School district nearing accreditation goal
The Wahkiakum School District’s Board of Directors learned that the accreditation process was going well at April's meeting on Tuesday.
After interviews with students, teachers and parents and surveying the classrooms, Advanced Ed, who provided the review, recommended that the district should be fully accredited, according to Wahkiakum High School Principal Stephanie Leitz.
“Now we are just waiting for the commission who grants accreditation to make their decision, which they do every June and January,” Leitz said. “I expect we will be fully accredited and on the lists in June.
The school was praised for its caring staff and administration who worked hard to provide a positive environment for the students as well as the time teachers spent in collaboration every week in order to better serve their students.
With the praise came a challenge.
“We need to develop a formalized process for training,” Leitz said, “in the area of analyzing and using data to promote differentiated instruction for all students to support struggling learners and challenging students who are excelling.”
Staff and faculty have already begun to brainstorm about how they will meet that need, which coincides easily with another program that they are required by state law to provide next year.
The Highly Capable Program requires each school to identify highly capable students, which make up three percent of any population.
“That’s probably 10 students that will be labeled gifted in our district,” Leitz said. “You have to look at their abilities in a variety of ways.”
According the program, a gifted student is defined as an individual who has the capacity to learn with unusual depth of understanding, to retain what has been learned and to transfer learning to new situations.
The individual will show a willingness to deal with increasing levels of abstraction and complexity earlier than those around them. They will be creative, they will learn quickly and they will be able to concentrate.
After identifying the students, the school district will be required to set goals for the program and determine how they will serve the students and provide them a more challenging environment without isolating them.
All third grade students will be tested this spring and teachers will be referring students from Kindergarten to second grade and fourth grade to the senior class.
The board approved a budget extension for the capital projects fund, which has been driven by the energy savings project.
“The project was estimated for a little over $400,000,” Superintendent Bob Garrett said. “We received a grant for $228,000, and we were also eligible for PUD rebates. We received one rebate for $34,754 and we will receive a smaller one after the lighting project is completed for $10,000.
“Originally we thought this project would be accomplished in a shorter time and the budget was estimated to be $75,000. We are raising the original budget from $75,000 to $136,325. The original budget transferred $25,000 from the general fund to the capital improvement fund but now we have to do another transfer of $52,100. The change has been sent down to ESD 112 for perusal and once you approve they will sign off on it and send it to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.”
The budget extension and the transfer of funds from the general fund to the capital improvement fund were approved by the board.
Lacey Woodside, staff member, parent and community member, took advantage of the public comment period to make a request.
“My position has given me a unique perspective," she said. "When I talk to people, I see a disconnect between the groups working at the school. We’re all working tirelessly, but there seems to be no cohesion and I think we could be more powerful. How could we be more effective? Maybe we could have a bimonthly potluck and have everyone talk about the issues.”
“As far as teambuilding and getting to know one another better, I think that makes good sense,” Garrett responded.
Garrett mentioned the possibility of leasing part of the farm forest as an investment opportunity for the school district to the board.
“I think we have an under utilized asset over there that could be spinning off money for the school district,” Board Member Tim Hanigan said.
The board will continue to discuss the issue.
Band students Sidney Ashe and Kylee Thomason told the school board about the coming Massed Band event at the high school. Thirteen bands will be at the high school on May 13 for a day of competition, rehearsal and performance.
“We’ve never got to host and we’ve always wanted to,” Ashe said. “There will be between 260 and 280 students in our little gym. We’re going to fit them all in there.”
Competition between the bands will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. After lunch, the bands will combine for a rehearsal, and at 7 p.m., there will be a performance. The entire event is open to the public.
Elementary and Middle School Principal Theresa Libby shared recent excitement about the school garden.
“We had our first garden day,” Libby said. “We had some volunteers, the students got to make garden stake markers and plant some starter plants. We had some real positive feedback from our first day.”
Garrett reported that enrollment had gone up 4.5 students in the last month. The board accepted resignations from Launie Becker, Linda Wright, Kim Burns and Joey Swift.