The North Kitsap School District board approved putting superintendent Laurynn Evans on paid administrative leave at its contentious Feb. 8 meeting, pending the outcome of the investigation involving her being named a suspect in a case involving the theft and disposal of campaign signs against the Feb. 13 NKSD bond measure.
A packed house filled the Student Support Center at the district’s headquarters. Some brought signs to show their dismay of Evans and the school board.
At the beginning of the meeting, school board member Beverly Godfrey made a motion to extend public comments from the standard 30 minutes to an hour, given all the attendees. That motion failed, and boos from the audience followed. Instead, the board made a motion to extend public comments to 36 minutes. Board member Rick Eckert said he would like to have extended public comment offered at the next meeting.
Mike Desmond abstained, but the other school board members voted in favor of the leave. Evans was not at the meeting, but she has denied the allegations. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case.
The board has appointed Rachel Davenport, executive director of human resources, as acting superintendent.
“The board had received many questions and concerns from the community,” a NKSD news release states. “We understand that it is frustrating for our staff, families, and community that we cannot discuss details of personnel matters. The board is committed to a full and fair investigation, to making evidence-based decisions, and to keeping the best interests of our students as our guiding focus. We appreciate your patience during this time.”
One of the first public commenters was Ted Jez, North Kitsap Education Association president and Kingston Middle School science teacher, who read a statement on behalf of the NKSD transportation department union announcing a vote of no confidence against the school board and Evans, along with the director and assistant director of transportation. NKEA also voted last year to express no confidence in Evans and the school board.
“We believe that the holders of the listed offices have violated district board policies and procedures,” Jez said. “They have operated and made decisions that are not in the best interest of ensuring that there exists a worksite free from threats, harassment, bullying, intimidation and a hostile work environment. Some decisions have been made not in the most fiscally responsible manner…They have participated in the uncivil behavior and treatment of employees, and have made veiled threats when addressing concerning issues that have been brought to their attention.”
More comments ensued, criticizing Evans.
“The recent activity is shocking because children’s education as a career presumes honesty and good character,” Jean Day said. “Those are clearly not present at this time…Actions should have consequences on par with the offense. Controversies in our schools is the last thing we should want.”
Scott Henden asked the board “Which road are you going to choose? Are you going to do what’s best for the kids? Are you going to be open, honest and transparent? Or are we going to continue on the path that we have? The community is watching, but I’m still hopeful.”
Nat Smith, a teacher and member of NKEA, urged the board to place Evans on leave. “This will allow you, as her evaluators, to learn more about her leadership. Please engage with and hear all comments that have been shared tonight and over recent years by staff and the community you serve. Let’s heal together and ensure our students receive high-quality education while preparing for their future and make North Kitsap a great place to live and learn.”
One of the last commenters was Akuyea Karen Vargas, who called out the board and Evans for “continually overlooking ongoing injustices, racial bullying, threats of violence and continued mistrust of those who they serve…Our children have been violated and their voices have been silenced and oppressed again and again. We call for the dismissal, termination or the resignation of this board as well as the superintendent…I would hope that she would have been here to be accountable. You can’t throw the rock and hide the hand.”
There were a few commenters in support of the board and Evans, including former board member Cindy Webster-Martinson, who said it is so important that the school bond passes Feb. 13. “The school funding is far from ample and we must keep going forward with what we can because there is so many areas that the state education monies don’t cover. I hope the superintendent is given her fair due.”
Around 6:30 a.m. Jan. 26, a video shows a woman with medium-length blonde hair wearing a black down jacket at the scene, pulling up two signs, tossing them into the back of a gray Ford Ranger and closing the bed cover.
Two people against the bond measure were watching because signs were being stolen. They had also set up the video camera.
After the woman left, they followed.
At a stoplight one tried to take the woman’s photo and said he was shocked at who he saw.
A sheriff’s report says the truck pulled into the Poulsbo Sons of Norway parking lot. The Kingtson-North Kitsap Rotary Club was meeting, and Evans was in attendance.
After the meeting, law enforcement questioned Evans, who confirmed that the Ranger was hers, but denied that she had taken any signs. Instead, she said she planned to distribute signs in favor of the bond. Officers did not find any anti-Proposition 1 signs in her truck, but did see pro-bond signs and a mallet.
However, they observed some “greenish-blue” grease on the truck’s tailgate — consistent with the grease put on the anti-bond signs to deter them from being stolen.
A sheriff’s sergeant recovered two anti-bond signs in the bushes along Stottlemeyer Road. A deputy later found a gardening glove and a yellow towel wrapped in paper with the message “SUPPORT NK STUDENTS & SCHOOLS VOTE YES” — all covered in blue-green grease — in a nearby dumpster.