Gateway: News

Peninsula School Board position 1: Sami Jensen, Chuck West


Five people are running for Peninsula School District Board in the Nov. 5 general election.

The new members will oversee huge projects currently underway in the district, include the building of two new elementary schools and remodeling of two existing schools, and the search for a permanent superintendent.

Here is a look at Claudia (Sami) Jensen and Chuck West, the candidates running for Position 1, which represents most of the Key Peninsula. Their answers have been lightly edited for length.

Chuck West

Why are you running for school board?

I want to create an atmosphere where kids are excited about going to school. I’ve been involved in Peninsula schools educational foundation for quite some time, probably the last ten years. We raised money to buy ukuleles and microscopes and things that will go directly to the classrooms. They are a tool to get kids excited to come to school. I really want to work on that and do some of it through shop classes, welding, auto shop, things like that that we used to have but are no longer there.

Is this your first time running for public office?

I ran for county council around ten years ago.

What skillsets would you bring to the school board?

My ability to negotiate. I am level-headed, can listen without judging, take in all the information, and make a rational decision.

What is your background?

I am currently a battalion chief at the Key Peninsula Fire Department. I am also a general contractor. I grew up in the community and went through the school system here, and graduated from Peninsula High School. Both of my boys went through the school system here. I have a lot of experience dealing with the school system. I know a lot of teachers and administrators.

If elected, what do you hope to accomplish?

Right now we are in the process of building four elementary schools. I want to make sure they are quality, economical, efficient, and made to last 50 years and on into the future. I also want to make sure I represent the Position 1 area, which will be Evergreen Elementary’s new construction, so want to make sure we get a quality school there. But I want to represent everyone in the district. I also aim to make sure we have a good superintendent. I would like that to be someone who can articulate the message to the community, is involved, and will be a good leader who will work with the teachers and administrators.

Any other comments?

I think we have a great organization to start with. I’m not going in to change a lot of things, but rather guide us in a direction I think we need to be heading. I like the idea of a magnet school and I would like the build on that as we look at developing the next middle school and improvements in the high school. This group of kids that we are building the four elementary schools for will be going through the system, so we’ll need everything on up. We will need middle school and high school improvements, so we need to be thinking for the future.

Claudia (Sami) Jensen

Why are you running for school board?

I have been attending the school board meetings for the past two years. I wanted to make sure I was an informed voter and parent when we move forward with the bond. During that time I saw some behavior that was unprofessional by some of the board members, including when we lost Rob Manahan (recent Peninsula superintendent), he asked for an executive session and was denied. The meeting was abruptly adjourned and one of the board members walked out. We don’t behave like that.

I advocated for live-streaming and that took me awhile but we finally have it in 2019 so everyone has access for what is going on at the school board. I have passion for serving kids in my community. One of the major reasons I am running for the school board is my child. One of my children was being bullied for over a year and got to the point where she was contemplating suicide. It was a huge burden.

When I told the assistant principal and told the school counselor, I never got a follow-up call, only an email saying “Thanks for the heads up, we’ll keep an eye out for her.” I contacted the assistant superintendent and forwarded him the email I received. That evening I had three people on a conference call from the school, but that could have been too late. They didn’t do enough.

Is this your first time running for public office?

Yes, it is my first time.

What skillsets would you bring to the school board?

I volunteer throughout the community and have connections and rapport with officials. I am well versed in what our community needs, attending school board meetings and volunteering at the schools. I am a well-rounded person who can bring value to not only the school board but the community and our kids.

What is your background?

I’ve been a longtime volunteer in the Key Peninsula at Red Barn Youth. I am currently also a land-use advisory commissioner for the Key Peninsula. I’ve been married to my best friend for over 20 years. He is currently the fire and parks commissioner. We have been committed to this community for a long time, and want to be the change and step up.

If elected, what do you hope to accomplish?

I want to see us improving on the mental health of our students, and pick the best selection for our superintendent. I want to make sure we have a person who is knowledgeable and ready to run. Besides building the new schools, I hope to bring in new programming and introduce a foreign language at the elementary level. We have technology and community partners we can use and reach out to and ask them to teach in our schools.

Any further comments?

I hope I can bring forward my knowledge and offer more diversity into the school board. I want to make sure kids are not bullied and there are more consequences for the ones who are bullying. We need to make sure we are taking care of our kids, including their mental health.