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Sara Thompson

Sara Thompson

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 taxes



Local property taxes (Levy)



Federal funding



Local nontax (grants, fees)






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



Teaching (classroom and extracurricular)



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



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



School administration



Central administration






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 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, 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, 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).


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.

Since November 2011, KP School Bus Connects has been at the forefront of rural transportation innovation. Using school buses after they complete their regular routes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, residents have been catching rides from designated locations to get to Key Center and Purdy Park and Ride and home again.

The program has been a great success and the numbers of riders has grown, according to organizers. Now, thanks to a grant approved by the Washington Department of Transportation, the program will not only be maintained, it will also expand to Mondays.

I am delighted with the way the program has expanded and the way we have been able to bring in new partners to provide transportation on the Key Peninsula, said Marcia Harris, who coordinates the program for the KP Community Council.

The grant is for two years, with funding starting this July. For the first time, the school bus program was awarded federal dollars in addition to receiving money from state sources.

The Washington State Department of Transportation loves this program, said Jacque Mann from the Puget Sound Educational District. It is rural, hugely beneficial and inexpensive. I think theyd like to see it expand to other communities.

The grant, a collaboration with the Puget Sound Educational District, the KP Community Council and the Peninsula School District, was not a slam-dunk. With many programs competing for limited funds, it was a very competitive process. A total of about $2 million was available for grants, some from federal sources and some from the state.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap counties) oversees the development of the budget for transportation and made its recommendations in April. King County had a top-rated proposal that would have taken the entire $2 million budget, and there were several smaller proposals, including the Key Peninsula grant. After deliberation, the Puget Sound Regional Council recommended full funding for four smaller projects and partial funding for the King County program.

Annie Bell, director of Transportation for the Peninsula School District, said she is excited about the grant renewal and expansion.

We look forward to this project taking off so we can keep serving the people on the Key Peninsula, she said.

During the school year, the buses operate according to schedule as long as school is open. There are no buses during the winter or spring breaks or on school holidays. The summer schedule is now available. The community council is working to expand the program with other partners.

For more information


A previous article in the KP News described the KP School Bus Connects program and its history. Read it here

Tuesday, 05 May 2015 00:22

Longbranch Improvement Club

The Longbranch Improvement Club (LIC) has a proud history as a positive force in the community. Although many associate it primarily with the Longbranch Marina, its first commitment was to education. And the commitment to students on the Key Peninsula continues to this day. As the LIC approaches its centennial, Gayle Brewer, the club president, said, We want to let people know what we do and to expand our presence in the community.

The story of the LIC reflects that of the Key Peninsula schools, farming, boating and even baseball infuse its history.

The LIC incorporated in 1921 to encourage any activity for the betterment of schools, homemaking, roads, marketing, dairy, poultry and all its branches and purchased 10 acres of land just before the first paved county road was completed. 

According to organizers, baseball, which was an especially popular way to socialize-influenced the first use of those 10 acres a field and grandstand provided a home for the Longbranch team. Three acres were donated to build a two-room schoolhouse.

The WPA built the timbered a-frame gymnasium next to the schoolhouse, and that building now serves as the home of the LIC. It was upgraded in 1956 with the addition of kitchen facilities and a wooden floor, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The Longbranch Marina history is as intertwined in the LIC story as the familiar timber, concrete and stone structure, and goes back more than a century.

In 1885 a wharf was built in Longbranch to serve South Puget Sound. The Mosquito Fleet transported families and agricultural products. A ferry, the Elk, was commissioned and served until the late 1930s.

When Pierce County refused to lease the ferry dock to a private for-profit venture, the LIC came to the rescue. County engineers supplied plans and LIC member provided the lumber, labor and funding to build a floating pier that was installed in 1959. More recently, when the wharf deteriorated, Pierce County had plans but no funding to replace it. The LIC stepped in, raising the necessary money through donations and loans.

This is a remote marine community and people value the beauty and quiet of Filucy Bay. Originally, providing and maintaining the marina was not a business plan it just happened, said Brewer.

One-third of the floating dock is dedicated to public guest moorage. Made available on a first-come, first-served basis for day and overnight users. Boaters have access to fresh water, garbage disposal and restrooms, all at no cost to taxpayers. The lack of amenities is in some ways a blessing, said Clark Van Bogart, club vice president. Boaters really value the incredible setting and its peace and quiet.

The LIC is a heterogeneous group some are very focused on the water, and others not at all.  They rally around the needs of the building as they come up be it replacing the septic system, updating the kitchen or establishing the nature trail just behind the building that is now open to everyone.

In talking about the activities of the LIC, what excited Brewer, Van Bogart and events chair, Delia McGinnis, was the outreach to the schools and students.

Every year, in collaboration with the Girl Scouts and the schools, they host Trunk or Treat a Halloween event with treats and activities for KP families. Kids N Christmas, in conjunction with Toys for Tots, provides gifts for every child, dinner and crafts tables for the kids to make presents for their parents.

One mother came up to me last year, said McGinnis, and said they had been coming for eight years, commenting, You have no idea how much this has meant to us.’”

In addition, the LIC offers scholarships to grade-school students to attend summer camp and scholarships to Peninsula High students who started their education at Evergreen.

Other events are geared to building community spirit. The Fiber Arts Fair is coordinated with the KP Farm Tour. Spaghetti feeds and pancake breakfasts are times for friends to gather and enjoy good company. And Memorial Day and Labor Day dances provide a great time for everyone as well as a chance to raise funds. 

New members are welcome. The fee for membership is just $25 single, $40 family, and each member is asked to attend at least three member meetings a year and to contribute 15 hours of volunteer service.


For information, visit

Janine Motts eyes light up when she talks about the changes in adult education that Tacoma Community College (TCC) is bringing to Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula. Mott, TCC executive director for the Gig Harbor Campus and Continuing Education, discussed the innovations in Adult Basic Education, which is more commonly known as the GED program.

TCC has had an adult basic education program for at least 15 years, with support from the Gig Harbor Garden Tour ( since 1998. Mott said that until recently, the program focused only on GED test preparation. Over time two trends have surfaced: Potential employers, if given two equivalent applicants, will prefer the one with a high school diploma over one with a GED; in addition the GED test is becoming more difficult to pass.

Enrollment was spotty by late 2013. TCC cancelled the winter 2014 class to reassess and make changes. The new program opened the following spring.

The TCC basic skills department redesigned the curriculum with the goal to offer a learning experience that went beyond teaching to the test and would give students the opportunity to see themselves as lifelong learners. In addition, students do more then get a GED –– they can enter a high school completion program.

The class was relocated –– the Red Barn offered space and was more central than the Home fire station.

The new course includes two classes. Each class read/write and math meets twice a week for two hours. Students meet with an advisor prior to registration to review transcripts and job experience in order to understand their individual needs.

Tony Sincich, attending his second quarter, quit high school in his senior year. It just wasnt for me, he said. After two years of working, he was too old to participate in programs offered through the high school. He thinks this program is great, citing the one-on-one attention, flexibility and lower pressure. He appreciates being able to pace himself, and plans to continue to work toward his high school diploma with electives at the Tacoma campus after this quarter.

Garrett Loney dropped out after the ninth grade. As with Sincich, high school was not a good fit. He, too, loves the program. He thinks the small size helps kids who may have trouble focusing. He plans to take the GED test at the end of the quarter, then wants to go to the Tacoma campus to complete his high school diploma and get an associate degree.

Mott discussed technology and its role. It is not the only answer, she stated. Using technology in outreach takes both skill and access, and access can be a real problem in more rural communities. But we also know that we must develop those skills for adults to be successful. For that reason the program purchased 15 laptops, which students receive for the quarter, along with an email account through TCC.

How is the new program working? We are very pleased, said Mott. With a target of 15 to 25, current enrollment is 12, so there is capacity for more. And she noted, This quarter we have six students who returned for a second quarter. That simply never happened before. It is huge and we are thrilled.

Aaron Murphy, attending his first quarter, was enthusiastic. He dropped out after his junior year because he needed to work, and more recently moved to the Key Peninsula. He has a quote from Benjamin Franklin that means a lot to him: If you do tomorrow what you did today, you will get tomorrow what you got today. With that in mind, he decided it was time to change it up joining the adult basic education program for high school credit and a diploma is pretty cool. And the schedule still lets me work here at the Red Barn in the afternoons, he said.

Want to know more?

Visit the TCC Gig Harbor website at, or call (253) 460-2424.

Tuition is $25 a quarter though students may be eligible for a waiver. There is also a $4 fee for course materials.


Interested in Adult Continuing Education? Visit the TCC Continuing Education at, or call (253) 460-2424.

Republican Michelle Caldier, elected in a rancorous campaign by a close margin to replace Larry Seaquist, is a political newcomer. She now represents the Key Peninsula as one of the state representatives to the 26th District.

Caldier grew up in Kitsap County, the fourth generation of her family to live there her great-grandfather served as the first postmaster of Kitsap County. She graduated from Central Kitsap High, then received her associate of sciences from Olympic College before earning her bachelor of science and then her doctor of dental surgery from the University of Washington.

From the ages of 10 to 17, she entered into the state foster care system, largely in response to an abusive stepfather. During that time she lived in many different settings, and she credits a stable school situation for her ultimate success. She was able to stay in the same middle school and high school throughout those tumultuous times. Her junior high counselor ultimately became her high school principal, and he encouraged her to enter the Running Start program.

During dental school, as a divorced mother with a young daughter, she felt well-supported by fellow classmates, especially other single mothers. We watched out for each other, she said. And once she completed dental school and established her practice, she became a foster mother herself, caring for a 16 year old and then a 13-year-old daughter. There were some rocky times, she admits, but she now describes herself as a proud mother and foster mother of three beautiful daughters, a grandmother and a small-business owner.

I believe education is the key to a better future for everyone and will support measures to fund education first and make sure children receive our first dollar, and not our last dime, Caldier said.


Two years ago, after working for more than a decade in a dental practice serving nursing homes and volunteering to care for the underserved, she joined others to lobby the Washington State Legislature to restore funding for adult dental care for those on Medicaid. When that was successful, she was inspired to run for a seat. 

Her legislative priorities are protecting the most vulnerable, prioritizing education in the state budget and efficiency with taxpayer dollars. She serves on the following committees: education, 


healthcare and wellness, general government and information technology.

Education is a top priority, and she notes that paying for the mandated changes will be an issue. She remains opposed to increased taxation and feels that the needs can be met by more efficient use of current funding spending more wisely. In addition she said that with an improved economy, there is more money in the state budget.She said that transportation has been identified as high priority for the Key Peninsula and she felt she could not support the Pierce County transportation plan because it did not address the needs of her district living on the north side of the Narrows. She said she is still learning about the buckets of money and wants to be sure that the Key Peninsula gets some of those dollars perhaps thinking outside the box and using more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Caldier notes that her roots are in Bremerton and Port Orchard, where she now lives. To get to know the Key Peninsula, she made phone calls from a list of voters provided by the state.  

When asked how she will continue to be in touch with the concerns of the Key Peninsula, she said she has attended the Key Peninsula Business Association meetings and the Key Peninsula Community Council. She also attends local events. She encourages constituents to contact her directly.

I always have an open door, she said. I am here to represent everyone. Contact me with questions, concerns or issues you think are important.


Her email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and her phone number is (360) 786-7802.

Monday, 30 March 2015 01:04

Meet your elected representatives

Derek Young, recently elected to the Pierce County Council by a razor-thin margin, did not come to politics with a long-range plan to do so.

He moved to Gig Harbor at age 9. His grade school and middle school have both closed, he said as he smiled ruefully.

At least Gig Harbor High School is still standing,he noted. 

His parents, sister and nieces all continue to live in Gig Harbor.

Young attended the University of Washington. When he returned to Gig Harbor with the mindset of a young environmentalist, he was frustrated by his communitys reaction to the then new growth management plan.

He said he ran for a position on the Gig Harbor City Council to make a point and never expected to win. But he took the race and at age 21 found himself on the council, where he served for 16 years.

As a result of his involvement in transportation and land-use issues, Young participated in a number of regional committees and came to the conclusion that decisions made at a county level have an enormous impact on local communities. At that point he decided to run for the Pierce County Council. After a hand recount, he was declared the victor in January, replacing Stan Flemming.

District 7, covering north Tacoma, Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, represents a true snapshot of Pierce County covering the most urban, the most rural and everything in between,Young said.

To get to know the Key Peninsula, he has attended many meetings. Over a recent two-week period, he came to a Community Council meeting, attended the first organizational meeting of the Key Peninsula Democrats and met with the Key Peninsula Business Association. He plans to spend one to two days a week doing outreach to his constituents and noted that sometimes just hanging aroundcan help to keep in touch with people.   

Councilman Derek Young can be reached via phone at (253) 798-6654 or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Youngs interest in land use continues unabated.

If we are to protect rural areas, we need to grow in more populated areas. The trick is to do it gracefully and to maintain the character of each community. It is hard, but it is important to try,he said.

When asked what he sees as the main issues facing the Key Peninsula, he prioritized the Shoreline Management Plan, the Key Peninsula Community Plan as it fits into the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan, and transportation. His involvement in other pressing issues mental health services, the county business plan and the jail ––has added to his busy schedule.

Working with the County Council has had its challenges, Young said. Although the broad strokes look similar, the work is on a larger scale compared to that of Gig Harbor, and the area is much more diverse.

Young also has seen a much more partisan approach. While colleagues on the Gig Harbor City Council might not agree, the climate was one of mutual respect and collegiality. He has felt that there has been more one-upmanship at the county level and hopes that this can change.

Its up to us to minimize conflict, not to put politics above the community,he said.

I am enjoying the heck out of getting to know folks I didnt know prior to the campaign,he added. The institutions on the Key Peninsula are extraordinary, as is the level of community spirit and civic responsibility. There is a bit of a were on our ownfeeling that comes from the rural location. It is tremendously humbling to be given the honor to serve. My door is open. I am a phone call away and answer all my emails.

In 2008, following a four-year process, a group of 15 Key Peninsula citizens completed a community plan, a document describing the Key Peninsula and providing a guide for future development. It is available online at

Pierce County is now reviewing its comprehensive plan and the shoreline management plan. What will that mean for the Key Peninsula?


The Washington State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in the 1990s. The act outlined planning goals to guide the development of comprehensive plans for each county. The goals included urban growth, reduction of sprawl, transportation, affordable housing, economic development, natural resource industries, open space and recreation, environment, public services, historic preservation and shoreline.

In 1995, Pierce County passed its comprehensive plan and has reviewed it every eight years since then, as required by the state. The plan guides county decisions related to growth and development in unincorporated Pierce County. The plan is due for review, and now, at 20 years and with newer census data available since the last update, the county is taking action. 

Impact of Comprehensive Plan Revision on the Community Plans

Because the various community plans (there are 10 in addition to Key Peninsula) had many commonalities, county staff wanted to simplify procedures. In addition, some community issues such as zoning regulations, agricultural resource lands and design standards are now addressed in county programs or regulations.

Between April and September 2014, county staff met with the individual land use advisory commissions to work on the community plan consolidation.

The staff worked with the Key Peninsula Land Use Advisory Commission (KPAC) to highlight sections of the community plan that might be shifted to the comprehensive plan sections that were common to the community plans and those that were regulatory in nature. The groups also identified sections that KPAC wanted to keep intact reflecting unique aspects of the community plan while moving the more general policies to the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan.

Impact on the Key Peninsula

Jeff Mann, senior planner with Pierce County Planning and Land Services, and other staff met with KPAC and concerned citizens. He described the reaction to the county process early on as mixedbut also felt that ultimately the reception was supportive. 

Members of KPAC and those who worked on the current plan have some concerns. Don Swensen noted, for example, that although ground water is common to all community plans, the concerns in Graham are very different from the concerns on the Key Peninsula, where the shoreline plays a dominant role.

He and others fear that simply presenting all regulatory issues in the county document, separate from the community plan, will remove the context for those very regulations. His hope is that the community plan, where people struggled over every word to assure that the plan reflected the unique characteristics of the Key Peninsula, will remain intact and that it can simply have cross-references to the pertinent sections in the county plan.

A few changes may be of particular interest to those on the Key Peninsula.

Some properties will be redesignated as agricultural resource lands. These are plots greater than five acres and with good soil, and would be preserved for agricultural use including agritourism. Affected landowners have been informed.

Detached accessory housing units (self-contained residential buildings) are now included in housing density. Most of the Key Peninsula is designated as rural residential 10. A maximum of two residences is permitted as long as 50 percent of the lot is designated as open space. Current detached units will be grandfathered in, and attached units do not add to housing density.

The new comprehensive plan encourages schools serving rural locations to be located in neighboring towns but recognizes the need for schools to care for students where they live. If additional capacity were needed in the community, expanding current sites would be preferred over building new facilities.

On March 11, staff from the county presented the new plan to KPAC and community members. A follow-up meeting for questions and comments took place the following week.

Staff will incorporate comments and take the document to the Pierce County Planning Commission for review and recommendations.   

For more information, visit the Pierce County website for the Realize 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update at 

The public meeting of the planning commission for rural area modifications will be April 28 at 6 p.m. in the public meeting room at the Pierce County Public Services Building, located at 2401 S 35th Street in Tacoma. Final recommendations will be complete on April 30 and the county council will vote on the plan in June.  

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 11:39

Feeding the hungry on the Key Peninsula

Food insecurity is a real problem in this country one in five families in Washington receive support from food pantries supported by state food assistance programs. The Key Peninsula is no exception.

Two food banks with permanent locations Key Peninsula Community Services (KPCS) and Bischoff Food Bank as well as one mobile unit, FISH Food Bank are serving local residents. All have proud histories and help to ensure that people do not go hungry.

The story of a recent new arrival illustrates some of the struggles. (She faces a domestic violence threat and asked to remain anonymous.) Last July, her ex-husband took her two young sons. Homeless, she and her boyfriend lived in a tent in Tacoma and moved to the Key Peninsula in December at the suggestion of a relative. They were able to get a tent from KPCS and lived in an abandoned house while getting food support from both food banks.

Now she has legal help through the YWCA and a place to live near the Bischoff Food Bank, where she volunteers. She has been reunited with her children. The oldest, who has moderate autism, is enrolled in kindergarten and she hopes her youngest will enter the Head Start program at Evergreen. She is looking for part-time work.

People here have been amazing and helpful. Now I have a safety net. If they dont have what I need, they help to find it,she said.

Penny Gazabat, executive director at Key Peninsula Community Services, said the need for food has increased dramatically since 2008, when she first started. We had 97 families in our food basket program in 2008, and we have 300 now.

Ed Townson, executive director at the Bischoff Food Bank, said, Before I got involved, you could not have convinced me that there was this much need. It breaks my heart. The current government help is just not enough. We have about 10 new families register with us each month.

Key Peninsula Community Services

KPCS was founded in 1982 and was located in Vaughn until 1989, when it moved to its current location just south of Home. It depends on volunteers but also has two paid staff. The food bank manager salary is paid through a community block grant and fundraising provides a salary for the driver of the refrigerated truck. 

The bank partners with Food Lifeline in Seattle, which gives access to QFC, Fred Meyer, Albertsons and Target; independent relationships were developed with Costco and Safeway. The food bank also works with the Tacoma-based Emergency Food Network (EFN), which is a distributor to many food banks and hot meal providers in Pierce County.

KPCS is a member of the Food Bank Coalition, a group of more than 60 food banks in Pierce County. This organization advocates for food insecurity issues and, as a member, KPCS is eligible for a higher volume of food and for the federal commodities program.

The nonprofit serves residents of the Key Peninsula. Clients register once a year and are asked to show a photo ID and a piece of postal mail to confirm residency. If they are homeless, this is waived. There is an income cap 185 percent of federal poverty level but proof of income is not required.

A total of about 36,000 pounds of food is distributed each month through two programs: Bread Closet and food baskets.

The Bread Closet is open four days a week and individuals can come whenever the bank is open.  Participants are asked to register once a year and they sign in with each visit so that the number of individuals served is known.

Bread, desserts, fresh produce, dairy and deli items are available, depending on what has been donated. About 2,000-2,700 individuals a month benefit from this program. Products past their prime are donated to farmers to feed livestock.

Households in the food basket program receive a three-day emergency supply of food once a month. The basket provids three meals including meat, cereal, boxed food, coffee, oil and seasonings for everyone in the family. Some household cleaning and personal hygiene products are also available. Gazabat noted that most families report the basket lasts for nearly a week.

Bischoff Food Bank

The Bischoff Food Bank was founded in 2006 by Ross Bischoff. At first, he simply set up a table and handed out food at the Key Peninsula Lutheran Church. Although he died shortly after, his work was continued by Wally Haugaard.

The operation outgrew the church and in March 2013, it moved to Key Center for a year. In March 2014, the KP Bischoff Food bank decided to end its partnership with FISH Food Banks of Pierce County and was temporarily without a home. In June 2014, the food bank moved to its current location in Home, off Key Peninsula Highway.

It is a volunteer operation, with about 16 volunteers working at the food bank and driving to pick up donations. They partner with NW Harvest, Budds Food Distribution in Tacoma and the Emergency Food Network. In addition, Food Market in Lake Kathryn Village donates three times a week.

They support families throughout the entire Key Peninsula. Customers register by filling out an intake form that provides statistical information. There are income guidelines but proof of income is not required. 

Need Help?

Bischoff Food Bank

1916 Key Peninsula Highway, Lakebay

(425) 444-2374


Tuesday-Friday: 2– 6 p.m., Saturday: 2– 5 p.m.

Key Peninsula Community Services

17015 9th ST KP N, Lakebay

(253) 884-4440


Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 10 a.m. – noon and 12:45 – 4 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. – noon and 12:45 – 6 p.m.

FISH Food Bank

12521 134th Ave KPN, Gig Harbor

(253) 383-3164


Friday 2 – 7 p.m.

The bank is open five days a week but it has been known to make emergency deliveries to families who lack transportation. Clothing, household items and appliances are also available.

Kimberly Miller, board vice president and warehouse operations manager, said that on a typical month they serve 2,000 individuals and 450 families, supplying 35,000 pounds of food.

Individual donations (food, service and financial) are welcome. Miller noted that they are in particular need of canned goods and protein. Produce is welcome. As with KPCS, food past its prime is donated to farmers for livestock.

Bischoff welcomes those seeking community service hours (high school students meeting requirements or for court-mandated issues such as paying off traffic violations).

FISH Food Banks of Pierce County

FISH Food Banks was started in the 1970s by a group of churches. It provides food on the Key Peninsula once a week through a mobile food bank on Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m. First-time clients are asked to bring photo ID and the full names and birthdates of household members. The food bank operates next to the Key Peninsula Latter Day Saints Church.




Hot meals provided on the KP



The Peninsula Lutheran Church offers breakfast at 9 a.m. on first and third Saturdays, and dinner on the fourth Saturday at 3 p.m. It is located at 4213 Lackey Road KP North, Lakebay


Sunday Community Meal

KP Community Services offers a Sunday community meal at 3 p.m. As many as 50 people come each Sunday, including some seniors and families. Oliver Coldeen coordinates the program. Four churches rotate to sponsor the meal Longbranch Community Church, plus Gig Harbors Wellspring Fellowship, Harbor Christian Center and St. Nicholas Catholic Church.

Harbor Christian Center manages the entire meal. For the others, Coldeen shops for what is on sale at Safeway and plans the menu. The churches provide the manpower and pay for the groceries. KP Community Center donates the facility.

It can be a bit like the Iron Chef, getting a meal on the table for 50 people in two hours,Coldeen said.

Leftovers are boxed and sent home with those who want them.


Thursday Afternoon Meal

Lakebay Community Church offers a Thursday afternoon meal each week at 2 p.m. About 25 people attend, and after the meal there is a supply of donated food for them to take home. It is coordinated by Howard and Diane Johnson as a part of the Mingle and Minister Church Ministry.

A team of nine volunteers from several churches takes turns preparing the meal, with most ingredients donated by Panera, Budds Food Service, Grocery Outlet and, from time to time, Lulus Home Port.

We have a good time and welcome newcomers,Johnson said.