The Peninsula School District Board of Directors has made community news for the last several years as bond and levy campaigns failed at the polls.
The three candidates for District 1 are vying to represent the area that covers the lower and central Key Peninsula.
Candidate Matt Wilkinson is the current president of the board. He is up for re-election to a third term. Challengers Marcia Harris and Audrea Garcia are first-time candidates for the position.
Harris, a Key Peninsula resident for 20 years, is a former deputy superintendent at the district with a history of organizing financial turnarounds at other districts around the state.
She has 37 years of experience in school administration as well as an MBA from University of Puget Sound and a doctorate in educational leadership from Gonzaga. Harris is currently president of the Peninsula Education Foundation.
Audra Garcia is a director on the Key Peninsula Community Council. She is also a commissioner to the Key Peninsula Land Use Board.
She lists her strong point on the voter’s guide as community service, with a resume that includes Girl Scouts, Key Peninsula Youth Council, Tacoma Swim Club, Peninsula Youth Football and Cheer, and work at Mintercreek Elementary, where her children attend school. She holds a degree in accounting and political science from Florida Atlantic University. Garcia could not be reached last week for comment.
Wilkinson was elected president of the board this year, taking over for Harlan Gallinger. He was first elected to the board in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. Professionally, Wilkinson works in the IT field and has a bachelor’s degree from Seattle University in computer science.
In the face of two failed capitol measures, candidates know that there is an issue with school funding. Wilkinson, who was on the board for the last two funding campaigns, said that capitol projects such as Artondale Elementary and a new school will need to be addressed.
He would like to see a compromise in the community that will help a capitol measure pass.
“I don’t think that the collaboration was as good as it should have been the last two times around,” Wilkinson said.
For Harris, there needs to be an acknowledgment of the large number of people in the community that do not have children in the schools.
“We need to hear their voice,” she said.
Additionally, she would like to see the district pursue public partnerships. In districts where she worked, partnerships were made with the local fire and police departments to share some equipment and save costs.
The future for the district will require out-of-the-box thinking and “looking for solutions, not jumping to conclusions,” she said.
Wilkinson wants the district to find ways to communicate the good things going on in schools to show how crucial education is to the community. After all, good students grow into good neighbors, he said.
The most rewarding part of the board job is hearing from students about community service projects, academic success and personal successes. He is proud to represent the district that is home to Key Peninsula Middle School, which boasts a well-known science program.
The Key Peninsula is a unique section of the district, Harris said, and it may get lost in the shuffle due to lower enrollment and its rural environment. Additionally, she knows school boards are about teamwork, which is necessary to set policy. It’s clear, she said, that capitol measures have not succeeded in years.
“I do believe that if you are elected to a school board, you have the responsibility to represent your director district as well as work as a team,” she said. “I think I could bring a voice from the Key Peninsula.”
Wilkinson also acknowledged that there are differences between the two peninsulas and it’s important that the Key Peninsula be heard.
“When people get forgotten about, they get angry,” he said. That’s why it’s so important to spread resources equally around the district.
District 1 is in the August primary because three candidates are running. The top two vote-getters will be up for election in November.