School board hears about programs, coming bond election
December 26, 2019
Newly elected School Board Director Patty Anderson was welcomed at the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors meeting last Thursday, which was moved up from Dec. 24 because of the Christmas holiday.
Anderson and Director Paula Culbertson, who was re-elected to her position on the board, took the oath of office,
Principals Stephanie Leitz and Nikki Reese then gave an overview of the Highly Capable Program, before the directors approved an application for a $3,000 grant for the program.
All third graders are tested, Leitz said, and any student in the 90th percentile is considered highly capable, but some students are considered for the program for other ways they are found to be exceptional. A teacher or parent can refer a child. Currently there are 17 students in the school district in the program.
The program provides extensions to the regular curriculum. Students spend a little more time with Marc Niemeyer, the graduation specialist at the high school. Two students are in Running Start; others are taking honors and advanced placement courses, or online courses. They can participate in Knowledge Bowl and sometimes take extra field trips funded by High Cap money.
Carrie Backman, the Director for the Wahkiakum branch of the Washington State University Extension Office was in attendance and gave an update on the FISH Center, the commercial kitchen/fish processing center being built on school grounds, paid for by a grant from the Wahkiakum County Marine Resources Committee.
“The FISH Center is looking really good,” Backman said. “I can’t say enough about what an awesome experience it has been to collaborate with the school district and the contractor, to see our community come together and the kids out there putting the bricks up. It’s really been a community grass roots effort, with the funds the MRC secured. From what I understand we’ll be wrapped up here shortly.
“We’re glad to be partners with you and we’re glad to see it come together.”
“We are on time and on budget with this,” Superintendent Brent Freeman told the board. “We found a good partner in Northwest Legacy, the contractor. They really understood what it meant to be around a school. They’ve been very appropriate in getting our kids involved.”
“There have been a lot of partners,” Freeman said before turning his praise to a local agency.
“Our PUD here is second to none,” he said. “If you see those guys, give them a pat on the back and tell them thanks because they have been absolutely stellar in their service to this project. They were right there beside us. They are great guys and a great organization.”
Freeman went over the work that still needed to be completed before the end of the year and then announced that the district had been awarded a $43,000 Healthy Kids grant to purchase equipment for the FISH Center.
“We’re going to have a fully outfitted commercial kitchen,” he said to cheers all around.
The bond for a school remodel was the next item on the agenda.
“The ballots will go out on the 24th of January,” Freeman said. “We will start having open houses. I’ve been doing them informally. If every single person in Wahkiakum County wants to come through one at the time, I’ll be here around the clock. We want to open this up and let the building speak for itself.”
“We have to be innovating in our schools,” Freeman added. “If you’re not innovating, you’re losing.”
After another problem with one of the district’s better buses, Freeman said they were going to push forward with their plan to transform transportation at the school.
“I hope to get a purchase order here soon,” Freeman said.
Freeman addressed legislative engagement. He was pleased to share that Washington State Representatives Jim Walsh (19th District) and Ed Orcutt (20th District) had pledged support for the district after he spoke at a legislative event.
“I’m of the opinion that any school in the state of Washington is capital state infrastructure,” Freeman said. “It’s no different than a bridge or a dam.”
He plans to be in Olympia the day after the election, to make a push for assistance, whether the bond passes or not.
Finally, the board closed for an executive session to discuss personnel issues and potential litigation.