Longtime KP resident Chuck West was the first to declare his candidacy for Peninsula School District Board Director Position 1. Growing up on an old family farm near Peacock Hill in Gig Harbor since 1972, West is a graduate of Peninsula High School. He credits a high school girlfriend for introducing him to the Key Peninsula.
Afer completing an electrical apprentice program, he worked as a licensed electrician before joining the Key Peninsula fire department 33 years ago. Today he owns and operates a general contracting and construction business, employing a fulltime staff of three. He’s lived with his wife and stepson in the same Lakebay house for 20 years.
West worked his way up through the ranks of KPFD from firefighter to battalion chief. He said he is comfortable working with multimillion-dollar budgets, understands budgeting and the processes of property tax collections, and knows how to deal with state filings and policy issues with legal mandates.
“I also understand the limitations of a school board director. The board is not hands-on running the district,” he said. “We set policy, we decide the budget, we hire the administrator to run the district. We need to step out of the way and not get in their way.”
West said his interest in becoming a director came in large part from his membership in the nonprofit Peninsula Schools Education Foundation.
“Being on the foundation the last 10 years has given me an insight by talking with teachers and administrators, focusing on needs,” West said. Teachers throughout the district apply to the foundation for grants to fund things the district doesn’t.
“In the grant process, we see teachers looking for better behavioral tools, looking for ways to manage students, whether it’s a wobble chair or curriculum change that allows learning,” he said. “It might be expensive, but we’re having all kinds of issues and with the state mandating how we deal with behavioral issues, we can’t leave any kid behind.”
By representing the KP from District 1 on the school board, West said he will ensure that his district “gets its share of the bond money with the new elementary school and hopefully some improvements at KPMS, which would come after the four elementary schools are built.”
West also said he thinks “the district is doing well financially, and even before the bond, they were doing a pretty good job of managing the money.” He said he is eager to jump onboard a ship already moving forward.
“We have building maintenance needs within district from HVAC systems to roofs, and to existing buildings we’re going to keep. I’m very keen on maintenance,” he said. “We’ve got to make these buildings last.”
To bring himself fully up to speed, West found streaming the school board meetings online very helpful. He attended some of the early building construction meetings at Evergreen Elementary. “My intent is to continue being involved in the schools, listening to the teachers and the parents firsthand, so I can be a relay to represent the public,” he said.
“Growth is going to be an issue,” he said. With three new classrooms of kindergarten students enrolling this year alone, West looks ahead for that bulge to come through the system. “In the near future we’re going to need another middle school so we have to be looking forward on facilities.”
An immediate goal of the new board will be hiring a new school superintendent.
“I really like Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis and his ability to do so much more with the magnet schools,” West said. “I would be looking for a superintendent who would continue that effort and, with regard to magnet schools, be more into the trades.”
West is a past president of the KP Community Council and currently chairs the board of the Key Peninsula Free Clinic, an organization he helped found. He sits on the steering committee for the KP Partnership for a Healthy Community and serves on the Pierce County Flood Control Advisory Board reporting to the Pierce County Council and Executive.
“Between the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Key Peninsula Business Association and the fire department, I’m involved on a lot of different levels within the whole school district,” he said.