Central Kitsap School Board race — Schulze challenges incumbent Cathcart
By KRISTIN OKINAKA
Central Kitsap Reporter staff
October 14, 2011 · 11:35 AM
This election cycle there is one race for a seat on the Central Kitsap School Board. Jeanie Schulze is running against incumbent Christy Cathcart for the District 4 position.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Schulze began working as the volunteer coordinator for the district in 1987. It was a position supported by the current levy and her responsibilities included developing and supporting volunteer programs at the schools. One program that she helped coordinate was the PECE program where area sailors engaged with students in the classroom. The local PECE program became the model for the nationwide one, Schulze said.
“I welcomed and worked with it,” she said, adding that getting community members involved with the schools is important.
Because of two failed school district levies around 1993, funding for her volunteer coordinator position was gone but she shifted into the district’s community relations specialist position. With that job, she became the point person for media contact, drafted letters to parents and connected with community organizations. Schulze worked with the district until she retired in 2004.
“Even before, I’ve always been an advocate for schools,” Schulze said of the time prior to working at the district.
Schulze is part of CK Kids Matter, the volunteer organization that pushed for the capital projects levy that voters approved of in February. She has served on the board of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce and Paul Linder Foundation and currently serves on the Kitsap Adult Center for Education Board.
Being an active listener who contributes to thoughtful and respectful discourse is an asset, Schulze said.
“To me, now is an important time. It only comes every four years,” Schulze said. “I know looking ahead the school district would be in difficult, challenging times.”
Schulze said that at the center of making decision on budget cuts, student achievement should always come first. The school district estimates having to cut about $6.8 million from the budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
Schulze has two grown children who graduated through the district. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University.
Even though people may not always agree on issues, Schulze said it is important to be available to listen and that her parents taught her that accessibility is key. They also emphasized the importance of giving back to the community, which she strives to do, she said.
“You might say it’s just in my DNA,” Schulze added.
Cathcart first ran for the school board in 1999 and has continued to serve on the district’s board since then. The last two times she ran for the post, she did not have a challenger.
She wanted to join the school board because she felt that the board at the time was not doing an adequate job of listening to the community. In the summer of 1994 the decision was made to eliminate the swimming program because of issues surrounding Title IX and the budget, Catchcart said. Her son was on the swim team as a diver.
“What struck me was the lack of getting the stake holders involved,” Cathcart said. “They didn’t listen to get to that point.”
Cathcart and other parents helped the district identify another female sport — bowling — and raised money to keep the boys swimming program. She said at first their comments were not respectfully received by the school board.
“When a seat is available in my district, I’m going to go for it,” she recalled of her thoughts back then.
Serving on the board for 12 years, Cathcart said she has kept up with education reform and the change at the state and federal level. She’s learned more about infrastructure of the buildings.
“There are a lot of parts of education that we don’t realize until we’re in the middle of it,” she said.
With big budget cuts looming for the district, she said her experience will be useful for the board.
“We’ve made some big cuts and we’re going to have to make more,” she said. “We’re at a point, we need to have people who understand the funding model and understand how it fits together.”
Cathcart said that engaging all stake holders — parents, teachers, other community members — in discussions will help the board make the difficult decisions. She added that anything the district decides to do, should be “data driven.”
She said on the decisions to close elementary schools, they made those decisions based on information available at the time. But, now she is not sure if they have kept with the “minute time” that students spend on the school bus since they must travel further.
Catchcart is currently the director of volunteer services at Hospice of Kitsap County and has been there for 11.5 years. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Santa Clara University.
She credits that her son received an excellent education through the district and wants to ensure that continues for all children.
“I want every student in the district to receive the same,” she said.Contact Central Kitsap Reporter staff Kristin Okinaka at email@example.com or (360) 308-9161 ext. 5054.