Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Hip to be at HIPP

HIPP leader Bruce Dearborn and teacher Nancy Carroll with student Manny
Yesterday I had the great honor of visiting the Highline Interim Placement Program (HIPP). HIPP is a two year old program at the old Woodside school for students who need short-term education for a variety of reasons. Students at HIPP learn through a computer platform called E20:20. This approach begins with a pre-test to determine which concepts a student understands and then instructs students on material they have not yet mastered, allowing students to recover credit in a class they have sat through, but for whatever reason did not complete with a passing grade.

A science class on E20:20
  E20:20 presents students with three learning modalities on the computer screen at a time. In one corner of the screen are video lectures by an on-line teacher. At the same time, a student can view a PowerPoint, science illustrations, and other support materials on another part of the virtual desktop. Finally, the student can take notes in a small text box. Students take a series of quizzes as they move through each part of a course and if they are not successful, a HIPP teacher confers with they student after receiving a report on which areas the student is struggling in.

All of this adds up to a lot more learning for students who previously would have had little or no access to education due to circumstances such as long-term suspension, home hospital placement, or extreme truancy. The goal is for most students to return to their home school or an appropriate alternative setting, and the majority do. Most impressively, HIPP students earn two to three credits on average during their interim placement, whereas similar students prior to HIPP earned little or no credit.

A student takes notes on a history lecture

I have often said that technology will not replace teachers, but it should help us to extend the reach of teachers. For about 120 students per year (not all enrolled at the same time), HIPP is a perfect example of how technology has allowed students to continue education in a way that previously would not have been available to them. The technology allows students to engage in a variety of subjects at a cost and scale that the district can support. HIPP students participate through an alternative learning arrangement that requires a minimum of two 2.5 hour in person sessions per week, with the rest occurring via computer at home. While many students choose to participate in person as often as daily, teacher Nancy Carroll share with me that records indicate students signing in at all hours, even 2:00 AM. That's dedication!

Great job to Bruce Dearborn, who in addition to heading the program and working with students and families is the Pied Piper of HIPP!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gold Star Bash a Great Addition to Highline

Barb Rogers is recognized as classified employee of the year

If you attended the Highline Schools Foundation for Excellence's first Gold Star Bash, you saw for yourself what a great time it was. Everybody else - come on out next year!

The Bash was designed by the Foundation with two objectives:
  • Recognize the nominees and Gold Star selection more publicly
  • Create an event people who can't usually go to the fundraiser breakfast can attend
  • Have fun

People entered the Production Shop to a red carpet
Wait, that's three! But I think the last thing is what people will remember. The event brought together nearly 200 staff, parents, and community. There were refreshments and music, mingling and dancing. This year's Bash was held at The Production Shop in Burien, a retro themed auto shop turned urban chic event space. It was the perfect place...for this year. I'm predicting next year will have an even larger signup and they might need a bigger space.

While the birth of a new community event was the big story, there were some great recognitions as well.
  • Darcy Smith from McMicken Heights Elementary was named teacher of the year. Darcy could not be more deserving - she is getting amazing results with her kids.
  • Barb Rogers took home the award for classified staff. Barb is as generous as the day is long, and her upbeat nature is a true inspiration to any of us who hope to work in education for the long run.
  • Astha Tada was recognized for her volunteer work. Astha was librarian at Cascade when I first met her and in her "retirement" she has been a tireless advocate for public library access in the White Center and Boulevard Park communites.
  • David Sabey won the second annual award for alumni. He has been a huge success since graduating from Highline High School.
Finally, a few nice things were said about yours truly that evening. Thanks for that and know that I look good mostly due to the many accolades that our prinicapls, teachers, and staff generate every day. All of you are the ones who generate so much goodwill for the district, so thanks from me to you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cove2Clover Unites Highline

Runners and walkers gather for the start of the Cove2Clover event
A week ago I participated in the Cove2Clover 5K race in Normandy Park and Burien. What a fantastic event! The post below is a little long - I've been drafting it over two weekends - but I hope it helps you get a sense of this event, a rare opportunity for students and staff from all parts of Highline to come together...

The "Snake" mascot on a race bib
For months now, I've been hearing about Snake Hill, the defining feature of the Cove2Clover 5K race, a wonderful community event that was held on March 11th. The "Cove" refers to a community beach on Puget Sound in Normandy Park, Washington. "Clover" is a play on Mick Kelly's Irish restaurant, located on high ground in Burien. The two are linked by Snake Hill, a winding ascent of sleepy neighborhood streets climbing nearly 1,000 feet in vertical elevation over the first mile of the course. The legend of Snake Hill grows every time a runner - especially the strong ones - talks about the pain they have felt on the incline. 

Of my 1900 fellow 5Kers at the Cove2Clover, the vast majority are in better shape than me. But I felt OK about the infamous ascent of "Snake Hill," as I've been training for the Big Climb fundraiser for LLS and will be climbing 1,311 steps in the Columbia Tower this Sunday.

Current and former Chinook MS students with Principal Demick

Amazingly, C2C is only in its third year. However, nearly 2,000 participants ran or walked the 5K, 10K, or kids race. The coolest part is the partnership with our Highline schools. Students are able to participate through angel donations of registration costs. And locally based Brooks donated hundreds of running shoes for the kids. I've worn Brooks for more than a decade, and I was proud of them when I saw so many beautiful running shoes on the kids, many whose families qualify for free lunch at school.

Waiting for the race to begin, I saw dozens of Highline friends getting ready to go. Highline Schools Foundation executive director Ashley Fosberg was revving up the crowd at the 5K start line, while Highline School Board member Bernie Dorsey and his wife Jill were handing out the race's trademark blue gloves. I met up with principals Mark Demick (Chinook), Jennifer Reinig (Des Moines), Rick Wisen (Hilltop), Mike Fosberg (Marvista), and Annie Mizuta and Jacob Ellis (Cascade assistant principals). And after the hill and a short run where I aggrevated my IT band (knee), I settled into a nice conversational pace with Fred H., a parent from when I was principal of Beverly Park.

There were too many teachers to even remember, and many, many kids. I loved seeing our students from all reaches of the district there. Heidi Hanson, who leads a running club at Des Moines Elementary, claimed the highest student attendance, but PE teacher Heidi Jacobsen-Beal from Beverly Park told me they had several dozen as well. I saw kids from Cascade, Chinook, and White Center Heights, just to name a few.

A bagpiper marked the top of Snake Hill - look how big the ascent is!

As the 5K participants lined up at the start line, the 10K runners whizzed by with lots of encouragement from the waiting contestants. Soon, it was time to go, and then we were off! The hill starts right away, so after some ceremonial steps running, most people settled into a steady uphill walk or light job.

As we approached the top of the hill we heard bagpipes. That motivated those around me who were worn down by the mile-long incline. When we reached him, we found a fully decked out bagpipe player standing at a clearing that showed just how far we had come from sea level. It had a sense of accomplishment to it, and the image, which you will see below, reminded me of the end of a leg of the Amazing Race.

Highline HS students acted out a Celtic battle during C2C

But the race was not over! It settled into a more normal 5K from there. There was only one more eventful aspect to the race - the "uprising!" This was random - a stack of hay bales across the course that runners had to climb over, or take a small detour as a penalty. I went over the obstacle, and it was fun, including a boisterous group of Highline High School students acting out a Celtic battle.

Shortly after, we turned for home on a relaxed straightaway down 152nd Street, passing homes fronting Lake Burien and crossing into several blocks of popular restaurants. Although I had walked ever since my IT band acted up, I broke into a run for the last part of the race and finished feeling good.

That's me with my Heathly Highline hat (photo credit: Ashley Fosberg)

The end of the race brought me into contact with more of our Highline family, again reinforcing just how much events like the Cove2Clover can do to unite our entire district. What a wonderful day.

And I survived Snake Hill!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Today I had the great pleasure to celebrate Dr. Seuss' 108th birthday at Bow Lake Elementary. Librarian Deanna Bell invited me to visit the four 2nd grade classes to read Horton Hatches an Egg. The kids were great and one of the teachers came dressed as Thing 2. On my way out, I bumped into SeaTac Mayor Tony Anderson, who was also there to read to the kids. A great day!