The Peninsula School District is saddled with a misfortune: a clique of single-issue tax opponents who will battle nearly any school improvement measure on the ballot.
They helped defeat school construction measures in 2011, 2013 and 2014. The district’s population is growing, and some of its schools are antiquated and overcrowded – but voters haven’t invested in them since 2003.
Yet the tax rate for local schools is low and would have remained relatively low even had a capital measure passed.
While the Peninsula School Board has made missteps, such as doubling up a levy and bond issue on last August’s ballot, it’s made good-faith efforts to listen to citizens; tailor the ballot measures accordingly; and educate the public on the need for more classrooms, science labs and technology.
Given the crisis and controversy, fights over board positions were inevitable. Three candidates have filed in District 1 and another three in District 2, triggering primary elections that will be decided Aug. 4.
▪ In District 1 – the Key Peninsula – the school board’s president, Matthew Wilkinson, faces a challenge from Marcia Harris and Audra Garcia. Garcia, a school bus driver, did not participate in our candidate interviews, and we don’t have enough information to assess her candidacy.
Both Wilkinson and Harris are excellent candidates. Wilkinson’s commitment to the schools is obvious. He’s a computer network administrator who works at the naval base in Bangor.
We favor Harris, by a hair, because of her vast experience in school administration. She retired in 2012 from a 37-year career that included 11 years as deputy superintendent of the Peninsula School District.
She was known for tight fiscal management. Her financial expertise would provide further evidence that the district’s schools are in good hands.
▪ District 4 – Artondale and Fox Island – is seeing an intense battle over the open seat being vacated by Harlan Gallinger.
This is another choice of strong candidates.
Leslie Harbaugh is a former PTA leader and dedicated volunteer who co-chaired last year’s capital campaigns. Garth Jackson is a veteran engineer who is 12 years into a second career as a math and science teacher. Zachary Smith is a former naval officer who manages Evergreen Eye Center’s ophthalmology clinics.
Each is a good prospect for the board. We believe Harbaugh’s public advocacy and extensive involvement in the schools give her an edge in this exceptional field.
Two other seats, in Districts 2 and 3, will not be decided in the primary.