Diversion agreement reached for NK superintendent

The criminal case brought against North Kitsap School District superintendent Laurynn Evans may be dismissed in August after the judge in a Feb. 28 Kitsap County District Court hearing approved a six-month pretrial diversion agreement between the state and defense counsel.

The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office filed a misdemeanor charge for removing or defacing political advertising against Evans Feb. 21 for her alleged involvement in the theft, damage and displacing of campaign signs against the district’s recently failed bond measure. Prior to the filing of the charge, the school board placed Evans on paid administrative leave.

Evans appeared before Judge Jeffrey Jahns in a court hearing attended by bond committee members, parents and even former and current students, many of whom had spoken out at February’s board meetings regarding the superintendent’s alleged conduct.

If followed by Evans, the diversion agreement would result in the dismissal of the case no sooner than Aug. 30. Evans’ legal counsel, Tim Kelly, told the judge: “It’s certainly in Ms. Evans’ best interests, in the best interests of the NKSD, the best interests of the opponents of the campaign for the bond and most importantly, it’s in the best interests of all the parents and children of the NKSD. Let’s all move forward.”

Provisions of the agreement as read in the courtroom include monitoring Evans by probation services and payment for such via a $60 fee, a restitution payment of $332 to Scott Henden, complete compliance with court orders and the law, and a no-contact order with Henden or Kim Gerlach with the exception of NKSD school board meetings. Henden and Gerlach reported the stolen signs.

Any violations would likely result in a review and an ultimate conviction of Evans, Jahns said.

“It is very likely that if a judge were to review those that you would be found guilty of the offense,” he said, “and while I recognize that there is no prior history of which the court is aware, I do want to say that this is a serious charge. If you violate this agreement, it is likely you would serve some jail time.”

The reactions of those in attendance were mixed, ranging from satisfied with the negative exposure of Evans to furious and embarrassed with the slap on the wrist feel of the diversion agreement.

Averil Story, who worked for the district for 27 years as a teacher, sided with the latter. “This is an insult to the people that have given their lives to this district. I grew up here too, I graduated here. (Evans) has never taken responsibility, and she’s lied again and again. She got away with it.”

Former student of Poulsbo Middle School and North Kitsap High School Savannah Crosby called the events since her departure to pursue a college education disturbing but is happy to see some admission that a crime had been committed. “I’m glad (the board) is recognizing she did something wrong,” she said. “Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, it seems like everybody knows what she’s done, and she’ll hopefully resign after this.”

Laila McNamara, a Running Start student from Kingston High School who had already cited numerous discrepancies between Kingston and NK high schools as reason enough to remove Evans, said, “I think, if she follows the court order, all is well, but I do think the termination of her role as superintendent is the most important step to take.”

Evans refused to comment after the hearing, but NKSD provided a statement.

“We understand that there was a pretrial diversion reached with the court… Separate from the legal proceedings, (NKSD) is conducting its own investigation into allegations against Dr. Evans. Because this is a personnel matter, the district must be careful not to undermine the ongoing investigation. Even at the conclusion of the district investigation, the information that we will be able to share will be limited.

“We hear and are taking stock of feedback from our community,” the statement goes on to say. “The district is actively engaged in measures to address and resolve this challenging situation as soon as possible while maintaining fiscal responsibility for the district and keeping the school community at the heart of all decisions.”

The NKSD Board of Directors called a special meeting March 1. The meeting involved an executive session to discuss confidential legal matters regarding personnel. The board did not take action coming out of executive session.