David Olson and Curt Carroll are challenging incumbent Rick Jones for a seat on the Peninsula School District’s board of directors, and they met Thursday morning to speak about their campaigns during the weekly public affairs forum at Cottesmore of Life Care in Gig Harbor.
Jones was not able to attend the forum but was reached Friday in a separate interview.
Carroll, a regional sales director at TNT Fireworks, moved to Gig Harbor in 2002. He expressed his desire to make the school board more responsive and efficient.
“I’m doing this because I want to do something for the children,” he said. “I want to take an opportunity to bring it down to parents and students, instead of parents and students having to go to the school board.”
Jones disagreed with Carroll’s assessment of the board.
“We’ve been reaching out very well,” Jones said. “We’re always at all the sporting events, different events at schools, dropping in seeing principals, teachers, schools in the community, so I feel like myself and the other school board members are really hands-on. We like to feel the pulse of the community, the kids, and the parents.”
Olson, a retired Navy officer, currently works as a branch manager at U.S. Bank in Tacoma. He worked as a community service director for the Navy while he was stationed on Whidbey Island in 1995. He believes his experience will translate well if he’s elected to the school board.
“In my military career, I worked with and developed young people,” he said.
“The school board needs to set the expectation that all our kids will be successful.”
Olson also called for increased responsiveness from the board.
“My slogan is ‘Bridging the gap,’ ” Olson said. “My goal is to listen to all sides and make a decision.”
Carroll believes successful academic performance and higher test scores will stem from increased parent involvement.
“It starts with the parents,” Carroll said. “School is not just a place to drop the kids off from 9 to 5. How do we affect the parents? It starts at the home. We need to educate the parents. Kids need to be pushed. We’re falling behind internationally.”
One of Carroll’s ideas to affect change at the grassroots level is to hold question-and-answer sessions before school functions, instead of afterward, when parents are tired after a day at work and are less likely to be involved with the school board.
“At band concerts or events, we could be there for a meet-and-greet at 5 instead of after,” Carroll said. “We’d interact with the parents instead of just reaching out through surveys.”
Jones said he believes the survey the school board conducted this year was a success and was one of the many attempts the board made to reach out to families.
“Sometimes people will be afraid to come to you with an issue,” Jones said. “We just wanted to make sure we’re being approachable and hearing the issues. They can also come to the school board. I think there’s a lot of different avenues, and I feel like we’re really in touch.”
Olson called for the school board and administrators to work together to help prepare students for their futures.
“Parents, the administration and the board all need to work together,” he said. “Children are the future, and educating them should be our first priority. They’re going to be running businesses someday. Students today need to be focused on how to enter the workforce. They should all be given the same opportunities to succeed.
“If we forget about the children, our country will suffer in the long run.”
Despite his challengers’ calls for change, Jones said the school board is running smoothly.
“I feel like this board works very well together,” Jones said. “There are five of us on the board with very diverse backgrounds — politically, religiously, socially. We’re able to bring a lot of different viewpoints, yet we are able to get along and work for the kids.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he added. “We’re able to come to decisions very well.”
The primary election will be held Aug. 6. The top two candidates in all races will advance to the general election in November.