Category Archives: Schools

I am OC – Koi Tirima

Kitsap Sun – Zugs

Olympic College English Professor Koi Tirima is becoming a local celebrity.

Beside being featured on this blog for her efforts to raise money for her home country of Kenya, she is now the center of OC’s promotion campaign featuring prominent members of Bremerton’s higher ed community.

Here is Tirima in a profile written by the The Olympian, here is her bio in the OC newsletter and here is the story I wrote about her after she returned to Bremerton after witnessing the chaos and heartbreak following that country’s contested elections.

Here is a good update on the situation in Kenya, which is not looking so grim anymore.

No Place for the Developmentally Disabled

Note: I was unable to post Monday. My youngest (Apollo — 10 mos.) threw up green beans on me Saturday night and had he been in range Monday I would have fired back. So would have everyone else in my family. I got better, so I’m back.

Andrew Binion has reported on the lawsuit filed by advocates for disabled students attending school at former Bremerton Junior High School.

The Bremerton School District won the first round when a judge ruled the district was not responsible for providing the facilities for schooling. That falls to DSHS, the judge said.

According to Binion’s earlier story, the law requires developmentally disabled students (Most of the kids in question here have autism) to be educated in the same environment as non-disabled students. That isn’t the issue in the lawsuit. The issue centers on who’s responsible.

Nonetheless, the reader arguments following Binion’s first story focus heavily on whether the students with autism should be at the same schools as the general school population. tfm wrote:

“The mom had him placed there after he started to become aggressive toward her, which she attributed to the onset of puberty.” Do you think I want this child at the same school as my daughter? What about her rights??? her safety?

stunna20 responded:

Spencer is not going to bother your daughter, or interfere with her safety. This is about the rights of all to receive education at the public school without discrimination.

Certainly the broader question provides the context for the more current story. What Disability Rights Washington is up against after this loss, however, is that in theory a district could effectively deny access to the disabled by saying, “We have no room. It’s DSHS’s responsibility.” The district would still have to teach, but not at one of the schools. If that’s the way state law is written, then any mandate that the disabled be taught in the same places as the non-disabled could be moot.

The Beat Goes On At OC

Andrew Binion writes:

A story in the Seattle P-I earlier this week sounded the cry over the shuttering of community college newspapers, and the doom that spells for a democratic society.

But one such student-run paper that enjoys high student interest, support from administrators and dedication from staffers is The Olympian, the twice-a-month paper with a circulation of 2,000 that is of, by and for students of Olympic College. The paper also has an online edition. Editors and advisers from The Olympian, an hour-long ferry ride from downtown Seattle, were not mentioned in the story.

“Fortunately, here we are doing well,” said Michael Prince, journalism instructor and adviser to the Olympian. Prince arrived at the school in 2006. Prior to that the school did not have a full-time journalism guru.

“They (administrators) very easily could have let it go away, but they committed to it,” he said.

The Olympian currently has five paid staff members, and may add one or two more in the coming weeks. Additionally the paper has about a dozen contributors.

The thinking goes, if community college students aren’t pounding the beats during their first two years of post-secondary education, they won’t be in shape to work for their university daily – such as the Daily Evergreen at WSU or The Daily at UW. And each step they take toward professional journalism they will shamble behind those who started cutting their teeth as a college freshman.

And if journalists aren’t properly broiled and salted at their university papers, they won’t be able to do “real” reporting when they graduate and try to set up a kiosk in the marketplace of ideas. Then we’ll have chaos, dogs and cats living together, etc.

As P-I reporter Amy Rolph points out, several Western Washington community college papers have been petering away, because, as Rolph put it, “the undeniable fact that can’t be trumped. … Nobody’s reading anymore.”

(By the way, this is not a slam on Rolph. Her story was well-written, interesting and important. It’s just that the good work of The Olympian was not mentioned among other papers not doing so well.)

The story listed community college papers from Tacoma to North Seattle that have stalled and featured reader quotes and comments of righteous indignants upset that amateur publications are so amateurish.

It’s a simple answer, and tempting to believe, that people are just stupider.

Prince said the success of The Olympian has less to do with literacy than with administrators hiring a full-time journalism instructor/adviser and staying out of decision-making. As noted in the story, schools without vibrant papers appear to have administrators who are, at best, indifferent.

Plus, Bremerton is separated from Pugetopolis by jellyfish-infested Puget Sound creating an alcove that generally isn’t represented by any other paper. Except (ahem) for the Sun. Some Kitsap students, however, attend Seattle Central Community College – Broadway High to us alumni.

An illustrative example of the importance of The Olympian to the community can be seen in a protest April 2007, where a considerably-large group of students took exception to a full-page ad from a local strip club fishing for fresh bodies to don fishnets. The students protested outside the offices, called out the paper’s editor and demanded administrators stop the ad, which featured young women three-quarters unclad.

The college’s board responded by approving a resolution disagreeing with the decision and left it at that.

But that process, 1) the publishing of the ad, which required staffers to make a very serious decisions 2) the objections of students who organized opposition to the ad and 3) the powers-that-be respecting the paper’s free speech rights, showed that not only is The Olympian doing well, it is helping to foster a sense of community, something that can be woefully lacking from the community college experience.

Bremerton’s ChalleNGe

This is pretty much the scene on day one at the Oregon Youth Challenge program. A similar school will begin in Bremerton in January 2009. Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

You drive about 10 miles out of Bend and you really are out of town. It becomes a landscape of rolling tan and you pass by a property offering “beetle cleaned skulls” before you turn left.

You walk into the school, which is a single building that looks like it could store airplanes, and as soon as you get into the common hallways it becomes a constant refrain of commands and other reasons to yell.

As you can read about in Sunday’s story and slideshow, Oregon Program Gives Window Into Bremerton’s Planned Youth Academy, this is the kind of place coming to Bremerton.

The first surprise was the kids want to be here. I expected to perhaps “hear” that they wanted to be in Bend for this school, but I thought I would get a sense that they were there at the urging of their parents. I came away convinced that the three boys I spoke with knew why they were there, even if they didn’t have a clue what they were in for. My conversations with them occurred while two other platoons were already going through their initial stages. So these guys I was talking to hadn’t yet entered, they were hearing what was happening and they were choosing in anyway.

The second surprise was that nine weeks later all three that I spoke with were still there, albeit with different experiences of their time there. Having made it that far, they’re likely to make it to graduation in December.

The third surprise the second time there was how settled into the program the guys were. They were understandably afraid the first day, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been taken aback by how calm they were weeks later. A person can get used to anything, I suppose. More than getting used to it, though, the guys had pretty much learned how to not get yelled out.

We didn’t talk to the girls the first time, because by the time we arrived they had already started. I’m sure the school would have let us speak to one or two, but I was more focused on people before they began. Once the program started I wanted to stay out of the way, at least on the first day. Nine weeks later there was a better opportunity to chat.

Bremerton Kid Credits Bremerton

Bremerton kid Tara Kirk gets a high five from fellow Bremerton kid Kirsten Brandner

Tara Kirk, Bremerton High School and Stanford graduate (I hear she also swims.) came back home last week to deliver $12,500 in scholarship money for BHS grads. Apparently she didn’t know how revered she and her sister, Dana, are. From Annette Griffus’ story:

Tara Kirk loves her hometown and high school, she just wasn’t sure if the feeling was reciprocated.

The Olympic silver medalist and national champion found out how much she means to Bremerton last week when she was the recipient of a rowdy standing ovation during a homecoming pep assembly last Thursday at the high school.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever got a reception that awesome and I was just so impressed and excited to count myself as part of that fraternity,” Kirk said. “I was a Bremerton High grad, just like these guys will be. I can’t even put into words how much it meant to me.”

According to John Hickey’s story in the Seattle P-I, when Tara Kirk interviewed in her bid to be a Rhodes scholar (she didn’t get the scholarship), she was advised to get out of the swimming game (She won an Olympic silver medal as part of a U.S. relay team in Greece.):

. . . she said her interviewer told her she was one of those people who could change the world. It was suggested she give up swimming and get into the world-changing gig as soon as possible.

That’s when she had a talk with Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford and editor-in-chief of Science magazine.

He told her to ignore the earlier advice.

“He told me that I needed to take the opportunity I had while my body could still do this,” Kirk said. “He said there would be time for everything else later. So I swim now to make it worth it.”

Stanford grad. Olympic swimmer. Just missed on the Rhodes scholarship. World Changer. Tara Kirk gives a lot of the credit to her hometown. From Jesse Hammond’s story on

When I think about my roots, where I came from, and how I came to be the person that I am today I think about my hometown– Bremerton. I’m proud of how I turned out and I think that Bremerton had a lot to do with that.

Kind of makes you want to raise your kids here, doesn’t it.

Zurf’s Up

The floating hamster wheel

One of Bremerton’s Olympians will return to town Thursday. Swimmer Tara Kirk will bring money, meet with kids and swimmers and race against the mayor.

The race will be at the Glen Jarstad Aquatic Center in the floating hamster wheels known as zurfs.

In the morning she’ll go to Crownhill Elementary. At noon she’ll meet with the Bremerton High School swim team before they leave for a competition. In the afternoon she’ll be at the high school introducing the “Chuck Haselwood Engine of Change Award, a new scholarship, part of Toyota’s national campaign.

The zurf race is a fundraiser. Anyone is invited. The price of admission is a voluntary donation to the Bremerton Schools Foundation. In addition to Kirk and Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman, Eric Anderson of Art Anderson & Associates will race, as will Crownhill principal Jill Carlson, BHS principal Aaron Leavell, district athletic director George Duarte and PTSA and foundation president Jonee Dubos. There may be others.

Drop Outs Headed for Bremerton

Kids who spend a year at the mall or in front of the video games and find themselves in danger of not graduating high school will have an option in Bremerton beginning in 2009.

I’m simplifying how the Washington Youth Academy finds students, but based on my two visits to a similar facility in Bend, Ore., it’s not far from the truth.

A few local officials held a kick-off event Saturday to begin getting the community ready for the new school. The program follows a military model in instilling discipline, but it is essentially designed to be a high school. No former felons. No one can be sentenced to attend.

The thing that surprised me most during my two recent visits was that all the kids I spoke with wanted to be there before they went. Many change that during the first couple weeks and quite a few wash out. The 70 percent or so who stay may struggle a bit still after nine weeks, but at that point the kids who see are more than likely going to be there at the end of the 22-week program.

We’ll have a lot more on the program in a couple weeks.

Carbon Monoxide Warning

It would appear the fivesome got out on time, but this is a real deal I know a little bit about from personal experience.

Following the wind storms last year we set up a generator outside our house. I had been sick anyway, so was spending a lot of time in bed. My wife was pregnant, so late one night we went to get carbon monoxide detectors.

The next night, the alarm went off. We called the fine folks at the fire department. Upstairs our house was registering really high because of carbon monoxide. Downstairs was fine, but we couldn’t run the generator anymore so it got really cold.

Anyway, I’m not saying anything profound here, but carbon monoxide is nothing to get careless about.

WASL Scores In

Individual scores are still a couple weeks away, from my understanding, but here is a table showing the percentage of Bremerton School District students who passed state-assigned levels during the 2006-07 WASL testing period.

Grade Level Reading Math Writing Science
3rd Grade 64.3% 66.4%    
4th Grade 67.8% 50.6% 54.1%  
5th Grade 71.9% 59.0%   39.7%
6th Grade 55.2% 37.9%    
7th Grade 63.0% 45.7% 52.4%  
8th Grade 58.6% 29.7%   28.2%
10th Grade 72.2% 41.8% 72.7% 24.1%

Worth noting is that as historically has been true, Bremerton numbers are lower than the state average. That established, it appears to me on first glance that Bremerton kids are close in some areas and still a fair bit off in others. The fifth-grade reading number, which is down from the 05-06 class, is nonetheless a bit higher than the state average, the first time any district students have fared better than their peers throughout the state in reading. A couple of writing tests have gone well for select Bremerton classes in the past and this year marks the second year the fifth grade science numbers were better than the state kids.

For information on individual schools, go to the state’s Web site.

Bremerton to Bend

I’m traveling to Bend, Ore. today to watch the induction of schoolkids into a program run by the National Guard. It’s similar to one we’re expected to see here in Bremerton. The state approved money for the school already.

UPDATE (7/27): It was brought to my attention that I failed to add more thoughts about the school.

A few things stand out. One, I went with photographer Larry Steagall and on the second day I brought a video camera. Only one time were we prevented from going where we wanted, and even then we were just asked to wait. We wanted to see what has happening with the girls in the school and they were in a private moment. Other than that the operators of the school gave us access to everything. From what I can tell, they hid nothing.

The first day of drill sargeant yelling was pretty intense and it started in front of the kids’ parents. In fact, that’s how they separated from their parents.

Third, I talked to three boys, who all wanted to be there. This was, of course, before the program began. By the end of it about 40 of the 150 or so students will have exited.

Larry and I plan to return a month or so from now.

It seems the folks running the Washington school have talked a lot with the operators in Oregon. There are some big differences geographically, which we’ll address when we finally run the story sometime this fall.