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School levy prevails

"For now, Jim Civilla, a member of Citizens for Quality Education and Community Leaders Affirming Support for Schools, can go back to working a regular, 40-hour-a-week job. South Kitsap High School student Kelly Evans can focus worry-free on her studies. And South Kitsap School Board Chairman Jim Huff can shake his bad mood and get a good night's sleep.An unofficial tally of the absentee ballots submitted for the South Kitsap School District's four-year, roughly $55 million levy showed 65 percent voter approval - enough to slide by with a supermajority.If the numbers hold until the Feb. 16 certification date, the South Kitsap School District will be able to reinstate programs that were eliminated after levy failures last year as well as add some new programs and positions.The Kitsap County Auditor's Office will continue counting absentee ballots as they trickle in over the next several days and will release a final count Feb. 16.About 52 percent of the 36,102 registered voters cast their ballots this year, according to unofficial Auditor's Office numbers Feb. 8. Of the 18,673 ballots counted, 12,145 were marked yes, for 65 percent of the vote, and 6,527, or 35 percent, were marked no. Of the 18,673 ballots counted, 14,799, or about 80 percent, were absentee.Despite the narrowness of the win - or perhaps because of it - school district teachers, administrators, students, parents and other supporters were jubilant at the Givens Community Center Feb. 6.At the center of it all stood Civilla, wearing a gold paper crown lettered with Levy Guy and a scepter spray painted gold. He was the glue that held all the pieces together, said Superintendent Bill Lahmann.Now that the levy work is presumably done, Civilla joked he's not going to have anything to do. I'm going to work for a living now and do my 40-hour-a-week job, he said. Everyone in this community should be proud. I'd like to thank everyone in this community.Kelly Evans, a junior at South Kitsap High School, said she spent the weeks before the election grouping together as many students as I could to make signs, hold signs. I was also in charge of calling people for rallies, she said.Evans had more than just an opportunity for community action riding on the levy. An honor roll student and member of the honor society, she is a cheerleader for football and basketball and is a junior class senator.Evans' father, Bill Evans, is a member of Community Leaders Affirming Support for Schools. She worked with the group of business leaders to organize her classmates into action. Apparently, it paid off. This is the greatest feeling ever, she said. It really means a ton to all of us. It means no more worries. It means for the next four years, they can enjoy this and not have to fight. Even though we're not old enough to vote, we like to think we did our part.School board chairman Jim Huff said he has sat through a lot of elections - including his own - but none is as harrowing as a levy vote. You have no idea, he said. I didn't dare hope.That said, he barely allowed himself the luxury Feb. 6. Part of me was thinking, 'I think we got it.' But part of me was thinking, 'Last year, we got killed.'In the first levy election of 2000, initial results indicated a supermajority for the levy that later fell flat.Huff's wife, Donna Huff, said he experiences something of a levyitis in the days before an election. You'd think it was him personally running, she said.It's not even that bad when I'm running, Huff responded. It's worse with the kids. I didn't sleep at all last night. I woke up this morning at 6.Despite the intensity of the impending election, South Kitsap High School Principal Dave Colombini said the climate at South has been positive. Our students have done a wonderful job organizing, holding rallies, getting students out on street corners. It's absolutely incredible. Our students feel tremendous support from the community. And the community has embraced our students. It's absolutely incredible. It's a real boost.South Kitsap High seniors Geoff Briggs, Drew Tetrick and Logan Stroud and Marcus Whitman Junior High School 9th-grader Eric Peterson made phone calls, held signs, attended rallies, conducted voter registration drives and made levy-support ribbons for their classmates to pin to their clothes to support the election.They agreed they were nervous but hopeful in the days leading to the election. At the end of it all, they beamed as they extended their thanks to the community. We're proud of them, Tetrick said. They really came through when we needed them. "

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