Category Archives: Youth

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.
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.
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.
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!”
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

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,

More resources for parents
Committee for Children, parents guide to support children in reporting bullying

Committee for Children, parents guide to cyberbullying

Stop Bullying, federal public service site

Source: Bremerton School District,

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

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 began attending a preschool at around age 4 and had to walk seven kilometers, often by himself, to get there. He became a boarding student by staying at the school one night after classes, basically refusing to leave when the school day was done. 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

School discipline a hot topic, no quick fix

The Kitsap County Council for Human Rights on Friday hosted a conference tackling the school-to-prison pipeline, a term that encompasses the lower graduation rates and higher incarceration rates of minority, low-income and special-needs students.

Speakers at the conference touched on many of the topics the Kitsap Sun addressed in our February series on evolving thinking about discipline nationwide and locally. Articles and blog posts in the six-day series are collected here.
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Students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, according to discipline data shared at the conference by Tim Stensager, director of data governance for the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The same is true of low-income and special-needs students. And the conference touched on the high rates of incarceration, homelessness and suicide among LGBTQ youth.

Big data is being used to identify districts where disproportionate discipline is particularly evident, and the federal government is wielding a hammer over those that show a widespread, persistent or egregious pattern of discrimination.

But the consensus a the conference was that the solutions lie at the local and even personal level. Everyone — school staff, students, parents and perhaps most importantly members of the community at large — needs to chip away at the problem from wherever they stand.

Or as Robert Boddie, who spoke a the conference, put it, “When the train stops at your station, get on it.”
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Kelsey Scott, a Running Start senior at Central Kitsap High School, didn’t need the data to understand that black students are viewed as “different.” Scott has had fellow students question why she speaks “proper” and isn’t “rude.” Scott talked about how the bar for black students is set at once pathetically low, yet impossibly high. She is a hard-working student who avoids parties, yet she feels pressure to avoid any kind of trouble.

“I have to make sure I’m always on my best behavior, because anything I do can get blown out of proportion and it’s crazy,” Scott said. “It’s basic training. When we’re acting out, it not only reflects on how people see you, it reflects on how people see people like you.”

Durell Green, 30, of Bremerton spoke at the conference about his personal experience with the school-to-prison pipeline. A self-described book “nerd,” Green got bored and acted out in elementary school, earning the label of “disruptive,” which dogged him at every turn. First arrested at 14, he was sent to Walla Walla at 18. Today, Green works to pay back the community through work in a mentoring program at his church.

The reasons why kids get in trouble are complex, and, as a recent article in the Seattle Times pointed out, there is no easy or quick fix. But Stensager showed how some districts are defying the odds, achieving high graduation rates despite having high numbers of at-risk students. Stensager and others at the conference said there are “best practices” that have been proven to work. Here’s a summary:

— Teachers must develop relationships with students, especially the troublesome ones, many at the conference agreed. Lack of time is not an excuse, according to retired educator Patricia Moncure Thomas; it’s part of the job.
— Clearly teachers need support. That’s where the value of community mentoring programs come in. The nonprofit Coffee Oasis has been successful with outreach and mentoring of homeless and at-risk youth, said Daniel Frederick of the organization. It’s a daily battle, and it’s not easy but “There’s a story behind every single child.” Partnering for Youth Achievement, the program Green works in, and Our GEMS (Girls Empowered through Mentoring and Service), a program Scott found helpful in her life, are other examples. Boddie, who has led youth mentoring groups in Central Kitsap School District, said such programs must hold students accountable, and instill a sense of pride, respect and integrity.
— Many districts, including Bremerton and Central Kitsap, are training staff in “culturally responsive” teaching methods. Teachers and other school staff who lack understanding of cultural norms and values, may misinterpret students’ behavior or miss opportunities to connect. Boddie said locally Bremerton and CKSD are ahead of the curve in addressing the role of a cultural divide in the school-to-prison pipeline.
— While big data can diagnose the problem, schools and districts with local control are best suited to fix it, according to Joe Davalos, superintendent of education for the Suquamish Tribe. The tribe’s school, open to non-tribal members, has 80 students and weaves cultural knowledge in with academic learning. Expectations are high, defying data on Native American students. At the Suquamish school, 100 percent are expected to graduate, Davalos said.
— Districts locally and nationwide are moving toward discipline that has students take personal responsibility for their behavior and make amends. So called “restorative justice” brings the offender face to face with who he’s harmed; solutions are hashed out in person.

As we continue to cover the issue of student discipline, I’d welcome hearing from you about topics you’d like covered or experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with local schools. Find me on Facebook, email or call (360) 792-9219. Thanks.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

On Saturday, memorials for two young people

A summer of loss.

This is how it feels. Three young people in Kitsap County died within a month of one another.

On July 4, Josh Osborn, 17, of South Kitsap, was on an outing with friends when he fell into the Ohanapecosh River. His body was recovered on July 28.

On July 14, JJ Hentz, 12, also of South Kitsap, was found floating in Island Lake. He died two days later at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
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Jenise Wright’s parents reported her missing on Aug. 3. The last time the 6-year-old was seen was around 10 p.m. the night before. On Aug. 7 her body was found, partially submerged in a muddy bog near Steele Creek Trailer Park in East Bremerton, where her family lives. On Aug. 9, Gabriel Gaeta, a friend of the Wright family, was arrested on suspicion of raping and killing Jenise.
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A memorial for JJ Hentz was held several weeks ago. JJ was “a bubbly and energetic boy with an old soul,” said cousin Jaime Wainwright, whom JJ called “Aunt Jaime.”

On Saturday, Josh Osborn and Jenise Wright, will be mourned at memorial services a couple of hours apart. Both are open to the public.

Jenise’s service is at 1 p.m. at the Silverdale Stake Center, 9256 Nels Nelson Road NW.
Jenise was outgoing, always at the center of activity at the mobile home park. She loved the colors pink and purple.
The Wright family is accepting donations to help offset expenses. Donations can be made online at a gofundme account or at Chase Bank branches, under the “Jenise Wright donation account.”

Josh Osborn was “every parents’ dream” according to his obituary, written by his family. “He was kind, handsome, smart, funny, but most of all he had the biggest, most loving heart. Josh loved life and he lived every day to its fullest. He had many passions and dreams.”
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A memorial for Josh is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at the South Kitsap High School gym. In honor of Josh, the family asks that you wear your Seahawks or South Kitsap gear.

When teenagers defy our expectations


On Monday when we heard the scanner call of a drowning at Island Lake my heart stopped a bit. My family had been there the evening before. My youngest, Apollo, he who cuts his own hair, had been swimming. It’s what you do when it’s warm out.

The picture on the left was taken that night from Island Lake Park. Sunset pictures were all over Facebook that night. This one is far from the best one.

There is no joy in learning it’s not your kid. There is no celebration in any of it.

Even learning that a group of about nine kids who were there swimming did all they could to save the boy’s life is overshadowed by the fact that as of Tuesday night that 12-year-old boy is in critical condition. I am, like much of this region, so impressed with what those kids did. That this boy has a chance to survive at all is because of them, and because of some adults who also happened by at the same time.

And yet, like everyone else, I want more than anything to hear that the boy will be OK. Then we can really celebrate what teenagers did. I think I can cast aside my job-mandated Olympian objectivity in saying that.

This, too. Today I got to talk to the mother of one of the kids. I said what I think anyone else would say, that no matter how this turns out those kids did the right thing.

Even if celebration is not in order, it’s comforting to know what happened. Anyone who has ever been a parent knows that stuff happens beyond your control. We obsess over details and still miss things. Life happens at a pace that sometimes outruns us. There are times we need the village to step in. We don’t necessarily plan for it. We try to live like we don’t need it. And yet there are times we find ourselves thanking whatever god we acknowledge for the times angels in the form of other humans appear to save us.

Or to save our kids.

This time it was teenagers. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to give up on them, maybe even your own. Most times we find ourselves wondering what they’re capable of it doesn’t occur to us that they might be capable of saving a life.

UPDATE: Most of you know by now that things did not end as we hoped. Jeffrey Hentz died Wednesday morning.

Summer Education Opp: Tough Love

We’ve written a lot about the Washington Youth Academy, a publicly funded residential high school intervention program for students who have dropped out or been expelled.

We heard from the Bremerton branch of the academy, which is a statewide program, when we asked for “Summer Education opportunities” for children and teens.

We did not include the listing in our Summer Ed Opps list, because the upcoming session, in which students/cadets can earn up to eight credits toward high school graduation, runs July 19 through Dec. 20. I call it to your attention here, because it is a great opportunity for youth who need help getting their lives in order and who need academic credit recovery.

Note the deadline to apply is June 20.

Washington Youth Academy
Ages: 16-18
Where: 1207 Carver Street, Bremerton
Description: At-risk youth can earn up to eight credits toward a high school diploma in five-and-a-half weeks. Next session runs July 19 through Dec. 20; applications are due by June 20.
Eligibility criteria: Students must be a high school dropout or expellee, a U.S. citizen and resident of Washington State, never convicted of a felony and have no legal action pending, free of illegal drugs at time of enrollment, and physically and mentally able to complete the program.
Program incorporates a highly structured quasi-military format emphasizing self-discipline, personal responsibility and positive motivation.
Cost: No cost for qualified candidates. The program is run through a cooperative agreement between the National Guard Bureau and Washington State.
Contact Kasie Roach at or 360-473-2629,,

Get a quick snapshot of how your child’s school measures up

On Saturday, we will run a story about struggling schools in Kitsap and North Mason counties, as identified by the State Board of Education.

The schools, identified in the Washington State Board of Education’s achievement index among the state’s lowest performing schools, are Cedar Heights Junior High School in South Kitsap School District, Hawkins Middle School in North Mason School District, Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap School District and Central Kitsap’s Off Campus Program.

The good news is that these schools have made some progress over the past three years with financial help and professional guidance from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. And they’ll continue to get that help, despite Washington State’s loss of a waiver under No Child Left Behind.

In the course of researching this story, I found a handy, dandy tool that every parent of a school-age child can find useful.

Low (and high) performing schools in Washington State are identified through data evaluated in the achievement index. About a year ago, the SBE complied the data (available in a jahonking Exel file if that’s your preference) into a user-friendly dashboard data tool that gives a visual snapshot of each school in the state.

I don’t think this data tool was widely publicized. At least I never saw a press release about it. So they may have given it a “soft rollout” as the saying goes. But maybe I’ve just been behind the curve. I do know that the state is moving toward better public access and transparency of data.

OSPI’s school and district report card, which offers a wealth of information, has been available for a long time. I use it regularly.

Find the achievement index here. From the main drop down window, select your district of choice, then your child’s school to view data on academic proficiency and growth among all students and subgroups of students who have historically lagged behind their grade level peers.

Notice that dark blue represents the highest tier, with dark green at the next level and light green in the middle. Orange and red signify the lowest tiers. Having orange or even red boxes doesn’t automatically raise a red flag, under the SBE’s high-low ID system, which takes into account data over past three years. The system also measures students’ relative academic growth rather than growth against a fixed standard, as under the federal No Child Left Behind standards.

In addition to struggling schools, the Board of Education also identified high performing schools, including 17 in Kitsap and North Mason, which were recognized by OSPI in April.