News

School district configuration forum draws few attendees

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Central Kitsap School District Superintendent Greg Lynch didn’t bother taking attendance at a Monday night public forum on district reconfiguration. Not that it would have taken him very long — only a handful of parents and community members showed up.

“I see that at least 25 percent of our audience is comprised of our staff, which was here earlier today,” Lynch noted at the outset of the forum.

“It looks like a little less than about 20 or so (members of the public are in attendance),” he said later on.

The meeting was the district’s first foray into discussing with the public what could be sweeping changes to school configuration and the possible closure of one or more schools in 2009. District officials presented a package of five options for reconfiguration that the secondary configuration committee unveiled last week. The options were reached using a fairly complex scoring system that ranked 16 total reconfiguration options.

Despite the forum’s weighty subject matter, the turnout was hardly surprising to school district officials who struggled last year to communicate meeting times and decision deadlines to parents in the district. Lynch implored those in attendance to share the information they had received with their friends and colleagues who had kids in CKSD schools.

“This is the first school board meeting we’ve been to, so I can’t criticize anyone,” said Michelle Byrnes, a parent of several students at Brownsville Elementary and Ridgetop Junior High, who came to the meeting with a few of kids and her husband, Bryan.

Lynch wasn’t too concerned with the turnout, recalling last year’s school closure meetings when similar meetings yielded similar numbers.

“I think it’s good when the community comes out,” he said of those who were in attendance. “People will be more engaged as time goes on.”

A few were plenty engaged Monday night, however.

Lynch was on the defensive with one pair of CKSD parents, following the meeting.

“Mr. Lynch, I am not gonna bounce my kids around,” Cas Taylor, a mother of two kids in CKSD schools, said.

Taylor and her children weathered last year’s closing of Seabeck Elementary.

“I’ve been through this before,” she said. “I know you’ve already made a decision.”

When Lynch asked her what that decision was, Taylor responded: “I don’t know what you’re gonna come up with (in terms of configuration) but you’re gonna close something.”

Still others were just there for information. The Byrnes family was fully ready for a school closure and agreed with most of the district’s analysis of lagging finances and enrollment.

“I think it’s a good decision (to close a school),” Bryan Byrnes said.

Parents may forever be split on school closure, but those in attendance could at least agree on one thing: The current configuration system needs to go.

During an informal survey conducted by Lynch, only one parent raised her hand indicating that she’d be in favor of keeping CKSD in its current configuration. No one voted in favor of a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 configuration.

The most popular configurations appeared to be a K-6, 7-8, 9-12 model or a K-6, 7-8, 9-12 and 7-12 model, where two high schools would be 9-12 and one secondary school (Klahowya, most likely) would be 7-12. Both those configurations got around 11 votes.

Those numbers were hardly scientific, however, and the district has a long way to go before any decision is reached.

Lynch plans to present a package of configuration recommendations to the school board during the Feb. 27 board meeting.

District officials hope to have a joint school configuration/school closure recommendation to the board by September 2008. The earliest the board could come to a decision on the pair would be January 2009.

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