A musical start to Tuesday night’s school board meeting had the full audience smiling and clapping along as the VOICE choir performed two songs.
Seven VOICE students gathered around a keyboard to sing “Good Riddance” by Green Day. The performance really picked up when the second song began, “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift. The group showed off their dance moves, throwing their hands into the air and jumping around.
The VOICE (Vocational Opportunities in Community Experiences) program is designed for students 18-21 who have completed four years of high school and are now involved in a curriculum to prepare them for adult life.
Everyone applauded as the choir took a bow.
“I think we should start each board meeting with music,” School Board Member Carin Chase said.
“To hear the VOICE kids singing was just wonderful. It was pure joy,” School Board Member Diana White said.
The performance set an up-beat mood for two celebrations Tuesday night.
First up, Edmonds-Woodway High School’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Academic Bowl team took second place in the West Regional Academic Bowl in Fremont, Calif. earlier this year. The team was one of 24 teams nationwide to compete in the National DHH Academic Bowl in Washington, D.C. in April. The Warriors made it to the quarter finals.
During the competition, questions are asked designed to test general knowledge and general recall. Categories include history and government, language and literature, science and technology, geography, math, current events, pop culture and the arts, among several others.
Players on the Edmonds-Woodway High School team are: Milo Seals, Jake Miller, Harland Ontiveros-Meza, and Riley Beck and Coaches Paul Glaser and Corey Clark.
The school board congratulated the competitors.
“It’s so great to have one of the top eight in the nation in our school district. So great!” Board Member Ann McMurray said.
Third, the School Board honored staff of The Hawkeye, the student-run newspaper at Mountlake Terrace High School, because it won the First Amendment Press Freedom Award earlier this year, recognizing the school’s position in allowing its students to publish stories without being censored, and recognizing the students for responsibly covering stories. Editor-in-chief Paxtyn Merten and Executive Editor Stephi Smith showed off their plaque and shook hands with the School Board.
After the celebrations, most of the audience cleared out of the school board meeting chambers. Then, Executive Director of Student Learning Lara Drew gave her report.
It began with an update on the district’s math plan for 2016-2017. Math is the subject that most kids struggle with, especially in early years, so a tiered support model with focus on math in grades K-6 will be used in College Place, Chase Lake, Terrace Park, Spruce and Meadowdale elementary schools with the support of district staff.
“The intentional focus, tight professional learning, embedded supports and true partnership will make this vision of mathematics improvement for our students a success,” Drew said.
Drew also discussed the implementation of tribal curricula across the district. A group of student learning professionals met with the Tulalip Board of Directors a few weeks ago.
“Our goal with that was to begin a relationship, partnership with the tribe,” Drew said. “We are moving forward with setting up monthly meetings.”
Drew also mentioned the district is ready to move forward with a 1-to-1 Chromebook implementation plan for the next school year across the district’s four comprehensive high schools.
Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared an update on suspension reduction. In the 2011-2012 school year, before any policies were implemented to reduce suspensions, 3,021 suspensions were reported. By 2014-2015, that number dropped to 1,240. In the first half of 2015-2016, 321 suspensions were reported, with the total for the year projected around 1,000 (more suspensions happen in the second semester as discipline levels stack up over the year).
The top reasons for a long-term suspension are drug and alcohol use, fighting and harassment. Short-term suspensions are mostly issued for students being disrespectful, disruptive in class or noncompliance.
This summer, Murphy wants to create a team to write a universal discipline handbook for the entire district—though some policies are close across all schools, some are not, and creating common language should help schools enforce their rules the same way. Those handbooks will also be universally translated into other languages.
The meeting ended just before 9:30 p.m.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting:
- Strategic Direction Work Groups each gave an update.
- The School Board agreed to raise the budget capacity for the design phase and potential early construction phase of Madrona K-8 School.
- An agreement with Mahlum Architects was made for the replacement of Madrona K-8
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate