Archive for September, 2011
The Bellingham School District is looking for community members, high school students and parents to serve on the Levy Task Force.
The district is planning to ask voters to approve two property tax levies in February – a technology levy and a maintenance and operations levy. Both are replacement levies; the maintenance and operations levy accounts for nearly 25 percent of the district’s operating budget.
The group will help determine how much money should be included in each levy and how information about election should be communicated to the public.
Applicants need to be able to meet from 4 to 6 p.m. on the following dates: Oct. 18 and 25 and Nov. 1 and 8. Additional meetings will be added if needed.
Applications are due to the district by Oct. 7. To apply, click here.
The U.S. Department of Education has announced a new competition for environmentally-friendly schools.
The new program, called Green Ribbon Schools, will honor schools that promote environmental literacy, reduce environmental impacts and reduce operating expenses through green initiatives.
It will be up to state and federal-level education officials to nominate schools. From my understanding, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction could nominate up to 4 Washington schools.
Schools will be judged based on their commitments to three “Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements.”
- environmental impact and energy efficiency
- healthy school environments
- environmental and sustainability education
In Whatcom County, many schools already have green initiatives. Examples include food-to-flowers composting in cafeterias, paper and plastic recycling programs, environmentally-focused service-learning, school gardens and more. Plus a few districts are taking part in energy-efficiency programs, with electricity usage specifically dropping over the past few years.
Nominations are due to the U.S. Department of Education in March. National winners will be announced in May. Details have not been released about how schools can seek nomination by state officials.
For more information, visit the program website.
The press release about the program is below the jump.
The Ferndale School Board will have a public comment period tonight, Thursday, Sept. 29, to discuss proposed changes to the areas school board members represent.
In Ferndale, school board members represent five regions of the school district. Due to the 2010 Census, the district is required to adjust the boundaries to match census data, keeping populations roughly equal between the regions.
To view the proposed changes, click here.
The public hearing starts at 6 p.m. at the district office. The regular board meeting will start at 7 p.m. Click here to view the agenda.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction will be revising the manual about school buses this year due to a law change that allows school districts to install cameras on buses.
OSPI will have a public meeting about the proposed changes to the manual on Oct. 7. More information about how to provide input is in the press release at the bottom of this post.
The new law, which was passed during the last Legislative session, allows school districts to install cameras that will take photos of cars that go past the bus while loading and unloading students. It is illegal to pass buses when they have the stop sign out, yet people do it all the time (I witness this happen just last week in Bellingham). The cameras would only take pictures of the vehicle and the license plate, not the driver or passengers.
The press release from OSPI is below:
Earth scientist Michael C. Wilson will discuss how animals and plants arrived on islands in the Pacific Northwest during a lecture on Friday, Sept. 30 at Western Washington University.
His presentation, “Coming to the Islands: Early Postglacial Vertebrates and Ecosystem Development on the San Juans and Vancouver Island,” starts at noon in Academic West room 304. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Wilson is the chair of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C.
The lecture is part of Huxley College of the Environment’s speaker series focusing on contemporary environmental concerns. The series will continue throughout the school year with lectures on Friday afternoons.
Michael C. Wilson will present “Coming to the Islands: Early Postglacial Vertebrates and Ecosystem Development on the San Juans and Vancouver Island” as part of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment speaker series at noon on Friday, Sept. 30 in WWU’s Academic West room 304.The presentation is free and open to the public.The establishment and succession of early postglacial Pacific Northwest vegetation communities have been interpreted in terms of climatic factors, with vegetation as a “container” for the fauna. However, first arrivals of particular plant species often depended upon appropriate vectors that included not only wind and water, but also birds and mammals.Megafauna such as ungulates (hoofed mammals) and carnivores were significant influences. Each species had its own arrival time on Vancouver Island via filter bridges, one via the San Juan Islands. Mountain goats arrived on Vancouver Island about 13,000 years ago; giant bison were present on the San Juan Islands and southeastern Vancouver Island at about the same time. Ground sloths reached Orcas Island, and the giant short-faced bear is documented on San Juan Island. Each species could have imported plant propagules (any plant material used for the purpose of plant propagation), setting in motion an historical cascade of community responses.Michael C. Wilson is an interdisciplinary earth scientist trained in Geology, Archaeology, and Anthropology. His studies of paleontology, paleoenvironments, and the relationships between humans and landscapes have taken him to China, Japan, and West Africa as well as many areas of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. At present he is studying Late Pleistocene and Holocene animals of the Pacific Northwest to understand their role in the establishment of postglacial ecosystems. He is chair of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia, and is adjunct professor of Archaeology at Simon Frasier University. He is also a Fellow of the Geological Association of Canada.Anyone interested in this topic is encouraged to come and participate; the presentation will include a question-and-answer period. The speaker series is held by Western’s Huxley College of the Environment to bring together the environmental-science community and other interested members of the WWU and Bellingham communities. Speakers address topics of contemporary environmental concern in the region and the world.For more information, please contact Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment at (360) 650-3520.Western’s Huxley College of the Environment is one of the oldest environmental colleges in the nation and a recognized national leader in producing the next generation of environmental stewards. The College’s academic programs reflect a broad view of the physical, biological, social and cultural world. This innovative and interdisciplinary approach makes Huxley unique. The College has earned international recognition for the quality of its programs.
Local college students can receive 30 percent off their entire purchase from the Bellingham Goodwill store on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28.
Students must show their school identification card to receive the discount.
Between 3 and 6 p.m., students can also enter a raffle for gift cards up to $100. An additional five raffle tickets can be printed from the store’s Facebook page.
The Bellingham Goodwill store is in Sunset Square. The offer is also good for locations in the Seattle area.
The Ferndale School District is asking people to take a survey about what the district can do with its aging buildings during the current economic climate.
The survey is available until Oct. 14. To take the survey, click here.
The district has been working with community and staff members as part of the Facility Advisory Committee to figure out what to do with its buildings that are facing maintenance issues. During tight budget times, cuts are frequently made to maintenance and other areas not directly related to student learning in classrooms. Part of the North Bellingham Elementary campus is still condemned – Clearview and Windward high schools operate out of the other parts of the campus – and other district schools face structural issues. These issues require a bond measure to pay for them, due to the cost, but bond measures to fix North Bellingham and Custer Elementary schools have been voted down.
Last spring, the facilities committee recommended to the school board that the best way to work with the current district buildings is to move sixth graders to the middle school level (Horizon and Vista middle schools have space for the students) and then close an elementary school for the 2012-13 school year. The theory is that closing a school will reduce operating costs for the district; the ultimate goal is to pass a bond measure so that the district can fix buildings that need repair.
Community members are invited to a public forum tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. to discuss the proposals. There will be another forum in October.
President Barack Obama’s administration has unveiled the rules for how states can receive waivers for the No Child Left Behind Act.
The law, which was created by the Bush administration, requires states to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014. If schools and districts are too far behind, they can receive sanctions, including busing students to other schools and restructuring.
While progress has been made to reaching that goal, states are far from having all students proficient and the deadline is looming.
Under Obama’s plan, states can apply for waivers to be exempted from parts of the law if they meet certain education reform conditions, including adopting “college and career ready standards,” creating teacher evaluations that are at least partially based on student performance, and focusing on the most troubled schools.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn has already said he’s not a fan of the waivers, instead wanting Congress to change the law. Dorn has stated Washington likely won’t apply for a waiver, but that was before the rules were released. OSPI is reviewing the new rules.
To read an in-depth story about the waivers, check out the Education Week story here.
For a more cursory overview, The Associated Press story is below.
WASHINGTON – Decrying the state of American education, President Barack Obama on Friday said states will get unprecedented freedom to waive basic elements of the sweeping Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, calling it an admirable but flawed effort that has hurt students instead of helping them.
Obama’s announcement could fundamentally affect the education of tens of millions of children. It will allow states to scrap the requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 – a cornerstone of the law – if states meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.
And the president took a shot at Congress, saying his executive action was needed only because lawmakers have not stepped in to improve the law for years.
“Congress hasn’t been able to do it. So I will,” Obama said. “Our kids only get one shot at a decent education.”
Under the plan Obama outlined, states can ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law’s requirements if they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.
Despite allowing states to do away with the approaching 2014 deadline, Obama insisted he was not weakening the law, but rather helping states set higher standards. He said that the current law was forcing educators to teach to the test, to give short shrift to subjects such as history and science, and to even lower standards as a way of avoiding penalties and stigmas.