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SCHOOLS | Future students may not experience same faculty as graduates

TACOMA — As more than 580 South Kitsap High School seniors gathered behind a black curtain before Tuesday night’s graduation, some lamented that future students might not experience the same opportunities they had.

Those students referenced 68 positions — 61 teaching jobs — the school district’s Board of Directors announced it planned to cut to reduce its deficit during its May 8 meeting.

Vince Bachteler, who plans to major in both business marketing and professional golf management at the University of Nebraska, has been among the most vocal.

“When I found out the teachers were cut, I was devastated,” he said. “A lot of my favorite teachers were cut. I knew that I was in a position where I could do something about it.”

Bachteler organized a rally at the corner of Jackson and Lund avenues May 22 to show support for educators losing their positions. He estimated 150 people participated in the event, which took two weeks to organize. Bachteler said he promoted the rally by contacting several media agencies and through word-of-mouth. At one point, rumors surfaced that a student walkout might occur at the high school, but Bachteler said he was reticent to organize an event that could make South look bad.

“I wanted to do something respectfully,” he said. “That way we could get our message across … in a positive way to show our support for staff members.”

Bachteler said he and others realize district officials were put “in a tough spot” with the budget. Per the Washington State Constitution, education is considered the state’s “paramount” duty and the Legislature is required to make “ample” provisions for its funding. In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature has not done enough in that regard. The McCleary family of Jefferson County started that lawsuit in 2009 and several school districts in the state, including South Kitsap, joined.

In an effort to track the Legislature’s progress toward providing more funding for basic education, Bachteler said he remains in contact with 26th District legislative representatives Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) and Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) and 26th District Senator Nathan Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor).

“That way, when I get information from them, I can share it with classmates,” Bachteler said.

And if he deems it insufficient, Bachteler said he might look at further rallies.

“I saved all of the signs,” said Bachteler, referring to the rally. “If something changes we might plan another march — maybe in Olympia.”

He attributed his passion for teachers to his school experiences. South has an array of clubs ranging from art to student council.

“I was highly involved in DECA and that kind of changed my outlook on school because I did a lot of great things,” Bachteler said. “I became a leader.”

Bachteler was not the only student affected by the cuts. Savannah Gromling, Associated Student Body secretary who plans for a career in dentistry next fall at Western Washington University, said she is not certain about the future of a photography class she took after her instructor received a reduction-in-force notice.

“It’s really unfortunate because that’s one of the coolest classes I’ve taken,” she said.

Taylor Scott, an ASB treasurer who is planning to study exercise science and sociology at Brigham Young University-Idaho, shared similar sentiments.

“It’s really a shame that so many great teachers are getting cut,” she said.

Nancy Fairweather, who advises the school’s ASB, said the “cohesiveness” of the senior class made it unsurprising that the group would rally behind their teachers.

“It seems to me that there are a lot of students in the senior class who are connected,” she said. “They’ve grown up together, they’re longtime residents and they’re bonded.”

Fairweather is hopeful that if clubs disappear, students will take advantage of other opportunities at South.

“We have so many classes and so many areas where kids can receive certificates,” she said. “I love what we have to offer.”

 

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