Archive for January, 2012
Meridian School District is stopping the major remodel of its aging middle school, expecting to lose $12.3 million in state construction money.
That’s because two bills moving through the Legislature would change how the state helps pay for school construction.
The measures, which have bipartisan support, would bar school districts from including Alternative Learning Experiences students who live outside the district in the calculation used for state funding for construction.
Alternative Learning Experiences programs are those in which students are taught off-campus, as with online courses or homeschooling.
“The concern of the Legislature is we’re building space for kids that aren’t coming to the brick and mortar school,” said Gordon Beck, director of school facilities and organization for the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
But the measures assume that such students require no space, said Tim Yeomans, superintendent for the Meridian School District.
That’s not the case for the district’s popular Meridian Parent Partnership Program, often referred to as MP3.
The program lets parents partner with Meridian School District to collaboratively educate their children. It’s like homeschooling, but with a network of professional educators providing curriculum and teaching support.
MP3 has 850 students. About 200 of them come and take classes in the district — in a rented space at Laurel Community Baptist Church large enough to accommodate them and adequate as classroom space. (OSPI has told Meridian to move the program out of the church, which is next to the high school, and into a regular school facility.)
More than 750 of the students in the MP3 program come from outside the Meridian School District, Yeomans said, with more than half of those coming from a district that doesn’t have such a program.
Meridian school officials said they knew about the proposal but didn’t think that it would affect construction projects, such as theirs, that were already in the pipeline.
“It was quite the surprise. We were given no awareness that such a thing was being worked on,” said Tim Yeomans, superintendent for the Meridian School District.
Both measures likely will be passed and approved by the governor. That would in turn stop the July release of state funding from the School Construction Assistance Program.
Two other school districts in the state also would be affected: Eastmont, which could lose $781,078; and Yakima, which could lose $349,565 in state construction help.
When Meridian school officials first heard about the proposal Jan. 3, they initially worried that three planned renovation projects in the district — Meridian High School, putting Irene Reither Primary School and Ten Mile Creek Elementary School into one building, and the middle school — would be hurt.
But the high school and elementary school renovations will continue.
Yeomans was diplomatic about the state’s cost-cutting proposal.
“Our school board realizes that the state has a huge job,” he said. “While they (board members) are disappointed that we will not be able to begin the middle school project this summer, they remain committed to finding a way to undertake what’s required at the middle school in the future.”
Construction is under way on the $25.4 million high school renovation, and the $15.5 million elementary school project is expected to go out to bid this summer. Both projects should be completed by fall 2013.
The local money for those renovations came from a $17 million bond voters approved in February 2010 and $900,000 from the school board. The state contributed $23.1 million.
Meanwhile, the district is asking the state to repay $110,000 Meridian already has spent on the middle school project for costs related to design, conditional use permits, architectural fees and engineering.
“We appreciate the difficulty on them, their board and members of the community,” said Beck of OSPI.
Washington state Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Vashon, wants to impose a 2 percent tax on the income of millionaires who live in the state to pay for education, with the priority of reducing class sizes in grades K-4.
The legislation, Senate Bill 6482, has been referred to the Ways & Means Committee.
What do you think of this idea?
Washington state Auditor Brian Sonntag is unhappy about Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to audit school districts every three years instead of annually — unless the district had a recent audit that was poor– in order to save districts time and resources.
In a Jan. 23 letter, Sonntag calls the proposal “bad public policy.”
“It compromises our Office’s independence and flies in the face of citizen and policymaker demands for accountability over ever-dwindling resources,” he writes of the legislation.
Click here to read the rest of the letter.
A Western Washington University alum has been nominated for an Oscar for his documentary about an inner-city high school football’s team run for a playoff game — and respect.
Seattle native and Western alum T.J. Martin was nominated, along with fellow filmmakers Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas, in the best documentary feature category for “Undefeated.” The Academy Award nominees were announced Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The Academy Awards ceremony will be on Sunday, Feb. 26. “Undefeated” is up against four other documentaries in its category.
Here’s a synopsis of the film:
Set in the inner-city of Memphis, “Undefeated” chronicles the Manassas Tigers’ 2009 football season, on and off-the-field, as they strive to win the first playoff game in the high school’s 110-year history.
A perennial whipping boy, in recent decades Manassas had gone so far as to sell their home games to the highest bidder, but that all changed in the spring of 2004 when Bill Courtney, a former high school football coach turned lumber salesman, volunteered to lend a hand.
When he arrived, the team consisted of 17 players, some timeworn equipment and a patch of grass masquerading as a practice field.
Focusing more on winning young men than football games, the football program nevertheless began resurrecting itself and, in 2009, features the most talented team Manassas has ever fielded; a team that seems poised to end the playoff jinx that has plagued the school since time immemorial.
A coming-of-age documentary film, “Undefeated” provides audiences an intimate view of an underprivileged group of teens and their inspirational coach, as they attempt to make history.
See the clip below.
People have a few chances to say what they want to see in the next superintendent for the Mount Baker School District.
One option is to go to one of two meetings on Tuesday, Jan. 24 — at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the library at Mount Baker High School, 4936 Deming Road.
The other way to provide input is to fill out this online survey.
The evening sessions are on top of others earlier in the day for students and staff.
The survey asks people to give their opinion about the strengths of the community and school district, what challenges face the district, and what characteristics they want in a new superintendent.
The district has had an interim superintendent, Karst Brandsma, since the former superintendent, Richard Gantman, resigned at the beginning of October to write a book and work as a business consultant.
Brandsma said he isn’t interested in the permanent post.
Applications for the position are being accepted until Feb. 27.
The district’s school board hopes to select a candidate by March 27.
The board has hired consultants Michael Boring and Al Cohen to help with the search at a cost of $6,500, plus expenses.
Registration has been extended to Tuesday, Jan. 31, for a new seven-week “Strengthening Families” course in Ferndale.
The extension also will move the start of the Tuesday classes from Jan. 24 to Jan. 31.
A program of Washington State University Extension, the course is for families with children ages 10 to 14 years old. It aims to develop skills in communication and setting limits as youngsters develop their independence and head into their teen years.
The cost is $35 per family, and scholarships are available upon request. Childcare also will be provided.
Classes are 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Whatcom New Life Assembly, 2290 Main St.
Register through any elementary or middle school in Ferndale; the Boys & Girls Club in Ferndale; or by mailing the registration form to Ferndale Community Resource Center, P.O. Box 1854, Ferndale, WA. 98248.
For more information, including how to register: contact coordinator Lucy Morse at Ferndale Community Resource Center, 5694 Second Ave.; 360-380-2238; and firstname.lastname@example.org.
A water pipe that burst over the weekend in a building at Meridian Middle School caused extensive damage to four classrooms and left behind at least three inches of water.
The damage caused by the pipe bursting in the ceiling was discovered about 6:55 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23.
Last week’s frigid temperatures were the likely cause, according to Tim Yeomans, superintendent for the Meridian School District.
Yeomans said Monday that he didn’t yet know the full extent of the damage.
“It’s significant,” he said. “Expensive, I guess would be a good way to say it.”
An insurance adjuster will be at the school Tuesday.
Yeomans said water damaged the ceiling, walls and carpets. Photos taken by an employee showed soaked pieces of the ceiling on the ground and clumps of blackened insulation on student desks.
The building housed four classrooms and the school’s library, with Yeomans saying that it was the four-classroom pod that had extensive water damage.
About 10 staff members and 140 students who had classes in the building were relocated Monday to the middle school’s main building or Irene Reither Primary School.
No classes were canceled.
“Our folks pulled together very well,” Yeomans said.
The library wasn’t damaged, he said, adding there are no plans to move it.
Like most Whatcom County schools, classes at Meridian were canceled last week because of snow, sub-freezing temperatures and icy roads.
But staff were in the building Friday afternoon and there was no sign of trouble, Yeomans said.
“It was all normal when everybody left on Friday afternoon,” he said.
The Ferndale School District has scheduled a forum for Tuesday, Jan. 24, to hear from the community about the district’s plan to close one elementary school to save money during a poor economy.
The district’s Facility Advisory Committee is holding the forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Eagleridge Elementary School, 2651 Thornton Road.
The district’s board of directors voted Nov. 22 to close an elementary school at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
But the board hasn’t yet decided which school to close.
Factors such as location, size and the condition of the building will factor into the board’s decision, district officials said.
To learn more: Contact district representatives Mark Deebach, executive director for business and support Services, 360-383-9203, and
Tammy Bengen, public information officer, 360-383-9207
Whatcom Community College will discuss its registered nursing program at information sessions on Saturdays, beginning Jan. 21.
Topics will include prerequisite classes, expected grade point average, application deadlines, transfer credits, financial aid and future employment.
Sessions are free, but people do need to register online by clicking here.
Dates, times and locations are:
- Jan. 21, 10 a.m. to noon at Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave.
- Jan. 28, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ferndale Public Library, 2007 Cherry St. at 1st Avenue.
- Jan. 28, 3 to 5 p.m. at Blaine Public Library, 610 3rd St.
- Feb. 4, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Deming Public Library, 5044 Mount Baker Highway.
- Feb. 4, 3 to 5 p.m. Lynden Public Library, 216 4th St.
Northwest Indian College has canceled classes on Thursday, Jan. 19, because of inclement weather
No word yet on what Bellingham Technical College, Western Washington University, and Whatcom Community College will do.
Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack Valley, Blaine, Meridian and Mount Baker school districts have announced that they’re also canceling classes on Thursday because of frigid temperatures and icy, treacherous roads.