Lawyer whose wife is an educator seeks school board seat

His career rarely intertwines with education, but Gregory Wall has always had an interest in South Kitsap schools.

After all, his wife, Shirley, who assists students with reading and math at East Port Orchard Elementary School, has been an educator in the South Kitsap School District for years.

Wall, 61, is running for the District 5 school board position, which encompasses Sidney, McCormick Woods, Burley and Olalla. He said he’s been involved with local schools through volunteer activities, such as the Instructional Materials Committee and campaigning for the passage of levies.

“I’ve always been interested in educational policy,” Wall said. “Really, the backbone of our community and entire democracy is education.”

His interest in policy extends beyond education. Wall’s law firm — Wall Liebert & Lund — is located on Southeast Piperberry Way. A 1978 graduate of the Gonzaga University School of Law, he handles a variety of litigation with an emphasis on civil cases. Wall said he has tried cases in 15 counties in Washington state.

“That’s just the nature of trial practice,” he said. “You travel a lot.”

Wall said he does not anticipate his career affecting his ability to attend SKSD’s weekly meetings too often, though. He said he occasionally will have a case that requires him to leave the area “for a week or two at a time.”

One similarity between the positions is reading. Wall said making time for that is not an issue, pointing out shelves lined with white binders.

“We plan to buy stock in this white-notebook company because we have a lot of it around here,” he said, laughing.

Wall, who unsuccessfully ran for Kitsap County Superior Court judge in 2008, said he has no problem vocally supporting a position — and challenging others.

“I argue with people I disagree with all of the time,” he said. “It’s what I do.”

But Wall also said there is a difference between the courtroom and school board.

“You have to kind of compromise, discuss things and be persuasive in a nice way,” he said. “You also have to learn how to shut your mouth if you’re the minority.”

Wall, whose three sons all graduated from South, said he likes most of what he sees in the district.

“They’re pretty strong financially in terms of using their resources effectively,” he said. “Our school district hasn’t laid anyone off, which is pretty good.

“In terms of community involvement, they’ve been really good about that.”

One area where Wall said SKSD could improve is its long-term financial planning. At its April 20 meeting, board president Kathryn Simpson said an audit revealed that SKSD’s fund balance could sustain the district for 34 days without state subsidies.

The state average was 61 days.

“Maybe the capital aspect could stand a little more attention,” Wall said.

He said SKSD also needs to pass a bond as some of its schools are falling into disrepair.

It is just one challenge SKSD — and other districts — face. Last December, the state House and Senate passed legislation that encompassed a $50 million reduction from local schools. Wall said he fears schools will take another substantial funding hit again this year.

“The biggest problem is the legislature because I don’t know where they’re going to come up with these other cuts from,” he said.

Wall, who attended high school in New Jersey before moving to Washington when he was stationed here with the Army in the 1970s, also has an interest in state and national education testing, such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates that testing scores must improve every year for all children.

“It’s an idea where you’re applying business principles to education,” Wall said. “Education is not a business — and education is more collaborative.

“I think I would like to see a little less emphasis on testing.”

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