Peninsula school board welcomes new member, elects officers

Academics: Committee to be formed to redraw boundaries for coming school year

of the GatewayDecember 11, 2013 

Newly elected school board member David Olsen, left, prepares for his first meeting on Thursday at Henderson Bay High School. Harlan Gallinger, right, was elected president of the board.

KAREN MILLER/GATEWAY PHOTO

The Peninsula School District’s Board of Directors has a new member and a new president.

Harlan Gallinger was elected president, succeeding Wendy Wojtanowicz, and David Olson was sworn in as a new member during Thursday’s meeting at Henderson Bay High School.

“Take care of that, Harlan,” Wojtanowicz said as she passed the gavel. “Use it carefully.”

Wojtanowicz will remain on the board. She and Gallinger were elected in unopposed races in November, and voters chose Olson over incumbent Rick Jones.

In the coming year, the board will begin the process of redistricting students due to overcrowding. Classrooms, mostly at the elementary level, are at near capacity, and the board worries an influx of families at new apartment buildings will push the district to its limit.

Board member Rand Wilhelmsen thinks a new school is still necessary, despite the failure to acquire levy money in November.

“We’re going to run out of time,” Wilhelmsen said. “We’d better get ready and get prepared.”

Redistricting would be a first step before a new space could be built. Matt Wilkinson and Wojtanowicz volunteered to help put together a redistricting committee.

“We’ll get you T-shirts with bull’s-eyes on them,” Peninsula School District Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto joked.

The school district views redistricting as a necessary step to relieve overcrowding. It would mean moving students to schools with more room and could mean longer bus rides for some.

“I’ve always been a proponent of the sooner we get started, the further we’ll be along when people get hit,” Wilhelmsen said.

The committee will be formed at the start of the new year in order to prepare for the 2014-15 school year that kicks off next September.

The committee likely will be made up of board members, school district staff members and community volunteers. The district will ask for volunteers and make sure there’s a balance of opinions from the pool of candidates.

There’s also the possibility of going back to voters for assistance, in the way of either a levy or a bond. The board directed Cuzzetto and his staff to come up with three or four ideas. Those will come to the board in January.

It was a quite a meeting to start Olson’s tenure. He has previously served on the board for the Gig Harbor/Peninsula FISH Food Bank, but schools is a little different, he said.

“First night, a little nerves,” he said of his first meeting. “But I’m looking forward to (being on the board).”

Olson said he wants to find more ways to get parents involved. With the upcoming community input on bonds, levies and new boundaries, that will likely happen.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. “I really appreciate the back-and-forth with the community.”

The school district also earned board approval for a property acquisition at Harbor Hill. The move to get the property previously had been approved by the board, but Cuzzetto said the school district’s attorney saw there was not approval for the final move. The board approved it.

“We would have obviously done this in November, had we known the resolution was required,” Cuzzetto said.

Cuzzetto also gave a presentation regarding the information gleaned in community meetings about the levy failure last month. His general themes, derived from input, were either to run another campaign for money, listen to voters, start moving forward with a plan for the school district and to communicate with the community.

Jerry Gibbs, of Citizens for Responsible School Spending, often referred to as the “no campaign” during the election, commended the board for holding meetings to seek input. He said his group has ideas and hopes the board will bring them into the process.

Gibbs said he thinks the public-input meetings held at school buildings were full of people who agreed with the school district — “choir members,” he called them — and didn’t have a diversity of opinion.

Gallinger gave a short presentation regarding early education. He recently returned from the Washington State School District Association conference. He asked the board to consider steps to fund more education prior to students entering kindergarten. He said that’s the way to close the achievement gap and boost high school graduation rates.

The board will holds its retreat at 4 p.m. on Jan. 9. It will be followed by a board meeting at 6 p.m. at the district office, 14015 62nd Ave. NW, Gig Harbor.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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