Questions of Equity Voiced at Peninsula School Board Meeting

Superintendent Krestin Bahr and directors listened as a Key Peninsula Middle School staff member and a former student raised pointed concerns of fairness.


Kari Trivette has a great deal of experience with the Peninsula School District. Her kids attended Minter Creek Elementary, Harbor Ridge Middle School, and graduated from Peninsula High School with an excellent educational experience that set them up to be successful in college. She said she always considered this a reflection of the district and the support their schools received.

But at the January 12 PSD board meeting, Trivette told directors that as a former staff member at Goodman Middle School, a Harbor Ridge Middle School parent and current office manager at KPMS, she now asks herself whether all students in the district have equal access to the same educational benefits.

“That answer is no,” Trivette said.  “There is a stark difference in programs, courses, support, access and equity compared to other middle schools.”

Field trips were one example she cited where students lack access. Because KPMS must travel greater distances than others, the cost to charter buses is higher than for the other buildings.

“Many of our students have never been to Uptown or across the Narrows Bridge,” she said.

In her 21 years working for PSD, Trivette said has read many unflattering articles about different situations at schools districtwide. Most of the time, she said, district leadership came out with a counter narrative or at the very least a statement of support.

“After the article about KPMS came out in the (KP News) paper, our staff spent the last week upset, frustrated, embarrassed and mortified,” she said. “We waited for someone, anyone from the district or from our school board to say something, to offer support and tell our staff that they are valued and respected.” (See “Allegations of Unchecked Bullying at Middle School Made by Parents,” January 2023.)

Instead, she said the school board showed up for a photo opportunity related to recent construction to promote the upcoming levy.

“We are worth more than a photo op and deserve your support,” Trivette said. “If other schools in our district receive published public support when unflattering articles come out, why not Key Peninsula Middle School?”

School demographics on Key Peninsula differ dramatically from other middle schools in Gig Harbor. Trivette said KPMS is considered a high-needs school, with more than 70% of students on free or reduced lunch.

Trivette told directors the school has not had a substitute teacher in the building since November. Instead, she said teachers give up their daily planning period to cover absences because subs rarely come out to KPMS. She said the absence of just one teacher results in seven staff members needing to cover; two out means 14 staff members must cover. For a school with 26 teachers and daily absences, Trivette said they are exhausted, but remain her heroes.

“Our teachers, counselors and classified staff are on the frontlines every day, selflessly giving, supporting and wrapping around our students while always supporting each other.

“Our district talking points include being equitable and inclusive and as a district we have to be mindful of our entire population, she said. “We are Vaughn, we are Lakebay, we are Longbranch, we are the Key Peninsula.”

Peninsula High School freshman Ryan Anderson, who attended Minter Creek Elementary and KPMS, told directors, “The staff at KPMS is amazing and do the best they can with what they have, but only within the policies of PSD and state laws.”

Anderson said the lack of equity affected him personally when he was not afforded the opportunity to take advanced math classes offered at Goodman, Kopachuck and Harbor Ridge middle schools.

He said he was told there weren’t enough students at KPMS to form a class for algebra or geometry. Instead, he was placed in an advanced eighth grade math class, despite coming from the district highly capable program and his high state standardized test scores.

“This has slowed my path in high school as I now have to take additional classes to get my high school credits instead of getting them in advance, like some of my peers from the other middle school have done.”

After filling out an application to a Naval Academy STEM program, Anderson discovered that he is even further behind some of his peers, now in foreign language credits not offered at KPMS due to lack of interest.

“Now I must navigate a finite time schedule to try and acquire all the credits I would like, which is going to involve missing some great class experiences that otherwise could have enriched my learning and high school experiences,” Anderson said.

He asked the school board to find a solution to this problem, suggesting a paraeducator might supervise a class of students using Zoom to take classes not offered at their school.

“Maybe a roving teacher who could teach Spanish at Harbor Ridge in the morning and KPMS in the afternoon?” he said. “But please make the experience for students coming behind me better than mine. And make sure that opportunities for PSD students are found at every school.”

The standard protocol at school board meetings is to listen but not respond directly to public comments during the meetings.

“The challenges that schools on the Key Peninsula face due to their location is not new to the district,” said Superintendent Krestin Bahr in a statement provided to KP News. “The work to create inclusive, safe and equitable spaces inside our schools on both peninsulas is ongoing and will not be solved with a quick fix or on a fast timeline.

“If approved by voters in February, the Replacement Educational Programs and Opportunity Levy and the Safety Security and Technology Levy will continue to fund staff, programs and more at our Key Peninsula schools while providing funding for new security at our Key Peninsula buildings and more technology in classrooms to match that in our newly built schools.”