Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Welcome Dr. Enfield!

Dr. Enfield addresses reporters and staff
Let me be among the first to welcome Susan Enfield to Highline! (Pending final agreements between the board and Dr. Enfield.)

I have known Susan over the past year as we both transitioned into the interim superintendency. Superintendents work collaboratively across districts within the Puget Sound region and in statewide professional organizations, and we have had many opportunities to connect and discuss the work of education. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I have been with Susan since the day we first met. Not only is she incredibly well qualified, but when you get to know her personally, rather than through the media, she's a real, engaging person.

You may not know that Highline has only had six permanent superintendents since the district was formed in 1941: L.D. Baker, Carl Jensen, Robert Sealey, Kent Matheson, Joe McGeehan, and John Welch. Susan joins a rich lineage of superintedents in Highline.

I believe Susan will do great things for Highline, and I am even more confident that Susan will come to appreciate our wonderful Highline district as I have. Let's welcome her to our community!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Highline/Sylvester Auction Supports Sports, Arts, and Technology

The Highline Jazz Band performs before the Highline/Sylvester Auction

Congratulations to Highline High School and Sylvester Middle School on a successful school auction this past Saturday night! The event began with a a performance by the excellent Highline Jazz Band as guests arrived and perused silent auction items. The main event was a live auction skillfully conducted by former Highline and Sylvester principal Tom Sawyer.

More than 200 alumni, community members, and staff attended, including Highline School Board VP and HHS alum Bernie Dorsey, Burien mayor Brian Bennett, Highline Executive Director of North End Schools John Boyd, Principals Damon Hunter of HHS and Vicki Fisher of Sylvester, and Assistant Principals Paul Harvey, Courtney Daikos, and Kyle Linman.

Special thanks to the parents of Highline and Sylvester who put in the legwork to make the event a smashing success!

Dual Language Video Now Available

Last month, I shared my visit to Delila Leber's dual language kindergarten program at Mount View. While there, I taped an interview with Ms. Leber for my monthly superintendent video message.

Video of the interview is now available. Check it out for a great overview of how we're approaching dual language instruction in Highline.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foto February #10: Mount Rainier Girls Win District

Congratulations to the Mount Rainier High School girls's basketball team on their championship in the West Central/Southwest 4A tournament at the ShoWare Center! I got to take the game in with my two sons, principal Julie Hunter, and a lot of Mount Rainier staff last night. The girls play ferocious full-court defense and move the ball well on offense. The Rams defeated Federal Way High School 60-40. Check out the game story in the Seattle Times.

Our focus is on academics - college, career, and citizenship, actually - but there's a place for sports and other co-curricular activities, too. My hat's off to our coaches who are developing athletes third, students second, and outstanding young men and women first.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Foto February #9: Gregory Heights Library Dollar Book Sale

Parents, library staff, and the principal come together to support young readers at Gregory Heights

Today I visitied Gregory Heights Elementary for the Library Dollar Book Sale. Let me tell you, Gregory Heights has some dedicated parents to stand out in the cold for three hours as the classes passed through! This event, which is held about every six weeks at Gregory, began with a $500 grant from the Highline Schools Foundation for Excellence. These days, parents and library staff keep it going through donations and trips to garage sales and thrift stores. But the books looked to be in fantastic condition and the kids were thrilled to be able to choose their own reads.

After visiting the book sale, principal Phil Robinson took me around to informally visit a few classrooms. Principal Robinson is extremely proud of his staff and I could see why as we popped our heads in several classes. We made a stop in the lunchroom, too, where I heard about how "recess before lunch" is helping students return to class more focused, and they eat better, too. Great job, Gregory Heights!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Foto February 8: Hope for Improved School Funding

I recently had the honor of representing Highline at a celebration of the historic Washington State Supreme Court decision to affirm the state's constitutional requirement to fully fund basic education. The McCleary Decision, as it is being known, cites the state constitution's clause that it is "the paramount duty" of the state to fund K-12 education. For several years now, Highline has been part of a coalition of more than 150 school districts supporting the fight for ample school district funding. The significance of the McCleary Decision is that the state's highest court defines ample as "more than just adequate" and that the court is maintaining jurisdiction over the legislature until they complete their planned funding increases through 2018.

This news is likely too late to save school district budgets in the short run, and more cuts are expected as we build next year's budget. But without a doubt, we are more likely to be well resourced in the coming years thanks to the court's affirmation of school funding.
With former board member Ben Kodama

The fight for ample school funding has gone on for a long time, and there are some real veterans of the effort. I ran into one at this meeting, former Highline School Board member Ben Kodama. Ben was on the board from 1990 to 1997 and was there both when I started teaching in Highline and in my early days as an administrator. Even though he's been out of active school district work for some time, he came to reap the rewards of many years of advocacy for children, and it was great to see him.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Foto February #7: Busy Weekend!

Congratulations to the finalists for Highline superintendent! It is a talented group. You can read more here.

Students compete in the middle school math contest at Mount Rainier on Saturday

I spent some time on Saturday at Mount Rainier High School. I was visiting the regional math contest for middle schools. Several of our Highline schools participate in math contests, and Pacific was making us proud on Saturday. While I was there, I also absorbed the energy of a huge regional gymnastics meet. Did you know Mount Rainier is the SPSL North champions in gymnastics, and Highline H.S. is co-champion of the Seamount League? Congratulations!

MRHS is one of the schools I visited this fall, but never got back around to blogging about. Principal Julie Hunter is doing great work there, and the particular day I visited I had the pleasure of watching the Language Arts department and the Career and Technical Ed. teachers conduct their Friday PCT staff development, as well as having lunch with a group of teachers who invited me to visit. Thanks for the hospitality!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Foto February #6: Adaptive Technology at Bow Lake

Last week I visited Bow Lake for the primary and intermediate NOBLES assemblies. That's an acronym for Noteworthy Outstanding Bow Lake Effort. I loved seeing a large turnout of parents and lots of recognition for behaviors that will help students be successful in school and in life.

After, I went upstairs and checked out the double computer lab. Wow! They have opened a divider between two rooms and can accommodate two full classrooms at a time for our computer adaptive math programs. Adaptive technology engages students at their instructional level and this year just about all Highline elementary students use adaptive math software twice a week. What I love about Bow Lake's approach is that the two teachers, math interventionist, and math coach can all work with small groups of students during that time. It's a microcosm of some of the most innovative technology driven school models from across the country.

Great job Bow Lake for mixing innovative approaches in the computer lab with the citizenship development that has always been an important part of schools!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Foto February #5: Shorewood's Citizens of the Week

When I'm out in the community a question I frequently am asked is, "What is the district doing about citizenship/civics?" These are community groups and Rotary, parents, business owners, and retired citizens. They know students need academics, but they want to see students who are reliable, are good neighbors, and will grow up to be model citizens who contribute to the community. Today, I was fortunate to be out at Shorewood Elementary for the Citizen of the Week recognition. Principal Colin Ryan started the day with a P.A. announcement calling 17 students to the office for recognition. What an impressive group of young people! And they do this every week, posting a picture on the wall of each week's group. I observed breakfast, line-up before school, and a few classrooms and it looked to me like all of Shorewood's students are great citizens. Way to go kids!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Foto February #4: Healthy Food Kids Love to Eat?

Today we received a very special visit from the U.S. Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, in recognition of four schools' award as Healthy U.S. Schools. Beverly Park Elementary, Madrona Elementary, Southern Heights Elementary, and White Center Heights Elementary were recognized for promoting healthy options for school lunches and providing opportunities for physical activity.

I am so proud of our Nutrition Services team for their efforts to include more healthy options in our school lunches. To brag a little, only five districts in Washington State had award winning schools, and the four schools in Highline had the highest recognition in Washington State - silver medals - placing them in the top 1% nationally according to Under Secretary Concannon.

Madrona kitchen staff (center) make a great school lunch!

Mr. Concannon and I ate school lunch, and made some friends in the second grade!

They didn't have a fresh fruit and vegetables bar when I was in school!
Nutrition Services Director Chris Neal (right) with Mr. Concannon
L to R: Registered Dietician Megan De Vries, Principals Leslie Perry, Deborah Holcomb, Dave Darling, and Daniel Yarbrough, and Nutrition Services Director Chris Neal

Friday, February 3, 2012

Foto February #3: A Teacher's Reward

With Hannah Baisch, 4th Grade Challenge Teacher at Parkside

I was recently asked about the things I enjoy most about my time in Highline, and without a doubt one of them is being around to see my former students become teachers. There are now, to my knowledge, three Highline teachers who were in my elementary band classes of the mid-1990s. When I was visiting Parkside several weeks ago, Principal Robin Lamoureux told me there was one classroom I had to visit before leaving. It was the class of fourth grade Challenge program teacher Hannah Baisch, a flute student many years ago at Valley View. So great to see her very engaging classroom! Former students of mine also teach at Hilltop (the tip off was hearing "Mr. Spicciati..." at a staff meeting) and at Bow Lake. I'd be proud of any profession my former students are pursuing, but none more than those who have chosen to return to their community and serve our children. Now if only they would get out those flutes and clarinets and practice! ;-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Foto February #2: Dual Language Training

This is about as close to live blogging as I'll get... Today through Saturday (Feb. 2-4), Highline is hosting the Dual Language Training Institute. Dr. Leo Gomez is here for three days to share his expertise on dual language models. Normally, people fly to Texas to see this workshop, but Bernard Koontz took the initiative to bring him up and invite others. Today there were 80 people in the board room from Highline, five other Washington school districts, one Oregon district, and two local Catholic schools. (Outside schools paid for their own registration.)

Among the important research findings Dr. Gomez shared was that students in dual language immersion (instruction half in English and half in Spanish) end up performing higher in English over the long haul and have a better grasp of content as well. While it may seem that learning partly in another language will slow you down, over time students gain academic literacy in both languages, which leads to higher performance in English for native Spanish speakers, and biliteracy for both English and Spanish speakers. We currently have two dual language immersion programs in Highline, Hilltop (K-3) and Mount View (K-2). In my opinion, it's not a question of if we'll expand dual language, but where, when, and how much. After careful consideration and stakeholder input, we'll bring a proposal to the School Board in the coming months.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Foto February #1: Para Los Ninos

Throughout the month of February, I will be sharing picture posts of many of my visits I haven't yet shared on the blog. Hope you enjoy...

With Lupita Ayon and Carla Jackson

On Monday evening, I attended the Para Los Niños open house for the Aprendamos Juntos program at Hazel Valley Elementary. Lupita Ayon, the interim executive director of Para Los Niños, threw a great party with taquitos to nourish the stomach and lots of great information about the program to nourish the soul. PLN board members were also present, including our own Deputy Superintendent Dr. Carla Jackson. I was really impressed with the Aprendamos Juntos ("Let's Learn Together") model, which includes a Spanish language pre-school, an elementary age literacy support that's getting great results, and English language classes for parents. The program meets twice a week in the evening and is truly good for the whole family. It's community organizations like Para Los Niños that are making a difference for kids in Highline!