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State to cut funding for CKSD mentor programs

From left, Central Kitsap teen mentors Chris Foust, Marie Salva, Dynasty Poe and Surumpa Jettana eat lunch Tuesday at Olympic High School.  - Tom James/staff photo
From left, Central Kitsap teen mentors Chris Foust, Marie Salva, Dynasty Poe and Surumpa Jettana eat lunch Tuesday at Olympic High School.
— image credit: Tom James/staff photo

A Central Kitsap School District program that connects elementary students with high school mentors will be cut from the 2012 state budget, according to officials.

Mary Ellen de la Pena, a county planner, said two similar programs are slated to be cut as well, but declined to say which CKSD programs would be cut.

The CK Teen Mentor program’s annual contract with the county was renewed Sept. 26 by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. Through the contract, the school district receives $10,000 in state funds from the Department of Social and Health Services. That contract, along with two others for similar programs, will not be renewed next year, said de la Pena

De la Pena did not name the other two programs that faced cuts because her office had not formally notified them yet.

One, de la Pena said, is another school district’s mentoring program. The third is a county parent and family education program, she said.

All are programs funded by the state with the long-term goal of reducing substance abuse prevention, de la Pena said.

Jeni Zapatka, a school district specialist charged with overseeing the CKSD program, said her office found out about the cut earlier this year.

With the school district as a whole facing a $5.8 million cut this year, Zapatka said she’s not sure where money will be found to continue the program.

In existence since 1994, Zapatka said in the 2011-2012 school year the program has connected about 100 high school mentors with CK elementary students. After taking part in a five-hour training, the mentors spend an hour a week with the younger students.

The program, Zaptka said, is not focused on academic tutoring. Instead, Zapatka said, mentors are taught to focus on their mentees’ strengths. Still, she said, after time in the program mentees usually show improvement across the board.

“Having just one more person who thinks a student is special leads to academic improvement,” Zapatka said.

Getting 100 mentors for an entire year for $10,000 dollars, Zapatka said, “it’s a very economical investment in the kids, for what we receive.”

According to the program’s county contract, the program was only expected to include about 30 to 50 mentors.

The Central Kitsap School District organizes two other mentor programs, Zapatka said, for adult and peer mentors, that will not be affected by the cuts.

The end of last fiscal year saw cuts in funds to two similar programs, de la Pena said. North Kitsap School District’s Teen Mentor Program and CKSD Fairview Homework Club both lost funds from the same agency.

The Fairview program served about 25 elementary students out of a portable building on the grounds of Olympic High School.

Both programs are now gone, de la Pena said.

Those cuts were not the result of a reduced budget, said Michael Langer, a State Department of Social and Health Services administrator. It was a shift in state funding priorities, he said.

Instead of trying to spread a small amount of money across the county, Langer said the new plan focuses the same amount of money on two towns in Kitsap County that need it most.

“We had this sort of shotgun approach,” Langer said. “Real change requires larger investment in fewer areas.”

The same process, Langer said, has already begun elsewhere in the state, and will continue until counties statewide have been included. In Kitsap, the state will decide which three to five towns need the funds most, and county officials will choose the two to receive the funds.

As to where programs that found themselves left out of that investment were supposed to get their funds, Langer said counties are going to have to find that money themselves. Some, he noted, have imposed a local sales tax.

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