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Voters say ‘Yes!’ to Bremerton schools again

Assistant Superintendent Linda Jenkins, left, and board member Vicki Collins hug as Citizens for Good Schools volunteer Walt Connolly looks on. Schools officials and volunteers celebrated a ‘Yes’ vote on the district’s levy Tuesday. - Photob by Sean Janssen
Assistant Superintendent Linda Jenkins, left, and board member Vicki Collins hug as Citizens for Good Schools volunteer Walt Connolly looks on. Schools officials and volunteers celebrated a ‘Yes’ vote on the district’s levy Tuesday.
— image credit: Photob by Sean Janssen

Bremerton schools are a winner once again.

Just nine months after passing a bond measure providing for add-ons to its secondary schools, school officials and volunteers celebrated another victory provided by voters Tuesday night when the first results from a vote on the district’s renewal levy were posted on the county auditor’s Web site.

The tally was 64 percent in favor of the levy according to results posted Thursday afternoon, one point higher than Tuesday’s initial count.

The levy, which must be renewed on a four-year cycle, pays for much of the schools’ everyday costs, teachers to keep classroom sizes small, elective classes, the arts and athletics.

The levy will continue at an estimated rate of $2.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value, compared to $3.10 previously.

Its success is a signal to school administrators that the community is pleased with the direction the schools are headed in.

“We are very grateful to the voters for saying ‘Keep moving, go forward,’” said Superintendent Bette Hyde. “We’re very excited we can move forward.”

Hyde said she spoke with other superintendents via phone immediately after results were first announced, to share in the joy that must have been felt countywide. North Kitsap, Central Kitsap and South Kitsap schools’ levies all had percentages above the 60 percent threshold needed to pass following the first count.

A combined effort among local districts in promoting the levies appeared to have done the trick.

“I believe the schools working together was something that was very beneficial,” said Lori Whybark, librarian for Kitsap Lake Elementary School. “All over the county that you went, there were reminders. So I think people had a very firm idea of what was going on with this vote.”

Whybark and fellow elementary school librarians waited for the results with perhaps a bit more interest than almost anyone else gathered for a dinner party to await the totals. Budget cuts due to declining enrollment were cause for sacrifices among the librarians this year and with the levy monies comes hope that the libraries will soon be back to business as usual.

“We know that if it hadn’t passed, there would be a big reduction in library services,” Whybark said. “We’re hoping now some of the funds will go for some technology improvements. We are working on teaching kids some new (technology) skills but we need the equipment for them to work with.”

“This will mean a restoration of our library budgets and our library staff,” said Janice Bjorke, the librarian at Crownhill Elementary.

Citizen volunteers were also excited to see their efforts made good with the passage of the levy.

“Things have improved considerably and I just didn’t want that to stop,” said Annie Darbonne, who co-chaired the Citizens For Good Schools committee, which organized the campaign for the levy, along with Naval Avenue Elementary librarian Julie Wasserburger. “This is a whole different district from six years ago.”

Fellow committee member Walt Connolly sees a school system that is starting to flourish as well.

“It’s gratifying to know that we’ve passed a bond and levy in the same year. That’s never been done before,” Connolly said. “In 32 years living in Bremerton, this is the best I’ve seen the schools. There is quality leadership … teachers, administration and parents bringing us back to being the pride of Puget Sound. The pieces are starting to fall together.

“The cream is starting to rise to the top again with the revitalization of Bremerton and now the revitalization of our schools.”

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