Maritime education initiative described at Jefferson chamber gathering
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Katherine Baril addresses the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce audience Monday as chamber President Amanda Funaro, right, listens. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The idea of a maritime-based curriculum in the local school system has gained support since fundraising began last fall, but the business community could do more to support the proposal, a longtime educator said Monday.

“The members of the business community haven’t weighed in on the support for the schools, what your engagement is going to be and what excellence looks like for you as employers,” said retired Washington State University Extension Director Katherine Baril.

She addressed the weekly meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at the Port Townsend Elks Lodge.

“We all recognize that the number one priority in this community is attracting and keeping young entrepreneurial families so we can keep our tax base alive and keep our community vibrant economically.”

About 30 people attended the meeting, during which Port Townsend School Superintendent David Engle was the scheduled speaker but could not attend due to health reasons.

Chamber President Amanda Funaro, who with Engle has made several presentations about the Maritime Framework Proposal, took up some of the slack caused by Engle’s excused absence, but Baril stepped in as a substitute teacher.

“The number one way to attract and keep entrepreneurial families is excellence in education,” she said.

“I’ve heard too many stories about local employers who hire, bring people here and pay subsidies for education while those young people send their children to Bainbridge Island schools.”

Baril said the business community needs to get behind the Maritime Framework Proposal “because it communicates to the kids that we care.”

The plan is to infuse all educational programs with maritime elements, increasing the offerings for high school juniors and seniors to offer more specialized and specific instructions for those who want to enter the maritime trades.

The target fundraising goal is $750,000, which translates to $125 a year for each of the district’s projected 1,200 students over a period of five years.

So far, about $160,000 has been raised in gifts and pledges, Funaro said, which is enough to get started.

The first step is to hire a project manager, which is already in process.

The district is in the last stages of reviewing the applicants and has tentatively scheduled a meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 17 at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., during which the three finalists will meet the public.

Funaro, a graduate of Port Townsend High School, said she had good experiences as a student but feels the new initiative will make local education options less isolated.

“There is so much learning that is happening here all the time,” she said.

“We have a lively arts community; lots of people playing music and painting and doing crafts,” Funaro said

“Our kids aren’t tapped into this. They are isolated on the hill where they have some great experiences with great teachers, but they don’t connect with the rest of the town.”

For more information or to contribute to the Maritime Framework Proposal, visit www.maritimediscovery.org.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 31. 2014 6:27PM
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