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.
For Position 4, parent activist Natalie Wimberly is challenging incumbent Leslie Harbaugh, who is seeking a second term. We asked them these questions; their answers have been lightly edited for length.
Why are you running again for school board?
I really learned about what the need is for the schools and students and believe we have put great programs in place where we can continue to learn and grow the work and close the opportunity gaps. I want to provide what our students need. I want to continue the good work we have started. Today’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is not the PTA of the past. It really is a robust, non-profit organization that exists within our schools. When I served on the various board, one of the things I tried to bring to the table is to look at the systems in place, things that could be addressed, provided a more sustainable and consistent system. I also wanted to create relationships with parent groups and buildings.
What skillsets do you bring to the school board?
I would say the biggest piece of experience I gained was through parent-council. I was on it for nearly ten years and it was a great place to learn about the needs of our students and parent concerns. Co-chairing the capital measure campaign in 2014 gave me the ability to go out to the community, just grass-roots and getting to learn about what the community felt about the schools and what they felt the priorities were.
What is your background?
I have been a prolific volunteer since my daughter attended the district K-12. I have been a part of the parent-district council and then was also a coach here for the 2014 capital measure for the school. Throughout all of that time and experience I realized I acquired a lot of knowledge and felt I could add value to the school board so that is why I ran four years ago.
If re-elected, what do you hope to accomplish?
As much as we love our interim superintendent Dr. Jarvis, who has done some wonderful things for our district, we are going to find a new long-term superintendent. The second thing is, we are going to be looking at our strategic plan. We do have a really good strategic plan, but it does need to be updated. I want a plan that not only reflects the values of the schools, but of the community. The other piece that would be really great to accomplish is our board calendar. We should set up more consistent monitoring processes for our board programs and initiatives. Also, our classrooms are growing and we are delighted to have the support of the community to entrust us with their tax dollars so we can finally address the overcrowding issues in our elementary schools.
Any other comments?
We have a really great district and have a lot to be proud of. We of course have opportunity gaps and this board is very aware of the gaps. We have been working hard to address them in a meaningful way. We want to create a system that will live beyond and support all the students. I would love to hear from experts about the mental health and substance abuse of our kids. We need to figure out the ‘why.’
Why are you running for school board?
Having spent so many years as a military family, we’ve become accustomed to frequent moves. We moved to Gig Harbor in 2017. I found that volunteering in schools not only helped our children with those transitions, but allowed me to build a unique and better skillset for public education. I didn’t want to just live here, I wanted to be a part of the community. My experience beyond the bridge will help transition our school board to a stronger, more proactive position. I am running to support the school board’s strength (teachers, programs, families) and address the challenges (Lack of strategic and facilities planning, substance abuse). I am excited to develop policies and programs that will benefit and support students and teachers.
Is this your first time running for public office?
What skillsets would you bring to the school board?
My experience comes from volunteering and working abroad and all over the country. I have worked in areas that address school funding and capital projects, fostering partnerships between schools and the community, and even developing programs through career technical education. Those are all areas that are in need here. I have always had a heart for serving my community.
What is your background?
I have three kids who are currently attending Peninsula Schools. I have worked as a classroom parent, teacher support, I have also been a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president and through that role was asked to take on a position as a community liaison. That means I served as an advisor to the superintendent and helped the district identify areas that we could strengthen. I have worked with developing programs through career and technical education. I worked to help develop an aviation program and that is something I want to bring here.
If elected, what do you hope to accomplish?
My goal is to be accessible and communicative with our community members. We have the opportunity to be more active in our schools. Community engagement is crucial to the strength of our school and the well-being of our students. The board should serve as that link between the district and the people. We have a lack of strategic and facility planning and that is something I would like to address. Our kids are struggling with substance abuse and there are safety related concerns that I would like to address immediately.
Any other comments?
I want to work with our community and technical education offerings. Building college- and career-ready students has been a mantra of schools everywhere for years, but I think that is largely remained on the college-prep side of that. It is vitally important that we provide top-notch classes and instructions to prepare students for career pathways.