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Business community bankrolling campaign

When Westsound Bank’s David Johnson and Brett Green attended a meeting at the Silverdale Community Center in December, they were surprised to find fewer than five people, including themselves, in attendance. The meeting was an informational event for the Central Kitsap School District’s upcoming school support levy election and Johnson and Green, both of who have children attending CK schools, were alarmed at the lack of community interest.

Green, Westsound Bank’s senior vice president and division head of Westsound Mortgage, says a strong school system is necessary to attract quality educators, therefore families who would want to move in and stay in the area. Local businesses also depend on a strong educational system for quality employees.

Johnson, Westsound Bank’s president and CEO, said in light of two consecutive failures of the CKSD capital projects levy, the business community had to rally around the school’s efforts to renew the school support levy.

He also stressed the schools’ importance for a strong local economy.

“The school district is the backbone of that,” Johnson said.

“We made a commitment we’d dig into our personal pockets and promised these guys we’d get them the money to advertise the levy,” he said at a fund-raiser Thursday evening, Jan. 26.

The funds raised at that one and a Jan. 15 event, both at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club, totaled $6,000. A $500 donation followed a few days later. The money went to the levy campaign chest of the non-profit Central Kitsap Citizens for Quality Education.

Bob Bentley, CKCQE chairman, said that even though the efforts for the Feb. 7 election are wrapping up, the funds raised through Westsound Bank’s connections in the CK business community will be utilized. The dollars will help pay off bills for the 13,000 mailers, more than 800 signs, numerous advertisements placed in local newspapers including the CK Reporter, and other campaign-related expenses.

What money is left over, the group will “stash some for the next school levy campaign,” Bentley said.

Though CKCQE has conducted its own fund-raising events, Westsound Bank has served as its link to the business community, inviting some 25 of their clients and partners to the two January events. That group of business leaders was in turn encouraged to invite others to contribute.

As of last month, 14 donors had contributed. Of those, Gary Lindsey, a real estate developer from Chico invited to the first January get-together by Johnson, wrote the largest check — $2,500.

“I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer in class for my daughters and I got to see first-hand how hard the teachers work with what little resources,” Lindsey said.

His two daughters attend Central Kitsap Junior High and Central Kitsap High schools.

Lindsey says when he found out the Feb. 7 election is for an operations levy, which also is tied to “significant matching funds” and therefore accounts for 23 percent of the CKSD budget, he decided to help.

Lindsey also had worked with the district on purchasing property for a new transportation facility and other projects. That is how he met CKSD’s director of construction Richard Best and grew to appreciate his work.

“If everybody had to follow Richard Best around, they would see how frugal that is run as a business,” Lindsey said.

Even with the significant contribution on his part, the Westsound Bank’s fund-raising efforts are still short of Johnson and Green’s commitment.

“We assured (CKCQE) one way or another that they’ll have $10,000,” Green said.

Both he and Johnson remain steadfast in their effort to educate their business partners and employees, who in turn could educate more people in the community, about the importance of local schools.

“We think there needs to be an ongoing awareness about education,” Green said, stressing that future fund-raisers ought not to be limited to a wave of effort in the last weeks before an election.

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