Three of Bainbridge Island School District’s five board members are up for election this year: Incumbents Sanjay Pal (District 3), Kelly Cancialosi (District 1) and Evan Saint Clair (District 4). Of the three, only Evan Saint Clair has a challenger.
About Evan Saint Clair
Saint Clair was appointed to the Board on March 30, after Director Christina Hulet stepped down earlier that month. He was one of seven applicants. The remaining four directors interviewed the applicants and chose Saint Clair.
Saint Clair grew up in Redmond, WA in a multi-racial household, his father Black and his mother white. He attended George Washington University, in DC, earning a degree in conflict resolution, thinking “maybe I could right some of the wrongs in the world.”
After college, Saint Clair moved to Bangalore, India, where he taught for a year in a rural school, noticing the “ease in which good-hearted educators could ignore the plight of the children.”
He then followed his future wife to Boston where he worked for Horizon for Homeless Children, which provides high-quality daycare to kids of invisible families. “I learned the importance of making every minute you have with kids count, because those minutes could be the only quality they get.”
Ten years ago, Evan and his wife moved back to the Puget Sound area, choosing Bainbridge Island because of the schools. By then they had a toddler and would soon have another. They attended pre-school at Hazel Creek and Bethany Lutheran, and then grade school in Odyssey’s multi-age program.
On Bainbridge, Saint Clair became a stay-at-home dad while also starting a home-based fitness and wellness business that he still runs. He threw himself into the community, becoming a board member of the Bainbridge Mountain Biking Club and eventually president of the Odyssey Parent Teacher Organization, although he has since resigned from those positions.
When asked what he thinks about being on the Board, Saint Clair said he started with reading policies and procedures, sometimes 30 hours a week. “It’s been an eye-opening experience to see how deeply the Board researches issues.”
For example, the decision to rename Charles Wilkes Elementary School this year. Wilkes was a naval officer court-martialed for his brutal treatment and killing of sailors and indigenous people as he led an expedition around the world in the 1830s and 40s.
The community provided 89 possible new names that were narrowed down to Akio Suyematsu (remembered as the last of the original berry farmers on Bainbridge Island), Sunrise Hill and x̌alilc (Halilts). Ultimately, the Board chose the later.
In the Lushootseed language. x̌alilc means “marked edge or rock” and refers to a Suquamish petroglyph on Agate Point at the northern end of Bainbridge Island. For Saint Clair, the new name is an opportunity to connect students with another culture at an early age.
Saint Clair sees the Board as stewards for the school district’s future. He’s proud of the resolution the Board passed in support of LGBTQ+ despite some push back. He sees the district as a progressive district that strives to support all kids, where it’s safe to come to school and safe to ask questions.
Looking ahead, Saint Clair sees that the Board will have to address shrinking enrollment. Over the past 10 years, the district has been losing 60 to 100 students every year, Saint Clair said. The senior class that graduated this year had 300 students. The kindergarten class that’s starting this year has 175 students. The reason: the cost of housing on the Island is preventing young families from moving here.
The Board is working with leaders and members of the community to develop a comprehensive housing plan and looking at how to bring young families to the Island, he said.
Most of all, Saint Clair is running for election for his two daughters. “I want them to have every chance at succeeding, to have all the opportunities I had as a kid.” … “I want to stand up. I want to help continue the legacy of excellence that Bainbridge Island School District embodies and be a contributing member of its further development.”
Saint Clair said he agreed to participate in a League of Women Voters Forum for this race, but there is no forum because his opponent evidently declined.
If you would like to door-knock for Saint Clair, email him soon at email@example.com. Kitsap County Democrats will be door-knocking for Evan on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1 pm to 3 pm. The meet-up location has yet to be determined.
Ballots will be in the mail on or around Oct. 19.