Category Archives: Schools

How Winifred Atchison salvaged my education

“Does not work up to her potential.” This was a common theme on my early elementary school report cards.

I was easily distracted, overly sociable and a little bit mischievous, just the kind of kid that puts a snag in every teacher’s stocking.

Day in, day out, I must have worn on Miss Atchison’s nerves, but she never let it show. Winifred Atchison was the quintessential schoolmarm, with sensible black pumps, a wool skirt just below the knee and a cap of leaden curls.

Miss Atchison brooked no nonsense, and I believe I spent more time out in the hallway than in the classroom during my fourth grade year. Our classroom was off a landing, and I can remember my older sister — well behaved, neat, punctual, studious — taking the stairs to the cafeteria with her friends, pretending she didn’t know me.

I was one of two girls in a remedial handwriting class, a fact of which I was probably not sufficiently ashamed. Things haven’t improved much to this day.

I hated math and didn’t get the point of history (too many dates to memorize, so long ago). I lived for recess, PE and lunch.

The one part of the instructional day I came to love was read-aloud time. Right after lunch, Miss Atchison would read to us in her thick Irish accent.

I don’t recall any of the books she read, but I do remember they had a profound effect on me. Lying my head on my arms — which was allowed — I relished the sound of the words and marveled at how they strung together. Miss Atchison could have been reading the phone book in that mellifluous brogue and I’d have been hooked.

Now, some time during the year, someone (not me, probably one of the guys) had brought in a lump of clay that got divvied up, loaves and fishes style, until everyone had a little pinch. Miss Atchison knew about the clay, and allowed us to have it in our desks — the old hinge top kind — as long as we didn’t take it out during class.

One day during read-aloud time, when Miss Atchison’s eyes were on the book, someone sneaked their clay out and started making tiny ramps on the desktop, which was slanted, and a tiny clay ball to roll down the little maze.

I would love to take credit for that bit of brilliance, but I have to say it was probably one of the guys, or Cornelia Adams, who was both artistic and subversive. Pretty soon everyone in class was making clay mazes on their desks.

Miss Atchison quickly became aware of the new trend, but instead of squashing it, lo and behold, she tolerated it. Pretty soon our classroom economy revolved around the clay, which grew in volume like currency, traded for erasers, pencils and pennies. We had a virtual clay Mafia, of which I was not part. But I had my share of the goods, a raquetball-sized wad.

The mazes got bigger, more elaborate. We had unspoken contests for who could keep the little ball rolling the longest. And yet read-aloud time grew utterly quiet; none of the usual wiggling or whispering. Even kids who used to squirm through the stories, settled down and maybe even listened.

My lifelong love of words began with read-aloud hour, a blissful interlude marked by the lilting sound of Miss Atchison’s voice, the softness and earthy smell of clay, and the sight of the little ball rolling, dropping, rolling and dropping.

In the months and years to come, I developed a voracious appetite for reading and also found I was a pretty decent writer. Over months and years, I settled down, knuckled down and became a decent student, and later in life a journalist.

For all this, I credit Miss Atchison, who was old in the 1960s, when I went to elementary school, and is surely dead by now.

Did I ever tell her, “thank you?” I can’t recall. It seemed a given; we loved Miss Atchison and she loved us. She knew what made each of us tick. She knew when to push us and when to indulge our childish sense of play.

Now, that was brilliant.

On Sunday, we’ll hear from this year’s high school graduates about teachers who changed the trajectory of their education, and we’d like to hear from you, too.

Starting today, post your thoughts, memories, photos and videos on the social media platform of your choice with the tag #bestteacher. Our goal is to collect reader responses through Facebook, Twitter and other social media and share them when the story is published online at www.kitsapsun.com.

If you’re using Facebook, make sure we can see the post by following these instructions: Click on the blue drop-down menu to the left of the “Post” button. It reads, “Who should see this?” Click on “Public.” Making your post public will allow it to be included when we aggregate the responses.

Whatever platform you’re using, remember to use the hashtag #bestteacher.

Richard Sherman has Cedar Heights covered

Students at Cedar Heights Junior High School (and most staff members) showed up for the school assembly Thursday with no idea what was in store.

When Richard Sherman walked into the room, the gym exploded in applause and excitement, said South Kitsap School District spokeswoman Amy Miller.

Sherman, a pillar of the Legion of Boom for the 2013 NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, agreed to speak at Cedar Heights’ “It Takes Courage to be Great!” assembly as part of his work with Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation.
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Through the foundation, formed in 2013, Sherman provides students in low-income communities with school supplies and clothing so they can more adequately achieve their goals.

Sherman recently launched a new initiative to reach out to schools with large at-risk populations, according to Bryan Slater, Director of Community Outreach for the foundation and a member of its board. Cedar Heights does not fit the at-risk label statistically, said Slater, but Sherman wants to reach out to schools in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap County. Slater, a teacher in the Sumner School District, knows Ted Macomber, a dean at Cedar and supporter of previous Blanket Coverage events, and so the foundation connected with the school in South Kitsap School District.

Although Sherman did not distribute clothing at the assembly, the Stanford grad did talk to the students about having the courage and perseverance to keep trying even when the odds are stacked against you.
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Sherman fielded questions from the kids, including, “Will you be my best friend?” to “What was your most courageous moment?”

He also invited six students to sign Blanket Coverage contracts to work on improving themselves in the areas of attendance, behavior/attitude or academics. The kids are asked to document where they’ve been falling short in any one of these areas and to list specific actions they will try to take to change their habits. The purpose is to encourage students to take small steps to reach their bigger life goals, Slater said.
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Sherman will personally follow up with the students to see how they are doing with their goals, according to Slater.

“Richard’s role is to kind of be a big cheerleader for the kids,” he said. “Richard doesn’t want this to be kind of a one and done thing. He wants to have authentic, real relationships with the kids.”

On his blog, Sherman on Thursday posted, “Shout out to Cedar Heights Junior High School, I had an amazing time today. These kids truly have a ton of potential; I hope I can help them reach it. We had a few kids sign contracts today to improve in various areas of their studies — it is always encouraging to see a student show their dedication to becoming successful. I hope all the students enjoyed it as much as I did. Keep up the hard work; it will pay off!”
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Sherman has already visited Rainer Beach High School in Seattle, where he had five students sign contracts. With more school visits ahead, how will he keep track of all these kids?

“Richard’s memory is so incredible, when he gets to meet these five or six kids, he’ll remember them forever,” Slater said.

Members of the media were not invited to or notified of the event.

“We’re not really interested in the publicity,” Slater said. “We don’t want it to be construed as a publicity stunt by Mr. Sherman.”

“South Kitsap School District would like to thank Richard Sherman and his family foundation for taking the time to visit Cedar Heights and make a difference for the students in our community,” Miller said.

Go Hawks!

— Photos Courtesy of Blanket Coverage

SKHS dance team sweeps in Anaheim competition

Dance teams from South Kitsap cleaned up at the American Showcase event in Anaheim, Calif., in April.

The Cedar Heights Junior High School’s junior varsity team, coached by Lexi Sperber-Meekins, took first place in the pom event for its division.

The South Kitsap High School varsity dance team, coached by Devin Hanson, won all three of the events in which they were entered in the finals on April 12: Varsity jazz, varsity hip hop and varsity Pom.

“For a high school team to win that many first place awards is quite an accomplishment,” said Sheila Noone, of Varsity.com, which hosts the event and a number of other dance team and cheer competitions. “I would assume that they are a very versatile team, strong in many different genres of dance. Some teams are strong in pom, or hip hip, or jazz, but to be great at all is very impressive.”

This is their jazz number.

The SKHS dance team has been together for a year. They tried out last spring and worked over the summer and fall to perfect their technique and competition routines. According to Hanson, the team puts in roughly seven to 10 hours a week at practice.

The team performs whenever they can, at the back-to-school fair, high school basketball games, and they did the half-time performance for a Kitsap Admirals game in February.

The dance team competes in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association competitions, and this year they took their hip hop, and jazz routines to state.

As you watch these other videos, check out what an athletic endeavor these dance routines are. If you think this looks like fun (and if you’re a student), tryouts are coming up, likely some time in early June.

This is their pom number.

This is their hip hop number.

Bullying: A parents’ resource guide

From time to time, we here at the Kitsap Sun get calls from parents concerned about bullying at their children’s school. On Sunday, we’ll run the first of a two-part series on bullying in schools. Day one is focused on how parents can best advocate for their children when bullying happens. On Tuesday (our regular Education Spotlight day), we will follow up with a look at why middle schools are often a hot bed of conflict waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts of student rights, school responsibilities and what parents should know about helping their student deal with bullying at school.

This information comes from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI does not have authority to enforce local rules except in cases involving sexual discrimination, special education disputes and complaints of misconduct against a school district employee.

Each school district is required by RCW 28A.300.285 to have a policy that prohibits the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any student. Schools must share this policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees. Districts post policies and procedures on their website and in parent handbooks.

How do I report suspected bullying?
1. Contact your child’s school (or transportation department if the incident happens on the bus). Fill out an incident form, which should be available at the school or on the district’s website. The school is required to conduct an investigation.
2. Anyone — students, parents, staff — can report suspected bullying. Students may submit the report asking for confidentiality, meaning the staff will not disclose the name of the reporting student to the accused student. Anonymous reports also are accepted. Staff cannot issue disciplinary consequences for anonymous reports, but they may alert staff to an existing problem.
3. If the bullying act was particularly vicious and the bully seriously injured your child or caused significant harm to your child’s property, the bully may be guilty of malicious harassment. Contact the police if you suspect malicious harassment. In some cases, the schools will make a police report on your child’s behalf.
4. If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the issues, file a written complaint with the district’s compliance officer, who is an administrator appointed by OSPI to over see discipline. Next up the chain of command would be the superintendent.
5. If you still feel that district has not adequately addressed the issues, you may file a complaint with a school board member. Most school boards do not permit discussion of individual discipline cases during public meetings.
6. If you still feel that your concerns have not been addressed, you may contact your Educational Service District Superintendent. Kitsap County is served by Olympic Educational Service District 114, (360) 479-0993.
7. For further help and guidance, contact one of the agencies listed below.

Washington State Human Rights Commission
Addresses bullying based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender expression, sensory, mental, or physical disability). The Human Rights Commission has staff throughout the state who able to meet with you and investigate the bullying complaint.

Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman
Helps with parent-school conflicts with regionally sited investigators: (866) 297-2597.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Addresses complaints based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age and has a regional office in Seattle: (206) 607-1600.

The Safe Schools Coalition
Addresses homophobia and harassment in school based on real or perceived sexual orientation: (877) 723-3723.

Washington State Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Has regional offices, and the national PTA provides guidance on bullying.

Community Relations Service
An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides conciliation services to help prevent and resolve racial and ethnic conflict. Contact Sandra Blair, Conciliation Specialist, Northwest Regional Office: (206) 220-6704.

Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Safety Center, http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/FactSheet.aspx

More resources for parents
Committee for Children, parents guide to support children in reporting bullying
http://cfchildren.org/bullying-prevention/related-articles/role-play-how-to-report-bullying

Committee for Children, parents guide to cyberbullying
http://cfchildren.org/bullying-prevention/related-articles/safeguard-your-students-against-cyber-bullying

Stop Bullying, federal public service site
http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Source: Bremerton School District, http://www.bremertonschools.org

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

UW researchers say schools’ pot policies matter more since legalization

Suspending kids from school for using pot is not an effective deterrent, in fact it can lead to more — not less — use, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington and in Australia.

Counseling and promotion of an abstinence message in schools were found to be much more effective, according to an article about the study that was published March 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study, conducted in 2002 and 2003, compared drug policies at schools in Washington State and Victoria, Australia, to determine how they impacted student marijuana use.

The researchers were initially most interested in teens’ use of alcohol and cigarettes, according to a news release about the article from the University of Washington. But after Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012, researchers decided to reexamine the data to see how legalization might influence students in Washington versus their counterparts in Australia, where pot remains illegal, said Deborah Bach, a social science writer at the UW.

They found students attending schools with suspension policies for illicit drug use were 1.6 times more likely than their peers at schools without such policies to use marijuana in the next year. That was true for the whole student body, not just those who were suspended.

“That was surprising to us,” said co-author Richard Catalano, professor of social work and co-founder of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. “It means that suspensions are certainly not having a deterrent effect. It’s just the opposite.”

This echoes reporting we did in the Kitsap Sun about student discipline in general, in which educators and child advocates from many corners said suspension and expulsion are ineffective at reversing undesirable behavior.

Conversely, in schools with policies of referring pot-using students to a school counselor, students were almost 50 percent less likely to use marijuana.

Washington and Victoria, Australia were chosen for the study since they are similar in size and demographics, but differ considerably in their approaches to drug use among students. Washington schools, at least at the time of the study, were more likely to suspend students, call police or require offenders to attend education or cessation programs, the researchers noted, while Victoria schools emphasize “a harm-reduction approach that favors counseling.”

Researchers surveyed more than 3,200 seventh- and ninth-graders in both 2002 and 2003 about their use of marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes and also about their schools’ drug policies and enforcement. Nearly 200 school administrators were also surveyed. In both survey years, pot use was higher among the Washington students. Almost 12 percent of Washington ninth-graders had used marijuana in the past month, compared with just over 9 percent of Victoria ninth-graders, for example.

Tracy Evans-Whipp, the study’s lead author, said although the research predated Washington’s legalization, the findings show what types of school policies are most effective in discouraging teens’ use of the drug.

The study also showed “a consistent link” between increased acccess to marijuana and higher rates of self-reported use by adolescents, Bach notes.

“To reduce marijuana use among all students, we need to ensure that schools are using drug policies that respond to policy violations by educating or counseling students, not just penalizing them,” Catalano said.

Others involved in the research are are Todd Herrenkohl at the UW, Stephanie Plenty at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Sweden and John Toumbourou at Deakin University in Australia.

Chros Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

Article on Smarter Balanced raises questions about opting kids out

You may have noticed in our article today (March 10) on the advent of Smarter Balanced testing a line about a teacher in Central Kitsap School District who plans to opt his own daughter out of the new state standardized test.

Robert Reynolds, a Silverdale Elementary teacher, will dutifully give the tests to his students, but he’s opting out his eighth-grade daughter on principle.

“I just think there’s so much time preparing for this test, months actually, it takes time away from the classroom with the teacher,” Reynolds said.

To get an idea of the district’s testing schedule, see documents embedded below that show not only the schedule for Smarter Balanced testing, but all standardized and other tests, such as screening tests for gifted students. As you can see, there’s some kind of testing going on pretty much throughout the year. State Superintendent Randy Dorn is among those who have proposed legislation to pare down the amount of testing to which students are subjected.
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I asked Reynolds if he knew the process for opting out. He did not believe there was a formal process and anticipated no problem accomplishing his goal by simply telling the district his daughter would not be taking the test.

According to a Washington Post article published March 9, states are far from uniform in their response to the growing “opt-out” movement. “The lack of clear rules and information has left plenty of uncertainty about how and whether parents can opt out of tests and what the consequences might be, not only for individual students, but for schools and school districts,” the article states.

The article cites a recent analysis by the Education Commission of the States, an organization that tracks education trends, showing that few states explicitly allow or prohibit test refusal, Arkansas and Texas being two exceptions to the latter. Legislation recently was introduced in New Jersey and North Dakota to allow opt-outs. Similar legislation in Mississippi failed to move forward, according to the ECS report. State laws in California and Utah allow parents to opt their children out of state assessments for any reason. Michigan’s Department of Education “discourages but does not prohibit” opt outs, the report states. Oregon and Pennsylvania excuse students from state testing to accommodate religious beliefs.

And in other recent coverage of the issue, we find in the Denver Post Colorado’s State Board of Education voting earlier not to hold districts accountable if not enough students take the tests. In Illinois, “The latest guidance from the state suggests that a note from a parent won’t work. A child must be presented with a paper testing booklet or a “test ticket” to a computer-based exam, and refuse to take each section of the test, records show,” according to a March 4 article in the Chicago Tribune.

If you look on the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website under “assessments” there’s nothing that jumps right out and says, “Opt out; here’s how.”

“It’s not really optional,” said Robin Munson, the state’s assistant superintendent for assessment and student information. “But,” she added, “it’s not mandatory every student must take it.”

In short, parents can opt their student out but there are consequences to the student and the state, Munson says.

While most students taking the test this year won’t need it to graduate, the state needs their results to comply with No Child Left Behind, the federal act that sets accountability standards for schools. State Superintendent Randy Dorn has warned Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School that its decision to boycott the test for its 11th-graders, citing over-testing, could cost the state federal money.

The feds this year will look at scores of students in third through eighth grade and 11th-graders to determine if schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress. (Washington State schools all will fail miserably due to being out of compliance with federal requirements under NCLB, but that’s another story.)

Tenth-graders will take the English language arts Smarter Balanced, which will be a graduation requirement for them in 2017 and the Class of 2018. Those classes will have several options to meet the state’s math testing requirement, including Smarter Balanced. The Class of 2019 is the first that will be required to pass both the math and ELA Smarter Balanced tests.

On a side note: Graduation testing requirements are slightly different for each class between now and 2019, as the state phases out the HSPE and EOC (end of course exams in geometry and algebra) and phases in the Smarter Balanced test. To see what your child will be required to do, visit OSPI’s testing page.

Technically 10th graders could wait to attempt the Smarter Balanced English language arts test (those who meet the “cut score” — a 3 or 4 on a scale of four — don’t have to take it again in 11th grade). But, says Munson, “You don’t want to be the school that doesn’t give your students the opportunity.”

Students who score a 3 or 4 on the tests will automatically be placed in college-level math and English language arts classes, through an agreement with the state community and technical colleges, and public four-year universities. This will save students the need for placement tests, and save families the cost of students taking remedial courses. Students who score below that will get extra help through coursework developed by the Smarter Balanced Consortium to get them up to speed and ready for life before they graduate from high school.

Finally, said Kristen Jaudon, OSPI spokeswoman, “Not having students take the new tests robs educators of a fair and equitable measure of student progress. They won’t be able to see gaps between groups of students, which means the students who most need help may not get it.”

Adding to the confusion over why students in high school should or shouldn’t take the test, 10th grade formerly was the federal accountability year; now it’s 11th. And this fall OSPI and the Smarter Balanced Consortium agreed that both 11th and 10th graders would take the same assessment, which has been referred to all along at the 11th grade assessment. Too far into the weeds? OK, I’ll stop here.

Bottom line, Munson said, “I do think it’s mandatory to test all students.”

So now I’ll put it out there to parents, teachers and other educators, “What do you think?”

Chris Henry
(360) 792-9219
chenry@kitsapsun.com
https://www.facebook.com/chrishenryreporter



ADA makes provisions for miniature horses as service animals

Today we’re reporting on a guide dog in training at Green Mountain Elementary School that called on Central Kitsap School District to examine its policy on service animals. District officials agreed that Bridget, a 7-month-old yellow lab, did not fit the definition of a service animal because she is not yet trained and or assigned to a person with a disability. For lack of a policy, the dog, who has many fans at the school, was banned from the classroom from November through late January. A revised policy allows for guide dogs in training at the discretion of the school principal with a written agreement.

Covering this story got me to wondering what does qualify as a service animal, especially since I have heard about miniature horses used to help people with disabilities. Just how does the Americans with Disabilities Act define “reasonable accommodation?”

Service animals perform many tasks from guiding the blind, alerting people are who are deaf, and calming a person with PTSD to pulling a wheelchair and protecting a person who is having a seizure, according to the ADA.

A revision to the ADA effective in 2011 refined and clarified the definition of “service animal” in light of wider use of service dogs and the advent of using miniature horses to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

As of the revision, only dogs are recognized as service animals under Title II of the ADA (state and local government services) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities). A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Generally, under Title II and III, service animals are allowed to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is allowed to go.

A person with a disability may not be asked to remove his dog from premises unless it is out of control and the handler doesn’t take immediate, effective action, or if it is not housebroken.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.

Dogs not specifically trained to perform tasks related to a disability, but whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but are recognized under the broader definition of “assistance animal.” The Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Act allows for assistance animals as a “reasonable accommodation” where housing facility rules would otherwise prohibit them.

Miniature horses, which range in height from 24 to 30 inches at the shoulders and from 70 to 100 pounds in weight, have their own regulations. Entities, like schools, covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses as service animals “where reasonable.” A four-part test determines what’s reasonable: whether the horse is housebroken; whether it is under the owner’s control; whether the facility can accommodate the animals size, type and weight; and whether the miniature horse’s presence “will not compromise legitimate safety requirements” for operating the facility.

#SKvsFallon: High school acting group challenges Jimmy Fallon to an Improv-off

… And they’re serious.

We at the Kitsap Sun aren’t sure what Scott Yingling, South Kitsap High School’s acting ensemble coach, put in his coffee Friday, but it clearly got him buzzed. Or is he always like this?

Regardless, an idea hit him, a rather gutsy idea, some might say.

“I’m a huge Jimmy Fallon fan, and my kids are, too,” Yingling said. “We were just talking one day, and I said, ‘You guys, you know what would be fun? Let’s challenge Jimmy Fallon to an Improv-off!”

The kids were down with it. Of course they were, they’re kids … with plenty of chutzpah of the kind kids in acting ensembles have in abundance, probably like Fallon himself at that age. The group of 17 juniors and seniors also has considerable experience with improvisation, since SK high hosts not one but four wildly popular Improv Nights each school year. I can say the “wildly popular” part is true, because my son, who graduated from South in 2013, attended quit a few and described a packed house every time. Granted it’s not NBC studios, but whatevs!

In a YouTube video shot at the school Friday and produced by South Kitsap High School’s video production class, Yingling — in a suit and tie, his minions mugging behind him — issues his challenge.

He calls Fallon “James.”Yingling

“You host a show that is very popular, and I host a show that is very popular,” Yingling says. “We have an Improv Night here in South Kitsap, and behind me is my crew, and basically right now what we’re saying, James, is that we are challenging you, OK? Yeah, bring it!

“You can come to my house or we’ll go to your house. Either way, you’re going to lose.”

Did we mention that Yingling, too, has chutzpah with a capital “B?”

Maybe, but if in some alternate universe Fallon actually hears the online yammering of the students, who have posted memes like this
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If Fallon’s own minions, perhaps, pick up on the chatter and buzz (the video has nearly 30,000 views since Friday) and, let’s imagine in our wildest dreams, they nudge the Emmy winning comedian and say, “Hey, this could be a good shtick.” Let’s say that happens. And let’s say Fallon says, “Why not, I’m already on the West Coast this week.”

What if Fallon and his film crew walked right through the doors of South Kitsap High School into the commons in the middle of lunch, the smell of chicken nuggets pervading? What if he walked up to Yingling, mano e mano, and said, “You’re on.”

What then?

“I’d be ready right now,” Yingling said. “I honestly have that much confidence in my kids. They’re an amazing group of young people. They use intelligent comedy. They’re smart. They look out for one another. Nobody in the group is all about themselves. They’re all about the group.”

Oh, and Jimmy Fallon, if you actually do take them up on their offer. Here are few things you should know. The acting ensemble is the school drama equivalent of the varsity football team. As in years past, the troupe will be taking part in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which honors the late, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. The preliminary round is Feb. 21 and 22 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, with which South Kitsap’s acting program is affiliated through a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts grant. South Kitsap’s acting ensemble has participated in the competition since 2010, and each year has had students make it into the top 10 for the final regional competition (to be held this year on March 17). Two of Yingling’s students went on to the national competition, Drew Benning (2011-2012) and Alexandra Hope (2012-2013).

Most of these kids hope to go into show business themselves some day. So, Kitsap County and beyond, if you’re so inclined, let’s augment this trend on the social media platform of your choice, #SKvsFallon.

Jimmy Fallon, can you hear us now?

More to the Raspberry Pi story

We wrote in today’s Kitsap Sun about Bob Cairns, the Port Orchard Rotary member who is working to deliver solar powered mini-computers to school children in Kenya. The system is driven by a device called Raspberry Pi, developed in 2012 by researchers in Cambridge. The effort dovetails with Cairns’ work on polio vaccinations and education scholarships in that country.
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Here are a few other things about Cairns you might like to know:

As mentioned in a recent Forbes article on the Raspberry Pi project, Cairns could be on a cruise ship with his wife Chris instead of bouncing around barely defined dirt roads in a Land Cruiser and holing up in African hotels, some crawling with insect life. Cairns, a Manchester resident, retired in January 2014 after 28 years managing the Manchester Fuel Depot, one of the Navy’s largest and most strategic fuel installations. He served on the Kitsap Sun’s editorial board in 2012.

Cairns, with his wife, has made five trips to Africa, the most recent in October to deliver the first set of Raspberry Pi systems. He and Chris actively take part in vaccination clinics, helping to administer oral doses to children. The cause is dear to their hearts, since Chris’ brother was “the last child in Illinois to get polio.” Her brother survived but is severely crippled by the now-preventable disease.

On the trip, Bob and Chris took their granddaughter, Ashley Carter, a student at Bellingham’s Western Washington University. “We wanted Ashley to see how much we have in our world versus how much they don’t have in the rest of the world.”

For example, Collins Nakedi, a young Kenayn man with whom Cairns has partnered to aid children in East Pokot (a region of Kenya), said getting an education there is “like organizing a journey to the moon using a vehicle.” The literacy rate is a dismal 4 percent.

That’s due to lack of resources and lack of cultural support for education among the largely nomadic people of East Pokot. That’s starting to change a little bit, thanks in part to the Raspberry Pi, Nakedi said.

Here’s an interesting fact about Nakedi. As a youngster Nakedi, the son of a goat herder, snuck into a local school and talked them into letting him stay. Thus began his education, which ended in a four-year degree, against astronomical odds. Cairns is helping Nakedi write a book about his life.

Nakedi, whom Cairns calls a genius, and two other young men who attended the same university in Nairobi from which Nakedi graduated, have started a NGO to aid youngsters in Kenya’s city slums and rural areas primarily through expanded educational opportunities. Cairns has partnered with their nonprofit, Hifadi Africa, to help distribute Raspberry Pi systems and to identify students for scholarships, which are essential for attending the mostly government-run boarding schools that constitute the public education system. This year, Rotary clubs in the northwest are providing four very bright Kenyan orphans with $600 scholarships that will provide a year’s worth of schooling.

Cairns’ involvement in Africa actually started with one of the other Hifadi Africa principals, Jovenal Nsengimana. Nsengimana lost his parents and sister in the Rawandan genocide at age 4. He ended up in a refugee camp with his older brother John, then 7, who took charge of the family including another younger brother, and who later was also able to pursue an education. Cairns and his wife heard about Nsengimana through a Rotary connection and ended up sponsoring his education through university.

In addition to education, Cairns, with help from Hifadi Africa and other Rotary members, is working to bring clean water to East Pokot. The area, partially within the Rift Valley, is extremely arid. There is virtually no running water or plumbing. People become ill from drinking water fouled by animal excrement. Rotary has supported efforts to drill a well in the area, but Cairns says they’re looking at other technology that is more basic yet more sustainable and effective.

In remote areas, machinery parts are hard to come by, and the water quality is poor. Cairns and others are looking at simple collection systems for harvesting the little rainwater that does fall. Another technology, not new, is to drill “riverbank infiltration galleries,” chambers on the banks of rivers that slow to a trickle most of the year. When rains do fall, water is directed to the underground chamber for storage. It’s not suitable for human consumption, but fine for livestock, which play a central role in East Pokot life.

Like the solar-powered Raspberry Pi, the water system solutions are simple and work with what’s available, Cairns said.

Don’t look for Cairns to slow down and take the cruise-ship route any time soon. There’s too much work to be done in East Pokot and beyond.

To help, donate at http://www.gofundme.com/raspberrypiafrica.