Category Archives: Schools

On the education beat: March 15, 2016

Heading for a levy “cliff?”
Look, out there on the horizon, is that the threat of teacher lay-offs?

School District officials say it’s possible if the Legislature doesn’t agree on stalling a “levy cliff” that’s looming for the 2017-18 school year.
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Photo by koratmember at freedigitalphotos.net

Higher local school levy lids (maximum collection amounts allowed) are due to sunset. A bill that didn’t make it through the regular session would have allowed districts to continue collecting at the higher amounts, at least for a year. Without an agreement, local funding will be slashed in the 2017-18 school year.

“This would clearly impact our ability to hire or retain staff for the 2017-18 school year,” Bremerton spokeswoman Patty Glaser said.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the levy cliff bill in the special session, now under way.

Coverage of lead in Ordway water continues
As last week wrapped up, we gave an update of the Ordway water quality issue, as a panel of experts reassured parents that their children’s exposure to lead from water at the school most likely had been low. The district continues to use bottled water at Ordway as a consulting firm re-tests all the faucets and water fountains.

Tomorrow, I’ll be meeting with the Bainbridge Island School District facilities director to review water testing records to date. The district is working on a map showing how each faucet and fountain at six schools tested. I also plan to check in with other districts to see if any of them have done voluntary testing for lead in their schools’ water. The kind of testing BISD undertook in December will be required of school in 2017.

North Mason School District to transfer land for park
The district hopes to transfer property it owns on Sweetwater Creek to the Port of Allyn for use as a park.

The port is working with the Salmon Center to build a park and restore the water wheel at the site.
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The school district, which bought the parcel in 1997, had planned to build fish ladders for spawning chum, create trails and a small park. But the district already has its hands full with the Theler property, a wetlands and community center that was deeded to the district but which the district can no longer afford to maintain.

“This looks like a really good project for the community, but it’s not a good project for the school district,” Superintendent Dana Rosenbach said.

The Salmon Center has led efforts to get state grants for the park work.

Award winning bus mechanic at work
And in case you missed it, here’s a video of Maurine Simons, a South Kitsap School District bus mechanic who earned a place in a national competition. Simons was the first woman to compete in the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s annual bus mechanics competition.

Note, March 24, 2016: I have been out of town since March 16, tending to a family matter that came up unexpectedly. I did not have a chance to meet with BISD officials about water test results. Thanks in advance for your patience, as I regroup on coverage of the issue of lead in Ordway Elementary School water.

Former SKSD Super LaRose to leave Culver City

Former South Kitsap School District Superintendent Dave LaRose is leaving Culver City Unified School District at the end of the school year, according to The Wave Newspapers of Culver City.

LaRose cited personal reasons for leaving the job that drew him away from South Kitsap in 2012. He is not taking a position with another district, he said.
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“If the next chapter of my life was to be in a leadership role for a school district, there’s no place I’d rather be than here in Culver City,” LaRose is quoted as saying in The Wave article. “I’m not sure what I will be doing next, but it has truly been an honor to serve the Culver City community.”

LaRose said the next chapter of his career may include consulting, a sabbatical or even teaching.

LaRose, known during his tenure in South Kitsap as a charismatic evangelist of the “whole child, whole community” philosophy, accepted the job at the Southern California school district in 2012, saying at the time he wanted to be closer to his daughters, one of whom was living in California, the other who was attending college in Arizona.

LaRose was promoted to superintendent in 2008 by the school board after serving as the district’s assistant superintendent for family and support services and as principal at Orchard Heights Elementary School.

Echoing comments made by South Kitsap school officials when LaRose left this community, Culver City Board President Steve Levin said he was sorry to see LaRose leave.

“Dave has been an amazing, charismatic leader for the district, and we’re really sorry to see him go,” Levin said. “He has helped us make great strides in the right direction, and we are committed to keeping that momentum going. Dave’s legacy will benefit our students for years to come.”

During his time in Culver City, LaRose championed the Culver City Compact, “a signed document that outlines the community’s commitment and vision for a bright educational future that was adopted by a large group of community members, businesses and organizations,” according to The Wave. He also oversaw the launch of $106 million in major renovations and technology upgrades that are could take 12 years to complete.

South Kitsap School District serves more than 9,000 students; Culver City Unified serves roughly 6,500.

A clarification on paraeducator pay

Since we ran our article on paraeducators, several people have pointed out that the base salaries we cited from the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website seem high compared to what these employees are actually taking home.

The base salaries listed by the state are for full-time equivalent positions, and we should have made that clear in the original story, which has been updated with a note on the clarification.

Here’s the updated paragraph: “In Kitsap and North Mason counties the average base salary for a full-time equivalent position ranges from $32,354 in Bremerton to $37,317 on Bainbridge Island, according to the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The statewide average is $35,193, with average benefits valued at around $20,000. In reality, most paras work part-time, so their actual take-home pay is much lower.”

How much lower? Bainbridge Island para Mike McCloud, who is also president of his local classified employees union, gives this example. A para on Bainbridge earning $19.66 per hour typically works six hours a day, 180 days a year, which works out to $21,232.80 per year. Paras on Bainbridge get 11 paid holidays ($117.96 per day x 11), for an additional $1,297.56, making a total of $22,530.36 per year, or about 60 percent of the $37,317 allocated to Bainbridge Island School District per FTE para.

Mike adds that the state average of $20,000 in benefits for a FTE also is high compared to what virtually all paras actually receive. “Since paras work only about 30 hours per week, we only receive 3/4 (.75 FTE) of the state allowance for medical insurance benefits,” Mike said in an email to me.

The paras I talked to accept the part-time nature of their jobs. As I mentioned, some have spouses who have the primary job, but some work a second job or more. There are trade-offs and some perks to the job, as we mentioned. For example, summers off with the kids, the fact they do get medical benefits and the flexibility part-time work gives to, say, run a business on the side.

Health District working with NKSD on air quality at Poulsbo Elementary

Update, 3:15 p.m. Feb. 10: North Kitsap schools Superintendent Patty Page informed parents via email that maintenance staff believe they have located the source of the odors at Poulsbo Elementary over the past several weeks. An inspection of equipment this morning showed exhaust was leaking out of a heat exchanger on one of the HVAC units on the roof.

Monitoring inside the building today showed no carbon monoxide, indicating the one (undamaged) burner they’ve been using since this morning is free of exhaust leaks. “Running the unit on one burner will provide adequate heat to the space it serves,” Page said.

Air Masters, the company that worked on the units this summer, will be on site Monday to inspect the unit and identify repairs. Monday is the earliest Air Masters can get there, Page said.

Note, this is likely not the end of the school’s HVAC woes, as the aging system gradually degrades. The district’s goal is to replace the sad, old thing, and they’re working on a plan. Read on.

Feb. 9, 7:45 p.m.: A few new developments today (Tuesday) on the issue of odors at Poulsbo Elementary School: a meeting with parents, new equipment to monitor air quality and an “evolving” plan for replacing the aging and cranky HVAC units sooner rather than later.

Superintendent Patty Page and other district officials met with parents at the school this afternoon to answer questions and field comments. The parents’ frustration was evident. Parent Lori Smith said it seems that the district is downplaying complaints of illness. “What’s the next step for the next time Friday happens?” Smith said, referring to reports of odors on Friday that brought the fire department and gas company officials out to check. The school was deemed fit to occupy and school was not cancelled.

“Nobody’s doubting anybody,” Page said in response to Smith. She said teachers have the go-ahead to remove students from a class, and Principal Claudia Alves has authority to evacuate the school without checking with central administrators. Parents are asked to report any odors to Alves or the main office. That’s the protocol, but no one will get in trouble for calling 911 if they are concerned, Page said.

The Kitsap Public Health District has loaned the district a sophisticated and fairly new air quality meter that measures for unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and relative humidity. The device also measures particulate matter, but unlike the other measures, there’s no health standard for that. The device is designed only for use in schools, and is available to the health district through a partnership with the state Department of Health and federal EPA. It will be in place in a classroom until at least Friday, as work to fix immediate problems with the HVAC units on the school’s roof continues. Health officials will analyze data from the device and determine if monitoring should continue beyond Friday in other locations of the school.

Maintenance staff purchased a hand-held gas detecting device, which they have been using since Monday. They also will regularly monitor air quality at the school.

“North Kitsap School District has a plan for investigating the odors. We support their plan and think they are taking the right approach to their investigation at this time,” said Karen Bevers, health district spokeswoman.

Health district officials have received 10 public health concern reports related to the school and “have responded to all those individuals,” Bevers said.

Finally, the district may be closer to replacing the units than earlier thought. Even a few weeks ago, district officials believed that fixing the system would require replacing not only the units but the entire air duct system as well. The projected cost would be on the order of items typically funded by a bond, and yet the district has no immediate plans to run a bond. Within the last few days, however, another potential solution has been suggested by Rashad Green, the district’s heating and air conditioning technician, who has been assigned to bird dog problems at Poulsbo Elementary. Green, relatively new to the district, has extensive knowledge of HVAC systems. He believes there are ways to replace the units without having to tear up the air duct system. District officials will be vetting that possibility with a contractor and checking on the price tag. Regardless of the cost, Page said, if this is a viable option, the district will make it work.

Green said he has two small children and understands the parents’ concern. He pledged vigilance. “I want you guys to feel that your concerns are listened to and that you’re being hear,” Green said. “We want to make sure you’re comfortable and that your kids are safe.”

Page said the problem with the schools HVAC has been ongoing for years. In an earlier renovation of the school, the HVAC system was not replaced. Now the system is so old it’s almost impossible to get parts. Problems date back to at least 2009, according to a local newspaper article, but Page said problems likely had been cropping up before then.

On the education beat: Jan. 28, 2016

Catching up and looking ahead on the education beat here at the Kitsap Sun.

Next week (Tuesday) we’ll have a story about how to pick the best kindergarten class for your child.

I’m also working on a story about special needs students and the people involved in their education. I’d like to hear from students, parents, paraeducators, special ed teachers and anyone else with thoughts on the intersection of special needs and public education.

Contact me at (360) 792-9219, christina.henry@kitsapsun.com or https://www.facebook.com/chrishenryreporter.

Now for a recap of this week’s education news:

Voting on education funding
First and foremost, did you get your ballot? Voters throughout Kitsap and North Mason counties on Feb. 9 will decide on bond and levy measures. In case you missed it, this story gives a summary of measures by district.

Theler Center, school district asset or albatross?
Following up on Arla Shephard Bull’s comprehensive history of the Mary E. Theler Community Center and Wetlands, North Mason School District, which owns the property, hosted a meeting to bank suggestions about what to do with Theler now that the trust established to support its upkeep is depleted. Ideas ranged from burning down the community center to starting a GoFundMe account.
A Mardi Gras themed murder mystery fundraiser is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mary E. Theler Community Center, 22871 Highway 3 in Belfair; 360-275-4898.

When caring parenting crosses the line
Do you meddle in your children’s business? Have you ever kept a reminder sheet of upcoming tests? “Helped” them with a project, or, let’s be honest, did the bulk of it yourself? Excused them from chores because they have “so much homework?”
It’s a habit that can escalate, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford and author of “How to Raise an Adult,” who will speak on Bainbridge Feb. 3. One college student she knew had never learned to pump gas because her parents visited every weekend and filled the tank for her.
Although the author observed the problem of hovering parents (she tries not to use the helicopter parent tag) as one of upper middle-class and affluent families, it is by no means limited to the 1 percent.
Lythcott-Haims’ talk is not limited to Bainbridge families. Here are the details: 7:30-9 p.m. Feb.3 at Bainbridge High School, 9330 NE High School Road; Cost: $15. Register at: raisingresilience.org.

Education tidbits
A Bremerton elementary school teacher earned her masters degree through classes at Woodland Park Zoo.
And South Kitsap School district will host a meeting 5:30 p.m. Thursday (that’s tonight) at South Kitsap High School to explain the International Baccalaureate program it hopes to bring to schools, including the high school. We wrote about the program last spring.

Article on corporal punishment gets folks talking

For some reason an article written Aug. 15, 2015, on the subject of corporal punishment in schools, has been widely discussed recently on social media.

The article, by Nate Robson of Oklahoma Watch, talks about a policy allowing for paddling of students at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools, about 25 miles east of Tulsa.

Oklahoma is one of 19 states that allow schools to physically discipline students, according to Robson. Washington State outlawed corporal punishment in 1994.

“Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to produce in-depth and investigative journalism on public-policy and quality-of-life issues facing the state,” its website states.

Washington State, with others around the country, is taking a hard look at discipline practices, given that data show minorities, male students and special education students, among other groups, are disciplined at a higher rate than the general population of kids.

In 2011-2012, the data year in question for the Oklahoma Watch story, special education students made up 15 percent of Oklahoma enrollment but were more than 20 percent of students who were physically punished.

The Kitsap Sun has done articles on disproportionate discipline. In earlier stories, we discussed the impact on minority groups. With the recent release of new discipline data by Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, we plan to take a close look a discipline as it affect special education students.

We are looking to talk to parents of special needs students, students themselves, teachers and para-educators about their experiences with discipline.

Contact me, education reporter Chris Henry, at (360) 792-9219 or christina.henry@kitsapsun.com.

Kitsap education news, Jan. 2 – 8

And now a roundup of this week’s education news in Kitsap and beyond.

Follow the news as it happens at kitsapsun.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chrishenryreporter/.

Contact Kitsap Sun education reporter Chris Henry at (360) 792-9219 or christina.henry@kitsapsun.com.

Chief Kitsap Academy basketball gaining steam
The Chief Kitsap Academy Bears are coming into their own. The basketball team, the first sports team at the tribal compact school, is now in its second year. The Bears’ two coaches George Hill III, 22 and We-laka Chiquiti, 19, are possibly the youngest high school coaching staff in the state.Bears

Paying for public schools remains a problem in 2016
As the short session start, legislators in Olympia are under the gun to agree on a complete overhaul of public education funding. Kitsap teachers who held one-day walkouts in the spring over pay, class sizes and testing held back on longer strikes in the fall but will be watching for signs of major progress.

Lawmakers from both parties and both houses announced Friday they may have a plan to fix the way the state pays for education. Getting legislators outside this bipartisan working group on board will be a challenge, said Christine Rolfes, D- B.I., a member of the group.

Bainbridge Montessori school eyes expansion
The Montessori Country School turns families away each year. Administrators at the private school on Arrow Point Drive hope to change that with an expansion that would combine its two campuses, add classrooms and increase enrollment from 115 to 145.
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Seaquist formalizes run for state K-12 superintendent.
Former 26th District Rep. Larry Seaquist announced Thursday that he will run in November for state superintendent of public instruction, hoping to fix a system that is “slipping into crisis.” Seaquist says the law that replaces No Child Left Behind offers Washington State the chance to tailor public education to its own needs. Among the adjustments, Seaquist mentioned a “radical change” in testing.Seaquist

Speak Out Tuesday on South Kitsap Bond
There’s a public hearing set Tuesday on South Kitsap School District’s Feb. 9 bond ballot measure. The Port Orchard City Council wants to hear from the public before considering endorsement of the $127 million bond to build a second high school and make $2 million in technology upgrades at the existing South Kitsap High School
The hearing will be part of the council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 216 Prospect St.

Coming up next week: What local high school choir will be singing in Carnegie Hall this spring?

Education stories on a lighter note

In today’s Kitsap Sun, we ran a roundup of top stories on the education beat for 2016.

Teachers’ walkouts, McCleary madness, the Kennedy flap over school prayer, the end of No Child Left Behind … It was a whirlwind year.

Not all the education news coming out of Kitsap County was serious, however. Here are a few of the stories that still make me smile.

In late January, a fourth-grade class at Mullenix Ridge Elementary in South Kitsap decided to do their own scientific investigation of De-flategate, the uproar over allegations the New England Patriots weaseled their way into the Super Bowl using underinflated balls in the AFC championship game.
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Ashton Smith, the lone Patriots fan in the class, defended quarterback Tom Brady, but quickly became a bitter old man, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld a four-game suspension imposed on Brady for his part in the scandal. A federal court later tossed the suspension, for lack of due process in the investigation.

In February, acting students at South Kitsap High School made a regional ripple on social media with the hashtag #SKvsFallon. The students and their coach Scott Yingling issued a video challenge to late night host Jimmy Fallon for an “Improv-off.” The video racked up 30,000 views shortly after it posted and SKvsFallon was briefly a trending topic on Facebook in Western states.

In March, Brownsville Elementary School Principal Toby Tebo kissed a goat for a school fundraiser. “Kissing goats, it’s a good idea. It’s going to be fun, and I can’t wait to pucker up,” Tebo said, before giving Peanut the pygmy goat 21 kisses, one for each goat the students sponsored for an African village.

In December, we asked students at Pearson and Vinland Elementary schools what advice they’d give Santa. Here’s Rachel Seymour’s video with their response.

Districts offer events for sampling coding, multicultural celebration

Two events this week hosted by local school districts offer the public a chance to sample the joys of coding and cultural traditions.

On Thursday, South Kitsap School District will host a public Hour of Code from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at South Kitsap High School. Doss Bradford, the high school’s computer science instructor, will open up computer labs to let community members try their hands at the increasingly important skill of coding. The event piggybacks on the recent Hour of Code events in which South Kitsap students (along with others around the world) took part.

After the coding activity, the district will offer a free screening of CODEGIRL, a documentary, released in November, which follows female student teams in the Technovation Challenge. The Technovation Challenge aims to increase the number of female app developers by empowering girls worldwide to develop apps for an international competition.

“We hope the movie will encourage girls in our district to give coding a try, possibly entering the Technovation Challenge themselves,” said Greg Kirkpatrick, the high school’s assistant director of career and technical education.
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On Friday, Bremerton School District will host its second annual multicultural night. The Kitsap Sun covered the event last year, and it was a blast with students performing traditional dances from Mexico, Guam and other countries. There are ethnic foods to sample and other interesting presentations. It’s one of the ways the high school honors its ethnically diverse student population. The event is at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Bremerton High School Commons.

There is no charge for either event.

BSD beefs up its legal fund in light of Kennedy issue

After our story Sunday on how Bremerton School District and Joe Kennedy are handling legal costs related to their dispute over whether Kennedy has the right to pray on the field after games, district spokeswoman Patty Glaser gave me some updated information.

As mentioned in the story, when and if Kennedy sues the district, the matter will be turned over to BSD’s insurance risk pool. The district’s annual premium for the risk pool (School Insurance Association of Washington) is $579,536, Glaser said in an email Monday.

Glaser and others took me to task for implying in the original story that legal posturing between Kennedy and the district short of a suit is not directly impacting the district’s budget and diverting money that would otherwise go to the classroom.

On Monday, I updated the story to clarify that legal costs the district has incurred so far in its dispute with Kennedy are covered by a legal fund that is part of the general fund, and so potentially have a direct impact on the classroom.

Last week, when I spoke with Glaser and Superintendent Aaron Leavell, they said the legal fund had been adequate so far to cover legal counsel related to the Kennedy issue. On Monday Glaser said that the dispute arose at the start of the district’s fiscal year and the fund could fall short, requiring the district to tap other sources. Furthermore, money in the legal fund is money that, were it not needed, could be diverted back to the classroom, she added.

On Monday afternoon, Glaser got back to me with updated legal costs in October (which were not available for the story Sunday). The district in October incurred $10,512 in legal costs. The legal bill in September, when the issue arose, was $6,600. The district has increased the amount in its legal fund from $140,000 to $190,000 “in anticipation of legal costs for JK.”

“We have not calculated the staff time diverted to this matter,” Glaser said in answer to a question raised by several people who read the story.