Diana White elected new president of Edmonds School Board; student honored for service

Alderwood Middle student Mia Nguyen, center, and principal Erin Murphy listen as a representative of Prudential Financial announces her award.

Alderwood Middle student Mia Nguyen, center, and principal Erin Murphy listen as a representative of Prudential Financial announces her as the winner of one of two Prudential Spirit of Community Awards given statewide. (Photo by Natalie Covate)

The Edmonds School Board Tuesday night elected Diana White as president, a step necessitated by the recent resignation of Boardmember Susan Philips, who held that position. The board also elected Kory DeMun as the legislative representative and Gary Noble as the board’s vice president.

Diana White

New School Board President Diana White

“It’s not something we really wanted to do, but we have to do it and we will keep her [Phillips] in our hearts,” White said before the election.

The board also celebrated Mia Nguyen, an eighth grader at Alderwood Middle School, for having received one of two Prudential Spirit of Community Awards given in Washington state for making and selling bows in honor of one of her friends being treated for leukemia at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Nguyen put her own money into the project to purchase materials, which were used to make more than 100 bows that raised about $300 for Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“It’s a joy to work with Mia,” said Erin Murphy, principal of Alderwood Middle School. “A number of students did apply but it was really quite obvious that there was a high quality of compassion and service in the work that Mia did.”

Nguyen will receive $1,000, an engraved medallion and a May trip to Washington D.C., where she will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014.

Also during the meeting, Scriber Lake High School teacher Chris Brown asked the board to support the Interdisciplinary Studies Environmental Program (INSTEP), which addresses what students should know to both appreciate and be safe in nearby outdoor areas. They use metaphors in perceived-risk environments, such as high ropes courses, to help students.

“This is hugely powerful stuff and extremely safe,” Brown said, noting the program’s 23-year spotless record for high ropes course safety.

But this year, risk management has deemed many of INSTEP’s activities, such as high ropes courses, unsafe. Brown asked the board for an exception to the high ropes course rule in this case because of the impact it can have on students and the safety they have demonstrated thus far.

Superintendent Nick Brossoit said he was unaware of the new policy and that he would look into it.

Jon Gore of D.A. Davidson & Co. spoke to the board about the approaching bond sale, which 63.2 percent of voters approved in February. D.A. Davidson & Co. is working for the district to structure financing so that the bond sale meets investment goals and also stays within voter expectations. Most of this can be controlled with timing the sale according to trends seen within the bond market, Gore said. The board expects to vote on a few resolutions regarding the bond sale in the next meeting.

Deb Anderson, Executive Director of the Edmonds Public Schools and Alumni Foundation, told the board that the foundation has put $107,000 into district programs, including after-school study support. The Foundation has also donated $7,800 dollars and 200 books to Read Across America in Edmonds, she said, and wiill also host a grant awards ceremony on May 6.

Mark Madison, the district’s director of career and technical education, noted that more than 270 students presented 171 projects at the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) expo on Feb. 22. Charlotte Day of Edmonds Heights won the Washington Future City competition. The FIRST robotics teams from Lynnwood High School and Edmonds-Woodway High School have qualified for the world championships in St. Louis.

“The doors that are open to students that make it that far are incredible,” said Mark Madison, noting that higher education recruiters often attend these events.

Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy discussed changes to the state high school graduation requirements that no longer require a culminating project to be completed. The district may choose to continue requiring the senior project, however. A committee met recently to discuss the values of the senior project and begin determining if it should be eliminated.

“If a decision was made to eliminate the project, I would want to know what you saw as the positives of it and how those can be hard-coded into our curriculum so that we don’t lose that,” Board Member Ann McMurray said.

Noble suggested that they evaluate what other nearby school districts are doing.

“I would hate to be the only district in the area requiring it,” Noble said. “I don’t want it to be a penalty on our students for living here. On the flip side, I wouldn’t want to be the only district losing it if everyone decides it is valuable and keeps it.”

Murphy said that the district has already looked at the Everett School District and that they are keeping the project. However, unlike Edmonds schools, Everett has a specific “Senior Project” class that has been woven into its graduation requirements, making it much more difficult to eliminate.

During closing comments, White said that based on nominations and inquiries, there may be up to seven candidates applying for the newly vacant board member position, and that three applications have already been turned in.

Other actions taken at the board meeting:
– Unanimous approval was given for changing the language of a staff evaluation policy to include a reference to individual employee agreements, which allows maintenance of the current expectation, but also allows for exceptions that already exist.
– Language was changed for the graduation requirements allowing English language learners that meet all of the requirements but have not yet passed a state test to participate in the graduation ceremonies.
– Faber Construction was awarded the contract for repairs to Edmonds Elementary and Chase Lake Elementary schools.
– The former Evergreen Elementary property was declared surplus.

— Story by Natalie Covate

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