The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Superintendent search, student walk out are school board topics

Super search down to two; levy reduction to come


March 22, 2018

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Wahkiakum School Board of Directors, principals talked about the National School Walkout and other activities at the school; the superintendent gave an update on how Washington state legislative inaction affected the enrichment levy, and the race for a new superintendent was narrowed down to two candidates.

According to Principals Stephanie Leitz and Nikki Reese, one student at the high school and nine in the middle school participated in the walkout last Wednesday.

Leitz followed the young man outside and handed him some paper, suggesting that he take the time to reflect on why he chose to walk out.

“He wrote a really nice essay about his thoughts around political issues, school safety, and honoring the victims,” Leitz said.

She went on to say that her morning leadership class asked to discuss the matter prior to the proposed walkout. One student suggested that they “walk up” instead of walk out and wondered if they could promote that in the school.

“They seemed more interested in honoring the victims instead of taking a political stance,” Leitz said. “Students having a voice is really important, but we have to respect the school setting and the rules of the school. We’re willing to work with them to create a safe space for them, but they need to communicate and decide what is best to get their ideas across.”

Reese said she had asked teachers if students had shown any interest in the event. None of them heard anything until that morning, when a few students called home to ask for permission to participate.

Reese met with the nine students who wanted to walk out to ascertain what they hoped to accomplish.

“I let them know it would not be a school sponsored activity but a student initiated activity,” Reese said. “I encouraged them to use their voice but wanted to make sure they could articulate what their voice was.”

All nine walked out that morning, and they all had their reasons, whether they wanted to honor the 17 victims in the Parkland school shooting, or they wanted stricter gun laws, or something in between.

According to Reese, the students knew that the walkout would be treated just like skipping school. It earned them detention, and the spent the noon hour with her on Monday, continuing to discuss ways to make change.

She reiterated a comment from Leitz.

“We would support their actions and help them keep that safe environment,” Reese said. “I think we both work really hard to say we want you to feel like you have a voice. We want you to feel like you can take action.”

In other news, the school board has narrowed down the new superintendent search to two candidates, both with ties to the school.

One is Brent Freeman, who currently works as the district’s administrative director. The other is John Hannah, who used to teach at Wahkiakum and now is the superintendent of the Morton School District. Interviews begin on Monday.

Superintendent Bob Garrett reported on enrollment and gave a budget status report before talking about the latest Washington state legislative session.

“They did nothing to tweak the levy issue with respect to $1.50 per $1,000,” Garrett said. “You remember we ran for $2.36 per $1,000. They did make reference to it; they realized they have to address that issue. Hopefully they will do something during their next session.”

According to Garrett, the county will automatically roll back the $997,000 levy that was passed by Wahkiakum voters to $1.50/$1,000. The district will lose over $300,000 each year that it is rolled back, and at this time, Garrett hopes it will only happen in 2019.

In his report as administrative director, Freeman went over the district’s assessment of the 23 year old middle school, which put the structure in the 87.80 percentile, noting that completing these reports eventually is “what gets us the state assistance dollars for remodeling.”

Freeman also said that he had heard several compliments on the softball and baseball fields during Friday’s games and praised all the people involved in getting the baseball field, in particular, in shape.

During the principals’ reports, Reese said that a family literacy night is planned for next Thursday.

“We currently have 224 RSVPs,” Reese said happily. “We’re pretty excited. It might be a little chaotic, but it will be fun.”

Leitz went over the schedule for Doernbecher Week with the board, and then gave an update on activities at the high school. Several students had attended a recent performance of the musical Hamilton in Seattle, a leadership event at Cispus, and/or a career expo at the Oregon Convention Center.

On Tuesday, the students participated in what Leitz liked to a call a “Financial Reality Fair.” Students got to pick out a job at an earlier date. If they failed to do so, they were given a minimum wage job. They were assigned credit scores and started the fair by figuring out their taxes. Afterwards, they visited kiosks where teachers and staff pretended to sell phones and brand new vehicles. Students figured out where they were going to live, how much rent they had to pay, and if they needed roommates. At the end of the event, they met with teacher Mr. Cox, acting as a financial consultant, to discuss their experience.

“It was a fun two hour exercise,” Leitz said.

Later, some of the seniors got to practice mock interviews.


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