this to say in support of the Common Core: Its like mom and apple pie. The learning standards are more rigorous than earlier ones, are consistent across all states, and are competitive internationally.

He thinks that most of the negativity arises from confusion between the learning standards and the tests designed to measure proficiency. 

This year saw big transitions in Washington state. Four years after introducing the Common Core, testing based on these new standards took place. 

How test results are used

Cuzzetto emphasized that evaluation of student progress has always been a part of the educational system, and described it as a pyramid approach. At the base is the classroom teachers judge how effective their curriculum is on a daily basis by observing their students; they also use homework, projects and classroom exams. On a buildingwide level, schools evaluate progress toward their identified goals (which may involve the standardized test scores or other measures, depending on what is in their schoolwide strategic plan).

The district, likewise, uses test scores as part of its overall strategic plan evaluation. Finally, the state uses test data as part of its evaluation and reporting of schools and districts.

Prior to high school, test results can help identify individual students who might need additional support the following year but progression to the next grade level is based on teachers classroom evaluations and not standardized test results. Passing standardized tests (biology, math, English/language arts) is a high school graduation requirement. The tests required for graduation have recently changed, and for many students there are alternatives. 

Uproar over testing

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) was used for the first time this year. Refusal to take the exam was widely reported. Cuzzetto and Dempewolf noted that refusal was not a major issue in the Peninsula School District. Statewide, 95 percent of students in third through eighth grades took the SBA; that dropped to 50 percent in high school.

Some high school students simply had no personal benefit from taking the new exam. Students who will graduate in 2016 must pass the 10th grade HSPE (or the 11th grade SBA). They took the HSPE last year. So when they were asked to take the 11th grade SBA this year, many students refused. For schools and districts, the results could serve a useful role, allowing them to assess curriculum and begin the process of improving and adjusting.

Testing takes time

Many teachers and parents have expressed concern about the amount of time that testing requires and its impact on classroom teaching. Dempewolf summarized the actual amount of time as follows:

Grades three through eight and 11th are tested yearly. The math and the English/language arts exams take three to four hours each.

Grade 10 biology exam (taken at the end of the biology class) takes two hours.

But she and Cuzzetto acknowledged that the logistics of administering a new test using computers presented logistical challenges and the impact on classroom time this year was significant, particularly in middle and high school.

Looking into the future

Cuzzetto and Dempewolf see value in Common Core and in the data that standardized testing can offer. They noted that the last few years have been especially full of change. With new learning standards and new curriculum and now with new tests students, teachers and administrators are all part of a steep learning curve. It is likely that the tests will be tweaked. Perhaps the testing frequency and intervals will be adjusted.

It is certain that the percentage of students judged proficient on the tests this year will be lower than in the past. This is virtually always the case when new standards and tests are introduced.

And early state reports indicate that this is true passing scores have gone from an average of about 80 percent to an average of 50 percent.

Cuzzetto is confident that students in the district will outperform the state average, as has been the case in the past. But the number of students graded as proficient will fall. And over the next several years, as the curriculum builds, the number of students passing will rise again.

 

Over time, testing requirements and intervals will undoubtedly change. At the state level, the Legislature stepped back from the requirement to pass the biology EOC exam to graduate this year. At the national level, as Congress reviews the ESEA, it is likely that earlier stringent testing requirements will be decreased. 

Friday, 31 July 2015 13:47

Jan Angel, 26th District state senator

Jan Angel is not new to the political scene, but her path was indirect –– it started with banking, then passed through business and real estate on the way to her current role.

Angel was raised in Colorado and was recruited, along with her husband, as a banker in Alaska. For nine years, she was known as the blonde lady banker in Anchorage, working in a new bank started by the tribes. She joined the National Association of Bank Women and was asked to run as one of eight national directors. There, she got a taste of campaigning and loved the chance to travel through the region. When her husbands work drew them to Washington state in 1983, she decided to go into business for herself rather than continue in banking.

For a number of years, Angel ran a successful haircare franchise. Life took a difficult turn when her daughters were in college and her husband committed suicide. As she was still reeling from the shock and loss, her most successful haircare location lost its lease and she decided to sell the franchise. At that time, she entered the world of real estate.

Her mothers words served as inspiration: When you have a job to do, find a way to get it done.

What doesnt kill you makes you stronger, Angel commented as she described those initial years of adjustment. She was named agent of the year in her first year in real estate. She has since remarried, with a family that now includes two daughters, a stepdaughter, a stepson, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She and her husband live in Port Orchard.

As a realtor, working with clients to understand what they could do with their own property, she became involved in land use issues. When she was asked to run for Kitsap County commissioner she agreed, was elected, and served for eight years.

Although she planned to retire after eight years, she was approached to enter the race for state representative. I was told that everything I fought for at the county level I could affect at the state level, she noted. Her bid was successful and she served for five years. When Derek Kilmers seat in the state Senate opened, she chose to run for that position. She was elected in 2013.

Angel stated that her office spends a lot of time working directly with constituents, dealing with individual problems concerning such issues as land use, Labor and Industries, and Department of Social and Health Services. She sees herself defending peoples freedom, and as scissors, cutting through the red tape tied to government. She enjoys being a part of the majority party in the Senate. Playing offense is very different from playing defense, she said. Our job is to lead the way. In the House, we were mostly holding the line.

She currently serves on three committees: Financial Institutions and Insurance (she is vice chair), Healthcare, and Trade and Economic Development.

When asked what she sees as the key issues on the Key Peninsula, she cited transportation, business and education.

She wondered about the possibilities of private companies coming in to help provide transportation, though this is a local county more than a state issue. She discussed her support of an adequate revenue package for transportation at the state level –– to complete the environmental impact study on SR-302 and to carry out congestion studies between Gig Harbor and Purdy.

As a member of the Key Peninsula Business Association, she has met with businesses to see what she can do to help.

In terms of education, she commented that although the state budget was not finalized at the time of the interview, she supported increased teacher salaries and benefits, was concerned about the level of compensation for some administrative positions, and was not sure that lowering classroom sizes above the fourth-grade level was necessary.

It is hard to stay in touch with all my constituents, she acknowledged. She attends events as she is able, including a Key Peninsula Community Council meeting in June with Reps. Jesse Young and Michelle Caldier. In addition, she has hosted several tele town halls. Constituents call in and are able to interact with her via a phone call.

 

Angel encourages constituents to contact her office with questions or concerns. Her office tracks issues closely and pays attention to how voters weigh in. Her Olympia office number is (360) 786-7650. Her local district office number is (360) 443-2409 and her email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Friday, 26 June 2015 13:11

MEET YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

Jesse Young, appointed to replace Jan Angel when she moved from the state House to the state Senate in 2014, is new to the political scene. And his path was not one he would have predicted.

Young moved to the Tacoma hilltop neighborhood when he was 3 years old with his mother and brother. At times homeless, he nevertheless excelled academically, graduating from Wilson High School as valedictorian in 1995.

He attended Notre Dame and received a degree in management of information systems four years later. From Notre Dame, he moved to Silicon Valley to work as a software engineer, with the ultimate plan of returning to the Pacific Northwest.

In 2001, with a consulting job at Boeing, he moved to Gig Harbor.

He met his wife, Jennie, in high school. They have five children ages 4 through 12. Their middle child, now 9, was adopted from Ethiopia when he was 2.

Young said that he and his wife had always wanted a large family and had initially talked about foster children or adoption. After becoming involved with an orphanage in Ethiopia, they met their son, fell in love with him and made him a part of their family. Youngs wife and his mother, who lives with them, homeschool the children.

Young first considered entering politics in 2012. He was working for Russell Investments at the time, and Russell had just made the decision to move their headquarters from Tacoma to Seattle. He felt strongly that more could have been done to keep the company, the biggest white collar employer in Pierce County, from making the move. He was inspired to run for U.S. Congress, but placed a distant third.

The local Republican Party took note, however, and when Angel won the state Senate race, he was appointed to take her place. His work as a software consultant allowed him the flexibility to take on the position. I needed to assure that I could support my family while also working as a state representative, he said. I grew up poor, and my first responsibility is to care for my family.

In the fall of 2014, his bid for election to continue in office was successful. 

Young is assigned to three committees: rules, technology and economics, and transportation.

He describes his main priority in transportation as making sure that we dont get taxed more on Seattles mega-projects. He has made multiple attempts to limit rises in the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls, though they were not successful.

His greatest excitement is his work on the technology and economics committee. He describes it as the most cerebral committee in the Legislature. We juggle every policy for the state to meet needs while being environmentally honoring. This committee provides a real opportunity to work across the aisle. There are not the typical ideological divides, and we can really grow jobs, he said.

According to Young, his own legislative priorities focus on growing jobs, overseeing healthcare costs and fiscal responsibility. He wants to protect blue-collar jobs and grow white-collar jobs, and describes Washingtons business and occupation tax as a barrier for small businesses. Hed like to bring high-tech jobs to Washington –– especially jobs that allow you to work out of your own home.

He is concerned that the Affordable Care Act will drive up healthcare costs and also feels that mental healthcare is underfunded.

Young said that priorities in spending would be to assure adequate funding for transportation (especially ferries and roads), care for the most vulnerable and education. He is opposed to increasing taxes, and noted that with the current improved state revenues, an increase in taxes should not be necessary. He worries that increasing taxes would stifle economic growth.

Young lives in Gig Harbor but has ties close to the Key Peninsula –– he has family members who live just south of Allyn. While a sense of peace comes to him as he crosses the Narrows Bridge, he said that crossing the Purdy bridge takes one to another level. The Key Peninsula is just one of those gems, he said.

When asked about what he considers to be Key Peninsula priorities, he discussed transportation and the need to balance making roads safer while preserving the rural aspect. For schools, he supports the cost of living adjustment, increased local control and decreased mandates. He has supported a number of requests in the state budget, including support for the Key Peninsula Civic Center, Red Barn, Camp Seymour and Key Pen Parks.

I want to make myself available. My goal is to be very responsive, Young added.

 

To contact Young, call (800) 562-6000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Editors note: Because four out of five households in our area dont have children in public schools, we launched a series covering the KP schools. The first article provided a brief snapshot of the three elementary, one middle and one high school that serve local students. In this second part, we explain the basics of school funding, its history and current status. The online version includes links to the resources used in writing this article. The third article will review the topic of testing, and the final article will cover the local school board.

Public education funding is a complex and ever-changing issue. Although the state constitution mandates funding for K-12 public schools, legislative budget pressures create constant challenges. On top of that, new legislation and initiatives add to the mix.

Larry Seaquist, former state representative with a lifetime interest in education, said that education faces a dual challenge: Students need to know more than ever if they are to succeed, but there is also an increasing number of students who lack critical resources at home.

School funding needs to increase both to add the necessary curriculum our children need to succeed and to compensate for those at-risk, economically disadvantaged students, he said.

The Peninsula School District isnt alone in all this, said Chuck Cuzzetto, PSD superintendent.

Until the state meets their paramount duty and fully funds education, the Peninsula School District, like other districts, will need to continue to rely on local taxpayers to meet the basic education needs of all of our students, he said.

The history of school funding

The Washington State Constitution states: It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste or sex.

From the state general fund, just over 45 percent is dedicated to pay for K-12 education. This places Washington among the highest in the nation for the percent of school district revenue provided from state sources, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Most of the rest of school funding comes from local levies and federal sources.

According to the Washington state Education Association, Washington ranks 40th in per-pupil funding for K-12 students. The states average class sizes are among the largest in the nation and the student/teacher ratio is 45th out of 50 states, WEA says.

The history of school funding for the last 50 years is one of slowly decreasing spending and one of increasing dependence on local funding.

Prior to the 1970s, funding was stable, with monies coming primarily though sales, business and occupation taxes and state property taxes. These remain the primary sources today.

In the 1970s, with a recession and decreasing state revenue, local levies were used to close the funding gap. Class sizes increased, there were teacher strikes, and a voter revolt led to levy failures.

Court decisions aimed at more stable state funding, and a levy lid of 10 percent to pay for basic education was instituted to equalize funding across the state (though districts that exceeded the lids were grandfathered in). By 1980, Washington ranked 11th in funding education in the nation. 

Another recession hit in 1981, and in 1987, the levy lid was raised to 20 percent. Over the most recent two decades, the levy lid has been raised several times and a number of initiatives have been passed to decrease classroom size and improve teacher salaries.

In 2007, the Washington Adequacy Funding Study found that state public school spending as a percent of total state spending had declined significantly from 1987 to 2005, from a rate of 27.1 percent to 23.1 percent. In 2014, that had dropped to 22.2 percent. In real dollars adjusted for inflation, both the amount spent per student and the average teacher salary have declined. 

In the so-called McCleary Decision in 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court found that the state was not meeting its constitutional duty and that current levels of funding to the schools were not adequate to meet the basic educational services students need. The Joint Task Force on Education Funding, established by the Legislature, estimated that it will take $1.4 billion in the next two-year budget cycle and $4.5 billion by 2017-19 to meet those obligations.

Basic education is defined as providing the following programs/services: general classroom education, special education for children with disabilities, the Learning Assistance Program,transitional bilingual, highly capable programs, institutional education programs, full-day kindergarten for high-poverty schools and transportation.

Sources of current funding

Funding from school district to school district varies. Peninsula School District sources are similar to those of the state overall, with somewhat less coming from the federal government.

Source of funding

State

Peninsula

State taxes

66.4%

67.53%

Local property taxes (Levy)

19.5%

23.85%

Federal funding

8.1%

4.35%

Local nontax (grants, fees)

 

3.35%

Other

4.2%

0.92%

State funding for education comes from the general fund, the largest fund in the state budget and principal state fund supporting the operation of state government. All major state tax revenues are deposited into this fund. For the 2013-15 biennium, it was $33 billion. The total state budget for the same timeframe was nearly $82 billion.

Local funding is overwhelmingly from levies increases in property taxes and varies across the state now from 20 percent to 37 percent of local budgets. Local districts can make levy requests up to twice a year.

There are four types of levies:

         General fund, also known as maintenance and operations levies; they are one- to four-year levies, used for day-to-day operations;

          Debt service: multi-year levies used to pay principal and interest on general obligation bonds sold to finance school construction and remodeling;

         Transportation vehicle: one- or two-year levies that pay for buses or other transportation equipment;

          Capital project: one- to six-year levies that pay for construction or remodeling.

Federal funding is primarily used to fund programs that help children with disabilities (Individuals with Disabilities Act) and those living in poverty (Title I). Individual districts determine how the money is used to meet those needs. Federal funding requires compliance with federal program requirements.

Money allocation

About 80 percent of the budget goes to salaries and benefits of school employees (administrators, teachers and support staff).

Area of expenditure

State

Peninsula

Teaching (classroom and extracurricular)

58.7%

57.24%

teaching support; e.g., library, counseling, health)

10.9%

12.59%

Other support (e.g., utilities, IT, maintenance, food)

14.5%

14.7%

School administration

6%

6.11%

Central administration

5.9%

4.95%

Transportation

4%

4.41%

Looking to the future

The Washington State Supreme Court weighed in on school funding in 2012 with McCleary v. State. The court ruled that, because state funding did not fully pay for the full cost of basic education and relied on unreliable levy monies for up to a third of those costs, the current funding formula is unconstitutional.

The education reform bill passed in 2009 purported to offer a process to adequately fund education by 2018. In 2014, the court reviewed progress to date in addressing the problem and declared it inadequate. The Legislature was found in contempt and was ordered to achieve adequate funding in the 2015-17 biennial budget.

 

At the time of publication, after a second special session, that budget had not yet been finalized. 

Can you think of anything better than to have our children tell our history? asks Connie Hildahl, of the Longbranch Improvement Club (LIC).

On June 5, 24 third-, fourth-and fifth-graders from Evergreen Elementary School will do just that in the form of a musical. Everyone is invited.

The evolution of the musical The Story of the Down Key stretches back more than a year.

Last spring, the LIC held a three-day fundraising event called The Down Key Festival.

One of the most popular performances was that of the music programs of the three elementary schools –– Evergreen, Vaughn and Minter Creek.

The schools students performed individually and then also sang together –– and those in the audience described it as magical. Donations for the performance were distributed to the music programs at each of the schools.

Hildahl is active in the Key Peninsula Historical Society and a former teacher on the Key Peninsula, wanted to do more. She loves both bringing local history to students and supporting education, and began to think about how to bring those passions together. When she approached Teri Hammon, the music teacher at Evergreen, the seed was planted.

Hildahl and Voski Sprague would write a script and Hammon would compose the music.

Over several months, the authors met several times a week to craft the script. They used the book Early Days on the Key Peninsula by R.T. Arledge as a source, and concentrated on events taking place on the south Key Peninsula.   

 Want to come?

When: Friday, June 5

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Evergreen Elementary School Gym, 1820 Key Peninsula Highway South

If we had included the entire Key Peninsula, the play would have been far too long, said Hildahl. As the script evolved, Hammon composed the music and the three met to collaborate as the play took its final shape.

Hammon, who has taught music at Evergreen for nearly two decades, includes song and dance in her curriculum. Students learn to read music and play xylophones, recorders and various small percussion instruments.

The musical production has been a work of collaboration.

 

The Bluegrass Minstrels, a local Key Peninsula band, will provide music. The Angel Guild, members of the Evergreen staff and Key Peninsula resident Vickie Shurr have provided costumes. Sylvia Wilson, artist and Vaughn Elementary teacher, has been invaluable in assisting with set designand materials, lightingand costuming. 

Editors note: Most school districts have a ratio of households with students to those without students of 1:3. The Peninsula School District has many more households without students, with a ratio of 1:5. This is the first article of a planned series of four to introduce readers to the schools on the Key Peninsula. This installment is a basic description of the schools on the Key Peninsula. Future articles will cover funding, testing and the school board, all as they pertain to the KP schools. 

If ever there were a place with pride in its schools, it is the Key Peninsula. With three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school serving local children, there is much going on, and much more happening that most may not know.

Any rural area has its challenges. Compared to the more suburban schools in the rest of the Peninsula School District, transportation can be challenging, and poverty levels are double or nearly triple those in Gig Harbor (40-70 percent of students live in poverty, qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program).

But every principal on the Key Peninsula is excited about his or her school, the quality of the staff and the accomplishments of the students. And with a combined century of teaching and administrative experience among them, they know what they are talking about.

Three elementary schools serve the youngest students, more than 1,000 total. From north to south, they are Minter Creek, Vaughn and Evergreen.

Minter Creek

Principal Ty Robuck has been at Minter Creek for three years. He taught at Voyager and Discovery prior to serving as assistant principal at Key Peninsula Middle School (KPMS). 

We have a great mix of veteran and new teachers, he said. I love my teachers with their level of dedication, openness to feedback and a wish to grow.

With 400 students, Minter Creek is the size of most of the elementary schools in the district. About 40 percent of its students live in poverty.

Each elementary school has specialist teachers. These teachers come to the classroom to teach when the regular teacher has a preparation period scheduled. At Minter Creek, there are three specialists who teach music, physical education and art.

There are some unique programs at Minter. The highly capable program is housed at the school a single classroom of 25 fourth- and fifth-graders currently. A second classroom of second- and third-graders is scheduled to open next fall.

Watch DOGS Dads Of Great Students is a new initiative with fathers, grandfathers and big brothers all coming in to volunteer for a total of a hundred days during the school year. After school, the choir and the Crazy 8s math club meet. And Little Toasters, a group that encourages girls to advocate for themselves, also meets at the school. 

Vaughn

Vaughn Principal Susan OLeary has been an educator for 25 years and at Vaughn for five years.

We are truly a community school. People feel welcome and our kids learn and thrive, she said of the school climate.

The teaching staff is very stable and many live in the community. She is proud of academic growth twice the school has won the Washington State Achievement Award for growth in reading and math.

Like Minter Creek, Vaughn serves 400 students, with more than 50 percent living in poverty. They have three specialist teachers, covering the subjects of music, physical education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

OLeary said that the staff has concentrated on the core curriculum, especially on writing, and also on school climate most recently. Their PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) program is closely aligned with that of KPMS.

A recent collaboration with Cora Voce in Tacoma raised money to upgrade the risers and sound system for performances.

Evergreen

Evergreen, with 240 students, is the smallest of the PSD elementary schools. With nearly 70 percent of those students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, it has the highest number of kids living in poverty.

Principal Hugh Maxwell is in his second year at Evergreen. He arrived from Idaho and has been an educator for 26 years.

I have worked in great schools, but this is one of the best staffs I have ever worked with, he said.

He noted that some staff live in the area and others have commuted long distances for years because they simply love the school.

He cited the small size as one of the things that makes Evergreen special, noting, It feels like a family.

The school has two specialists in music and PE both of whom meet with each class twice a week.

The school district added funding this year to eliminate split classes. Last year, there were two split classes, and Maxwell noted that the combined challenges of increased academic expectations with the new Common Core curriculum and poverty were stressful.

Thanks to a grant obtained by Therese Souers (see earlier article keypennews.com/2014/index.php/component/k2/item/482-new-computers-help-evergreen-elementary-students-learn), Evergreen is actively integrating technology into the classroom. The school has a set of Chromebooks and students are learning to use them in writing during the school day, and there is an after-school program where they are learning about 3-D programming and printing. Maxwell hopes the school can get a set of iPads for each classroom.

Two Waters Arts Alliance artists have been working with students at Evergreen to complete a mural on an environmental theme. It will be completed by the end of the school year. (Murals were previously created at Minter and KPMS under TWAA).

KPMS

Key Peninsula Middle School Principal Jeri Goebel came to the school seven years ago from Port Angeles. With 400 students and over 50 percent living in poverty, there are certainly challenges, but she describes a vibrant school with an amazing teaching staff.

Id pit my staff against any in the state, Goebel said.

The school has programs designed to meet the needs of all students, she said from those who need extra support to those who are already high achievers.

KPMS has been a NASA Explorer School for 11 years, with a program that initially focused on aerospace. That has now evolved into a STEM focus, which includes forensics, robotics and an introduction to multimedia productions. Students are also exposed to college and career classes to get them ready for college.

The Cougar Academy is a 35-minute flex class that meets daily. Students receive tutoring in math or reading if they need it. Those who are already working at grade level have enrichment electives in such areas as literature, jazz band, art and computer coding.

Tutoring is available after school every Thursday for those needing additional help personally provided by Goebel and Andrea Bowman, assistant principal.

Goebel is proud of the music program. Students arrive with a solid basic background thanks to their specialist teachers in elementary school. There is a music revue each year, with a choir and an award-winning advanced band.

In the fall KPMS will offer AVID (Achievement via Independent Determination) to about 30 students. It is a national program focusing on students typically underrepresented in college and who are middle achievers.

The curriculum focuses on writing and organizational skills and also exposes students to college visits and financial assistance. The AVID class teachers will get training in classroom strategies that they will then share with other staff.

KPMS will also house a new, highly-capable program for incoming sixth-graders in a combined language arts/social studies class. Kopachuck is the other Peninsula School District middle school that will have a similar program.

Peninsula High

Lest you think that school pride is limited to the younger students, just talk to David Goodwin, principal at Peninsula High. This was his first year he said that when the position opened (he had been principal at Henderson Bay High School for four years), he simply jumped at the chance to move to Peninsula. 

In describing what is unique about his school, he said, The student body is so very accepting. There just arent cliques. Group activities are very inclusive and no kids are excluded due to things such as socio-economic background or disabilities.

Peninsula High has 1,400 students, with at least 30 percent qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

Goodwin said that the teaching staff is phenomenal, with tremendous life experience and intellectual curiosity.

Athletics are strong Peninsula is one of the most-competitive schools in the 3A league. Choir, band and drama programs are known for their wonderful performances. Academically, Goodwin notes that there are 15 AP (advanced placement) classes as well as a strong speech and debate program.

 

We want to prepare our students for whatever future they anticipate, he said. We have something here for every single student.