David Olson is seeking re-election to the Peninsula School District board of directors, representing District 5. He said he “caught the community service bug working in schools” when he was stationed on Whidbey Island as a U.S. Navy officer. He was in charge of the base’s program for school volunteers and helped set up a drug education program for youth.
Olson moved to Gig Harbor in 2005 when he retired from the Navy and now works as a commercial banker. Three of his four children attended Gig Harbor schools. He became involved in their sports activities, but also started attending school board meetings. When he noticed that the director from his district was often absent from meetings, he decided to run.
Olson is proud of what has been accomplished in the district over the last few years. “We hired a great new superintendent, got a 70 percent ‘yes’ vote on our operating levy, and the academics get better every year,” he said, pointing out that PSD ranks 29 out of 295 districts in the state academically.
Olson said the most pressing problem in the district is overcrowding and believes a capital levy is needed to cover the cost of building a new school in Gig Harbor North. But such a measure would have to be for more than just one school, he said: “We need to do a careful assessment of the needs across the district and be sure that other schools get the improvements necessary to make them safe for our students.”
The other issues important to Olson are state school funding and vocational education. He said he is watching to see how the recent legislation to satisfy the state Supreme Court McCleary decision “shakes out.” He thinks it is still too early to know whether health-benefits costs to school employees will increase or not, but he is encouraged that the starting minimum salary will be higher.
Olson is a strong proponent of vocational education. He notes that a four-year college and STEM degree may not be for everyone and that the curriculum needs to prepare students for their next step after high school no matter what that might be. His own family is a case in point, he said: Olson joined the Navy out of high school, his oldest son is a welder, his daughter is a chemist, another son is pursuing a career in video production and his youngest is a teacher.
“Even if I live to be 100 and when I stop working for money, I don’t think I will ever really retire,” Olson said. In addition to his position on the school board, he serves on the boards of the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation and the City Club of Tacoma. He is also a member of the Key Peninsula Business Association.