A 'supe' on the loose

New Bremerton Schools Superintendent Elizabeth “Bette” Hyde is not so new anymore.

She’s been on duty since July, and has thoroughly settled in.

But “settled in” doesn’t mean sedentary. The peripatetic super is busier than ever.

“I love my job,” said Hyde during a recent interview. That phrase plus “It’s fun” peppered her language.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time outside the (administration) building. I try to get out one day a week to watch teachers at work, ask them questions and see if they have any questions of me.”

Hyde also teaches herself. As if she didn’t have enough to do as super, she tutors a student at West Hills Elementary.

She’s been working with other administrators and the Bremerton School Board to develop goals for the district for the coming year:

• “We’re working to increase student performance on WASL,” she said, referring to the mandatory Washington Assessment of Student Learning test given annually. State legislators have decided high school grads in the class of 2008 must pass WASL to get their diplomas. Historically, Bremerton students haven’t done that well with WASL.

• She’s created a Gifted and Talented Students Task Force to focus on helping the district’s best students perform even better.

• She’s been working with small groups of teachers and principals on numerous issues.

• In the past, Hyde has said she will focus on the special needs of the children of military families, who often have to suddenly relocate when parents are transferred.

• She’s formed a Reading Task Force.

• She’s overseeing the process of creating a committee of citizens and district officials to develop a plan for a tax levy to be presented to voters in February or March.

The levy is particularly important, she said.

“In the past, the levy has made up 13.3 percent of our operating budget,” she said. “That’s $6.2 million used to hire 20 more teachers, develop extra curriculum, hire custodians, buy teaching materials and supplies.”

The district’s last levy was voted in three years ago and will run out in December.

Hyde is proud of the fact that four of the district’s seven elementaries received the governor’s Award of Reading Achievement for this year. These are Crownhill, Naval Avenue, West Hills and Armin Jahr.

“A number of these schools had been our low performers,” she added.

Additionally, Hyde is overseeing district officials going into bargaining training in preparation for upcoming contract negotiations with the Bremerton Education Association, the teachers’ union. Negotiations will take place in the spring, she said.

Outside the district, she’s been getting more and more involved in the community. She’s a member of the Interim Advisory Board for Kitsap Physicians Service; a member of the Proportionality Task Force formed by Kitsap Juvenile Detention head Ned Delmore to examine minorities in the juvenile justice system; she’s been meeting with the Kitsap County Commission on Children and Youth, and with local service clubs such as the Rotary.

She “loves” her staff.

“The employees of the district really want what’s best for the kids,” which is not always true of other districts, she said.

She’s still having a little trouble finding a home, though.

“I have a wonderful (real estate agent) who keeps showing my houses,” she said with a laugh. She said she definitely wants to live in the area in which she works as superintendent of schools, but until she finds a place, she’ll continue to commute from her home on Vashon Island.

Hyde, 56, was formerly assistant superintendent for student learning at Highline Public Schools. Other work experience includes being deputy superintendent for Puget Sound Educational Service District; assistant superintendent, superintendent pro tem, and director of student services for Vashon Island schools; and supervisor for psychological and social worker services for Seattle Public Schools.

She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and has post-Ph.D. certificates from the University of Washington, Seattle.

So filled with energy is Bremerton’s new school superintendent Betty Hyde, that her senior staffers often watch in disbelief.

“Her energy is contagious,” said Walt Draper, the district’s director of finance. “She’s been a shot in the arm for the district staff. She is positive, focused and she is keeping everybody aimed in the same direction.”

Joan Dingfield, the district’s community services coordinator, knows what that direction is.

“She has this utter belief that every child will get a good education here,” Dingfield said. “Her particular focus on student achievement and that every child regardless of background can get a good education here is a real focus she has brought.”

Dingfield said Hyde’s energy and enthusiasm reaches other government groups in Bremerton.

“She feels the school district should be working with every social service agency we have here,” Dingfield said.

Draper said Hyde’s “integrity” goes unquestioned. Meanwhile, he appreciates another of her traits.

“She asks a lot of questions,” he said. “But she appreciates the corporate history of the staff so we don’t reinvent a lot of things.”

Draper said he has watched her address many civic and fraternal groups in the city and her message is always positive.

“She is an excellent cheerleader, not just for the district but for the city,” Draper said. “She really likes it here.”

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