Interview With Deb Johnson

From the interview with Deb Johnson of Port Townsend, WA conducted by Patience Rogge on October 28, 2004 at the Fort Worden History Center. Ms. Johnson was Dean of Jefferson Educational Services for Peninsula College. The Peninsula Community College District serves Jefferson and Clallam Counties on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  Its main campus is in Port Angeles.  At the time of the interview, the college had recently moved its Jefferson County site to the former Schoolhouse Building on the Fort Worden campus. Here she traces the development of the Jefferson County site:

“Peninsula College in the past ten years has grown significantly, and as we started to grow, we realized that we needed an alternative site in Jefferson County,i.e. Port Townsend as it turned out.  We moved from one end of Water Street to the other, and we stayed in the Waterman Katz Building on Water Street for six years.  We outgrew that place immediately, so we started a couple of years ago looking around at other places.  I always had Fort Worden in my head, as did Wally Sigmar, our since deceased president.  When they looked at it originally, to bring the building up to code and the infrastructure and the wiring for all the computers was going to be cost prohibitive.  But during the past six years the computers have taken a different turn, we were able to move into the building as of last week.

When we started, we had about 70 or 72 Full Time Equivalent students, I believe it was, and that was in 1995.  Right now we’re up to 150 FTEs, so we/ve just about doubled. The first seven years in this position, I saw a ten per cent increase every year, we’ve since leveled off.  We’re expecting now that we’re at Fort Worden we’re going to see another jump in our enrollment. With some of the new programs that we’re talking about adding in the next one or two years, we expect more enrollment.”

Talking about how it feels to be in the new facility, which was the post hospital during the Fort’s military era and became the schoolhouse when it was the state juvenile corrections facility:

“People are so excited.  They’re walking into this building, and even with boxes and tables still waiting to be unpacked, the students are excited, the faculty is excited.  We have space, we have windows, we have materials and chalkboards, white boards, everything we need.  It’s a whole new feeling of excitement and positive energy.

(Even though the building wasn’t built to be an educational facility) We’re actually making it work.  The classrooms, the big ones and the smaller ones, are workable. The funniest thing that we came across when we were trying to put something in storage in the basement last week was the old morgue.  The work study students got a big kick out of that, but nobody wanted to lie on the table. (On being informed that the top floor was the psycho ward) Hopefully that won’t come in handy for us.”


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