Answers to Questions from NKEA

Why are you seeking the position of School Board Director in NKSD?

I am seeking this position, because I want to serve the community that has served my family.  I’ll bring perspective and effort to the district.  Regarding perspective, I’ll bring a systems view, where measures are used to build system understanding to make changes to best meet desired outcomes with minimal unintended consequences.  I have a Masters in Systems Management and experience examining organizations using a conceptual and comprehensive model to promote performance excellence. Regarding effort, I have been preparing by attending school board meetings, talking with people, and reading policies and state guidelines.

Describe your past commitment to, and involvement in, public schools.

I have been an NK parent for 15 years – this year is the 16th and it will be my last year as a parent.  I’ve been involved in the schools in the following ways:

  • I was invited to serve on the selection committee that hired Mrs Ellie Wrigley for the Agate Program Teacher for 1-2 after Mrs Vesey, a popular teacher, left.
  • When Children’s World announced that on-site day care was closing at North Kitsap in the late spring of 2001, I advocated with the district to get a replacement citing that it was vitally important for our families.  While the district was concerned, they were not able to do much.  I called Joanna Carlson of Martha & Mary Kids Services to plead for help.  They had been considering this as a future expansion, and because of the need they stepped in immediately and starting offering services at all NK elementary schools.  It was not a perfect start, but it just improved with time – a testament of the quality organization it is.  Now 12 years later, it is going.  I spoke with Terri McCutcher last week and the program is still strong.
  • I collected signature for I-728 in the 1990’s that led to more state funding and smaller class sizes (for a while.)
  • I was involved in the evaluation of Richland School District and Lynden School District using the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Criteria.  This resulted in a comprehensive report on 21 items that provides a pathway to organizational excellence.
  • I participated on the 2012-14 Budget Committee for North Kitsap that was led by Patty Page.  The group  composed of district administrators, representatives from professional bargaining units, and community members  developed a community survey to define educational priorities.

Discuss enrollment decisions involving your own children and family.

My son is a Senior at Kingston High School and he attended Kingston Middle School and Suquamish Elementary.  He was the first class to go from 5th grade in the elementary school to 6th grade in the middle school.  He remembers it as being cheated out of a year of recess.  My daughter attended Suquamish Elementary and then Kingston Junior High.  She was fortunate to be a part of the Agate Program, and went to state for National History Day passing up a Kingston Junior High band trip to Disneyland.  After two weeks in 9th grade at Kingston Junior High, she followed several fellow students to Bainbridge High School, where her Dad lives.  She was looking for opportunities for Honor’s English and HS electives that were not available at Kingston Jr High.  I would have preferred that she continued in North Kitsap, where the quality was good and where she had established friendships.  But ultimately having her go where she wanted to be was what was in her best interest, and she thrived.

What are your top five objectives if elected to the Board? 

First – Develop a shared vision, focus and strategy for the district that is derived
from the community and meets the needs of all students.  This shared vision will be used to guide all decisions and funding priorities.  Establish a “dashboard” of key measures that are reported regularly and show performance toward district  goals. Potential dashboard measures are: percentage of classes at contract levels, instructional hours, results of surveys of families going to other districts, graduation rates, test scores, categorical program effectiveness, backlog of facility maintenance, and levy dollar expenditures by program.

Second – Advocate for the passage of the levy.  This funding represents 22% of the district revenue.  It’s too important.

Third – Improve transparency where all perspectives and impacts are considered before decisions are made.  Primarily, this will be done by asking good questions and contributing to board discussions.  In my opinion, the decision is not made until those in the audience at the board meeting understand why the decision was made.

Fourth – Engage the community. Re-establish community board committees to gather important community input on district programs.  Two potential committees are: district wide committee on improving music and art programs and levy scoping.

Fifth – Measure board effectiveness with an annual survey based on the standards as defined by WSSDA, which are provide responsible governance, have high goals for student learning, create conditions for success, hold district accountable to meet expectations, and engage community and represent their values.

What would be your highest educational priorities for our school district?

My highest educational priorities for the district are: ensuring that we have success for all students.  Not all children are high achievers or college bound.  Not all students love music, art or athletics.  One solution does not work for all students.  I would like the district to provide learning experiences that capture the passions of all students.  I would like the district where 100% earn their high school diploma.  I would like to be surrounded by a community of engaged and active people who are living life with joy and sharing that joy with their neighbors.

I realize that this response is not very concrete, because I am not a practitioner of education.  I am a chemical engineer and a leader.  In my future board member role, I will be one voice in five that provides vision, hires and evaluates the superintendent, approves the hiring of staff, and approves the budgets that have been prepared by the staff.  I expect the district administration, teachers and staff – the education practitioners—to create and operate our educational system.   As a board member, I will fund programs that are effective in meeting the districts mission and educational objectives.  I will promote the use of measures to build understanding so that we know what works and can reproduce it.

What do you believe are the purposes and responsibilities of School Board Directors?

The purpose and responsibility of school board directors is set by Washington State laws.  Schools boards are the governance structure set by the state to manage public funds.  The WSSDA is the professional organization that ensures the elected representatives have the education and resources needed to succeed.  Ultimately, the board’s purpose, and mine as a board member, is to be good stewards of the public money the state has provided to North Kitsap School District to educate the students living within our boundaries.  According to the Quality Education Council, this money is used to:

  • Provide Basic Education, which is defined as developing knowledge and skills to prepare students for post-secondary education, gainful employment (or be legal income earners) and citizenship.  I added the words in parentheses, because I found “gainful employment” to be too limited.  I don’t think employment is the only way to be successful.
  • Eliminate the achievement gap for minorities and disadvantaged.
  • Reduce student drop-out rates.

In order to accomplish the above, the school board sets vision and focus, hires and evaluates the superintendent, approves district staff, establishes a budget and engages the community.

How do you see balancing the concerns of individual constituency groups for the greater good of the district?

Balancing the concerns of individual constituency groups is simple in concept, but more difficult in practice because of the limitations of resources.  The concept is simple. First, consider all perspectives and impacts of the change or decision.  Second, communicate the diversity of the perspectives and communicate what the anticipated impacts will be.  Third, decide and vote for action that is in the best interest of the district as a whole.  Lastly, follow up with evaluation and measures of the effectiveness to ensure that the districts objectives are being met.   Ideally, following this approach will systematically result in a system where everyone is satisfied and everyone is contributing to a system that is succeeding in its mission.

What are the top three educational reforms or district initiatives that you believe would most improve teaching and learning in our schools?

The top three education reforms or initiative that I believe will most improve teaching and learning are:

  • Teacher and Principal Evaluation.  While this system is labor intensive, it provides a rich set of information based on objective evidence that can be used to improve teaching.  Quality of instruction produces good educational outcomes.  Implementing this will allow NK to systematically develop better teachers, which is good for everyone.  As with any evaluation system, beware of attaching high consequences in the name of accountability.  A good evaluation system that delivers actionable information to teachers to improve skills and outcomes will be adopted for the individual’s intrinsic reward.
  • Common Core.  This will establish national standards and non-proprietary, free curriculum and materials.  In my world view, Common Core will free-up teacher’s limited time and attention to focus on day-to-day, student-by-student assessment and intervention and learning.
  • I reserve this third choice for later.  While I have been working hard to become knowledgeable about education, it is a very complex system and I am still learning.  Thankfully, the educational system is designed and operated by the district staff.  So for this third reform or initiative, I say that I am listening and open to understand all reforms and initiatives.  If they are getting repeatable and measureable results, then let’s work to deploying them for more benefit system-wide.

Are there areas within the NKSD budget where you believe too much or too little money is being spent?  If so, where and why?

I do not know where too much or too little money is being spent.  I think the better question is how can the district be doing things differently to better use the funding to accomplish our goals?

I participated on the budget committee last year and had the benefit of exploring the district budget and where the district has come from.  The reality is that the budget has been shrinking for the last six years.  The approach to the budget cuts was to look at expenditures line-by-line and cut.  This resulted in significant decreases in central administrative staff, less teachers, specialists spread too thin, Spectrum is gone, facility maintenance ignored, art nearly gone, less course choices for HS and fund balance depleted.  The committee realized that continued cutting in the same line-by-line manner will be un-connected and in-effective.  The committee devised and conducted a survey to identify the community priorities to better focus on what needs to be done not on what can be cut.  This was a first step, and I would like to continue that work and develop a community driven vision and focus.  Once this is established, the district staff can be challenged to design systems and programs that use the limited resources to meet the defined objectives.

Are there any specific changes that you want to make to the courses, programs, or curriculum offered in our district?  If so, what and why?

I don’t have specific changes to courses, programs or curriculum.  In concept, I would support changes that would better match community interests, our current environment and the society that we live in and meet our educational objectives.

But I have brainstormed a list of potential changes, based on my own world view.  I make no claim that these are good ideas.  Please note, that actual changes will be carefully considered before implementation.  –

  • More opportunities for visual and performing arts and creativity – dancing!
  • The shipyard just announced that it is hiring 1000 people.  NKSD should be developing the knowledge and skills in students that this local employer needs and wants.
  • Career and Technical Education has the requirement to stay relevant with the changes in technology and jobs by program reviews and participation from the related career communities.  I encourage that other course offerings model this approach to stay relevant.
  • Learning based in competency as opposed to accomplishing a set amount of work.  Ideally, this could be paced for each individual student and not by the calendar.
  • Opportunities for self-designed study for credit that takes advantage of our local community competencies and talent matched with student interests.
  • Take advantage of societal shift towards healthy food.  Emphasize vegetable consumption and reduce sugar and carbohydrate consumption. Encourage local production of food.
  • Participatory sports and activities for the joy of life-long participation and not necessarily optimized for the identification of talent.  Triathlon.  CrossFit. P90X. Ultimate Frisbee. Open water swimming.
  • Flipped classes where the homework is to watch videos of lectures and the class work is spent on interaction with groups and teachers working with students to advance understanding.
  • Building adolescents that are resilient, and strong to avoid dangerous behaviors.  Suicide prevention.  WEB at KMS. 40 Developmental Assets. Yoga. Driver skills and training – based on car handling at the “edge-of-adhesion.”
  • Mobilize to improve our environment.  Help eradicate invasive plant species that are threatening our forests. Understand storm-water run-off and the hazards to local waterways.
  • Build safer communities by making personal connections rather than building secure fortresses.

What do you see as the school district’s role in supporting and educating students from high poverty, English Language Learners, and students with unique learning challenges?

It’s in the district’s education mission to close the education gap for students from poverty and for English Language Learners.  Additionally, special education students and students with unique learning challenges (not in special education) must be educated.  Categorical funding is provided for these purposes and must be accounted for by law.  It is the district’s responsibility to use that funding in a manner that serves these needs.  I expect that the district would be able to provide educational solutions that are effective.  I expect the district to be improving and adjusting their educational solutions to make them more effective, based on collected measures and facts.

My response is more general that I would like it to be.  As a board member, I will work with program administrators to better understand the programs and help advocate for improvements.

Kicking off the Campaign to the General Election

Firstly, a look at the precinct-by-precinct vote counts results of the primary election, I am humbled and encouraged that NKSD voters gave me winning totals in 32 of the 36 precincts.  Thank you for your support.

Looking forward to the general election, I pledge to get around to talking to as many of you as possible between now and then.  I want your input about what you need and what you want to see in our school district.  Your input will be used to develop community-driven strategies to build learning experiences for all of our students.  Two of the themes that I have heard so far are:

Communication for transparency and to engage the community –district actions need to be understood by the community and the district needs to understand what the community needs and values.

Smaller class sizes – in elementary grades this is important to engage all student and in secondary grades this is important to offer a diverse, variety of classes and activities including music, art and athletics.

I look forward to hearing and learning more so I can have a strong basis to guide my work with NKSD. — Beth Worthington