Editor’s note: Because 80 percent of Key Peninsula households don’t 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 board’s 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 state’s 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 board’s 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