Bremerton School Board member Mitchell resigns without explanation

Louis Mitchell, a Bremerton School Board member known for raising tough and sometimes unpopular questions, announced Thursday without explanation he will resign his seat.

The resignation was announced in a letter dated Wednesday to district supporters. Although the reason for the resignation was not made explicit in the letter, Mitchell wrote he postponed his decision to avoid interfering with the district's levy renewal campaign.

Contacted Thursday, Mitchell declined to clarify the reasons for his departure, but he said the matter would be broached at the board's next meeting, Feb. 18.

"It's true," Mitchell said of his resignation. "And it is on the agenda."

Mitchell said he wouldn't likely explain his reasons then, either.

In his letter, Mitchell explained the lessons he has learned in the various leadership positions he has held.

"High functioning Boards check the temptation that those in leadership know what is best, instead seeking meaningful counsel from those we serve and employ," Mitchell wrote. "District leadership would do well to study and adopt year-round interest- based dialogue with staff and the public in order to maximize citizen input in governance decisions."

Superintendent Lester "Flip" Herndon said he was notified by Mitchell in writing "a little while ago," and the district would follow standard procedures.

Herndon said he has "a good working relationship" with the board.

"People who know Louis know he's his own person, like most people are," Herndon said.

Although Mitchell conducted himself with an air of formality, he was often a blunt voice on the board, unafraid to voice criticism of the district.

Parent Colleen Smidt, who sits on the district's Finance Committee and writes a community column for the Bremerton Patriot, praised Mitchell as a loss for students.

Smidt said she didn't know Mitchell's reasons, but said Mitchell wasn't afraid of standing up for what he believed.

"He was experiencing a certain level of frustration," Smidt said. "For those of us who serve, there is a point when you have served as much as you can and a point when you have to step back. I quite honestly feel he has taken that step back."

Although Smidt praised Mitchell for his grasp of issues and finances facing the district, she said his character made him an invaluable asset.

"If that means he takes the hard road that means he takes the hard road," she said.

Mitchell is one of two holdovers — Vicki Collins is the other — who served on the board during the tenure of former superintendent Bette Hyde. Herndon assumed the post in July 2009.

The board voted by 4-1 count in February 2009 to hire an outside agency, Northwest Leadership Associates, to assist the district in its search for Hyde's replacement, and Mitchell was the lone board member to vote against the idea.

Mitchell held Position No. 2 on the board and his term expires in 2011.

He has served on various committees for the district for the past 10 years, his resignation letter said.

-Bremerton Patriot staff members Wesley Remmer and Andrew Binion compiled this report.

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