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Weiland, Dale say their goodbyes

With 20 years of service between them, they leave the school board.

It’s safe to say that Bruce Weiland didn’t know what he was getting into when he ran for office in 1995.

“I had never planned to be a school board member, I had never thought about it, I’m not sure I even knew that there was a school board,” Weiland said.

But after 12 years as a director, many islanders haven’t known a school board without Weiland, who along with two-term director Cheryl Dale, did not seek reelection this year.

At an often tearful board meeting last Thursday night, Weiland and Dale took their seats for a final time amid an outpouring of thanks from school staff.

“I think the school district is in excellent shape because of the leadership you have provided,” Superintendent Ken Crawford told the retiring directors.

Looking back on a tenure that included nearly 300 school board meetings, Weiland said he was most proud of helping create a richer and more cohesive curriculum throughout the island’s schools. He also cited hiring quality staff, and hammering out financial and facilities plans to sustain a high level of education, as among the board’s achievements.

More importantly, he said, the board and school administrators had worked with a tone of respect.

“We kept it a team rather than being divisive,” Weiland said. “It was cooperative, and that is so crucial to the tenor of a school district.”

Weiland said the district’s success in raising academic standards had also created its greatest future challenges.

The “intensity” of focus on core curriculum, like english and math, are squeezing out arts programs he said, and island children are feeling too much pressure to be perfect students and athletes.

“It’s put a burden on our kid’s lives that wasn’t there 15 years ago,” he said.

It was for his own children that Weiland first decided to run for a school board seat.

After years of commuting to Seattle where he worked as an attorney, Weiland had opened his own practice on the island and was looking for ways to become involved in a community from which he felt disconnected.

He said the director’s position was an opportunity to volunteer in a way that was meaningful to his family and used his skills as a lawyer.

“The school board offers a unique role as a moderator or mediator between the schools and voters,” Weiland said. “I felt I had a lot to give there.”

Weiland and his wife Judy, who is resigning this year as president of Bainbridge Parent Teacher Student Organization, promised each other they would take a yearlong break from volunteering.

“After three terms and 12 years, I felt like it was time for me to explore some other things in my own life and also to give other people a chance to step into leadership roles,” Weiland said.

Dale agreed it was time for fresh faces on the board.

“Each person that comes in brings something new that you didn’t even know you needed,” she said.

As a director Dale sat on all of the board’s committees but focused much of her energy on the district’s finances.

Susan Sivitz, who served as a board director with both Weiland and Dale, said that when enrollment was down and the budget was tight, Dale made sure the cuts would have the least impact in the classroom.

“Her leadership on the financial side was always very powerful,” Sivitz said. “And it was always most powerful when we were facing hard times.”

Dale said the district needs to work to find funding for special education and transportation, but said the recent emphasis given to education at a state and community level made her comfortable in her decision to not seek another term.

“I’m able to leave at the best year possible,” she said.

Dale is also retiring as director of the Kids Discovery Museum this year to lead a capital campaign for a new children’s museum.

Patty Fielding and John Tawresey, who ran uncontested for director seats, will join sitting directors Mary Curtis, Dave Pollock and soon-to-be superintendent Faith Chapel on the new board.

Weiland hopes the new board carries on the tradition of collegiality.

“I would tell them to remember that a collaborative result is better than a perfect result,” he said. “They need to take themselves and what they do seriously but realize that the person sitting next to them probably has something to say that is worth listening to.”

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Principals retiring

Bainbridge Schools will hire several new administrators in 2008. Wilkes Elementary principal Liane Adamske and Sakai Intermediate School principal Jo Vander Stoep both recently announced their retirements, the district said.

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