Meridian School District coverage
The Meridian School Board approved a $17.5 million budget on Tuesday, July 31, that included a $100,000 rollback in levy collection for property owners in the school district.
“I am pleased to come into the Meridian School District and to have a board pass a budget in which no programs had to be cut, no layoffs for staff had to occur, and there also was enough money to do a rollback in tax collections to the community,” said Tom Churchill, Meridian’s new superintendent, of the 2012-13 spending plan.
The district’s school board voted unanimously earlier in July to roll back $100,000 in levy collection because the state didn’t cut levy equalization funding as feared. Such funding helps property-tax poor districts that can’t raise much revenue through taxes.
“I feel very fortunate to inherit a district that is talking about what can we add next rather than what do we have to cut next. This is not the norm around the state,” Churchill added.
Everson-based Tiger Construction will build a new two-story elementary school in the Meridian School District that, come fall 2013, will house students now split between Irene Reither Primary and Ten Mile Creek Elementary schools.
At its meeting Tuesday, July 31, the Meridian School Board awarded the construction contract to Tiger, which submitted the low bid of $11.8 million.
Two other firms also submitted bids: Bellingham-based Dawson Construction for $12.1 million, and Berschauer Phillips Construction out of Seattle for nearly $12.8 million.
Tiger also is doing the $25.4 million renovation of Meridian High School, which is under way and also is expected to be completed by fall 2013.
The new elementary school will be built behind the existing Irene Reither Primary School. Construction could start in August or early September.
“I think everybody’s anxious to get going on it while the weather’s nice,” said Tom Churchill, superintendent of Meridian School District.
Students at Irene Reither will stay put during construction.
“They can stay in Irene Reither all through the year, and the construction will happen basically where the playground is now. We won’t displace any of the students,” Churchill said.
The school board hasn’t yet picked a name for the new school, although it has been referred to, informally, as Meridian Elementary.
The board will take up naming in the coming school year.
The new elementary school is designed to accommodate up to 600 students. The current primary and elementary schools have about 563 students split between them.
The school board wanted to combine the two schools into one building to “eliminate duplicate administrative and operational costs,” Churchill said.
The current Irene Reither, which was built in 1973, will be demolished once the new 60,704-square-foot school has been built.
Ten Mile, built in 1992, will then house the district’s Meridian Parent Partnership Program, often referred to as MP3. The program lets parents partner with the school district to collaboratively educate their children. It’s like homeschooling, but with a network of professional educators providing curriculum and teaching support.
About 200 of the program’s 800 students come to the district to take classes — in a rented space at Laurel Community Baptist Church large enough to accommodate them and adequate as classroom space. But the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has told Meridian to move the program out of the church, which is next to the high school, and into a regular school facility.
Money for the elementary school build will come from a bond voters approved in February 2010 and up to $9.7 million that Meridian could receive in state construction funds.
Discussions originally centered on expanding and renovating either Ten Mile or Irene Reither, but officials ruled out those options in favor of building new after the board considered a number of studies, including for facility and engineering.
Reasons for building new included:
- Ten Mile’s layout didn’t work well for adding on to that school.
- Adding on to Irene Reither would have required complete upgrades for seismic, electrical and HVAC, as well as the building’s structure to bring it up to current energy codes.
- The district also would have had to rent a “portable village” to house students during a renovation and expansion, officials said.
Those factors, and others, rivaled the cost of building a new school, Churchill added.
“Finally, the state matching ratio is more favorable toward new construction compared to modernization in Meridian’s case,” he added.
Bellingham-based Zervas Group Architects is the architect for this project.
Mount Baker Rotary club gave a total of $32,400 in scholarships to 18 students who graduated from Whatcom County high schools in 2012 and are going on to college.
Each student received a $1,800 scholarship.
- Lynden Christian: Brennan Huleatt, Jami Jo Libolt, John Pawlowski, Chad Heerspink, Kayla Aupperlee and Kaitlyn Brown.
- Lynden: Amber Stokes, Taylor Witman, Fraser Shindruk, Jeremy Korthuis, Cassidy Gunst and Sarrah VanZanten.
- Meridian: Denver VanderYacht and Kelli Terpsma.
- Mount Baker: Rachel Larson and Ben Koehler.
- Nooksack Valley: Charity Caldwell and Courtney Edwards
Six Whatcom County high school graduates have received the 2012-13 Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program award, Comcast Foundation has announced.
They were among 90 students named in Western Washington and Spokane.
Comcast asked schools to nominate students who showed leadership abilities in school activities and strong commitment to community service.
The Whatcom County students and their schools are:
- Emily P. Steelquist, Blaine High School
- Patricia M. Castrejon, Ferndale High School
- Fraser J. Shindruk, Lynden High School
- Kaitlyn M. Michaelson, Meridian High School
- Brett T. Copher, Nooksack Valley High
- Janice E. Liang, Sehome High School
The Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program gives $1,000 scholarships to students.
Meridian High School teacher Steve Lawrence has been selected the 2012 Washington History Teacher of the Year. He’ll find out in the fall whether he has been picked as the National History Teacher of the Year. Click here to read my story.
I enjoyed the time I spent in his class, and was impressed with his students.
Lynden Christian, Lummi and Windward kicked off graduations in Whatcom County with their ceremonies on Thursday, June 7.
Lynden and Nooksack Valley high schools are up next, with their graduations beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, June 8.
Below is a round-up of high school and college graduation ceremonies this month. Ceremonies are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
FRIDAY, JUNE 8
Lynden High School: 7 p.m. in the school gym.
Nooksack Valley High School: 7 p.m. at Sid Lambert Field or Kay LeMaster Gym, depending on the weather.
SATURDAY, JUNE 9
Ferndale High School: 11 a.m. at Civic Field.
Western Washington University:
- 9 a.m. College of Business and Economics, College of Fine and Performing Arts, Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Huxley College of the Environment.
- 12:30 p.m. College of Humanities and Social Sciences (Humanities Division) and Woodring College of Education.
- 4 p.m. College of Humanities and Social Sciences (Social Sciences Division) and the College of Sciences and Technology.
All three ceremonies are in Carver Gymnasium. Tickets are required for seating in the gym, but there will be overflow seating in the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education building with the ceremonies broadcast on a screen. The ceremonies also will be broadcast live on Comcast channel 26 and streamed live on www.ustream.tv/channel/wwu-live-events1.
MONDAY, JUNE 11
Blaine High School: 6 p.m. in the school gym.
Community Transitions (Bellingham School District): 7 p.m. Bellingham Cruise Terminal, Dome Room.
TUESDAY, JUNE 12
Mount Baker High School: 6:30 p.m. at the school’s Bob Tisdale Field.
THURSDAY, JUNE 14
Meridian High School: 7 p.m. in the school gym.
Explorations Academy: 7 p.m. at Squalicum Boathouse. Space is limited so people need to contact Explorations before June 13 if they wish to attend.
FRIDAY, JUNE 15
Bellingham High School: 7 p.m. in the school gym. Tickets required.
Northwest Indian College: 4 p.m. in Wex’liem community building.
Whatcom Community College: 6:30 p.m. in the Pavilion. Tickets are required to sit in the pavilion; however there will be overflow seating in Heiner Theatre with the ceremony broadcast on a screen.
SATURDAY, JUNE 16
Squalicum High School: 11 a.m. at the school. Tickets required.
MONDAY, JUNE 18
Sehome High School: 6 p.m. in Carver Gym at WWU.
TUESDAY, JUNE 19
Options High School: 7 p.m. in the theater at Bellingham High School.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20
Bellingham Technical College: 7 p.m. at Mount Baker Theatre. Tickets required.
More than 700 people showed up at Roosevelt Elementary School the evening of Thursday, May 24, to see student performances and artwork.
It was the Bellingham school’s second annual Children’s Art Festival Extravaganza.
The school’s 430 students each displayed several pieces of art.
Roosevelt also held a dedication ceremony for the Poet Tree — a sculpture created by artist Tony Hermanutz.
Hermanutz donated it to the school.
LAUREL — The first phase of what will be a major $25.4 million renovation of Meridian High School has been built, with the completion of a new greenhouse, locker rooms and the 13,500-square-foot Career and Technical Education building.
The community can see the results during an open house Thursday, April 26.
The first phase cost about $8.5 million, with the greenhouse completed in June and the locker rooms and CTE building done earlier in April.
The second phase, construction of a 50,000-square-foot Education building that will house most of the traditional classes, has started.
A $17 million bond voters approved in February 2010, $900,000 from the district and $23.1 million in state funding is helping to pay for the work at the high school as well as a $15.5 million project to put Irene Reither Primary School and Ten Mile Creek Elementary School into one building.
The CTE building houses a wood shop, a metal shop, a large room for art classes, independent classroom, independent computer lab and a classroom in which students are taught horticulture and floral arrangement.
The old CTE building, from the 1960s era, was demolished last week.
As Principal James Everett walked through the CTE building — where students were priming canvases in art class, caring for flowers in the greenhouse, and building playhouses outside the metal shop — he talked about how the project allowed school officials to design buildings that fit the coursework and suited the needs of students and educators.
That included things like space to put a kiln in a room off the main art room — instead of having it in the midst of the room — space to store portfolios, and a state-of-the art metal shop that includes 17 welding booths.
“There isn’t anything like it around,” Everett said Wednesday, April 25, of the metal shop.
As for the renovation project: “What this represents is what we can do for our students. Our students deserve every bit of opportunity that’s available,” he said. “We had been limited by the facilities we had before.”
The new CTE building also will house the Construction Careers Academy and the Academy of Engineering — both operated through Northwest Career & Technical Academy in Mount Vernon. (Fourteen of the construction academy students working on the playhouses Wednesday were Meridian students.)
The Northwest Career and Technical Academy is open to students in Whatcom and Skagit counties. It is one of several state-funded programs that allows students to get a head start in technical programs before graduating from high school.
The Thursday open house at Meridian High School also is a thank you to voters and the community for their support, according to Tim Yeomans, superintendent of Meridian School District.
“Those buildings are a physical manifestation of a change in belief — a belief in what is possible,” Yeomans said, explaining a shift from old ways of thinking that the school district was small, had limited resources and wasn’t going to fundamentally improve in terms of funding.
Everson-based Tiger Construction is doing the renovation work, although Williamson Construction, of Deming, built the greenhouse.
Bellingham-based Zervas Group Architects is the architect for the school projects.
IF YOU GO
What: Open house for the first phase of the Meridian High School renovation, which includes a new greenhouse, locker rooms and Career and Technical Education building. Guided tours will be offered.
When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, with the last guided tour ending at 6:30 p.m.
Where: 194 W. Laurel Road.
The superintendent of the 300-student Hood Canal School District will be the new superintendent for Meridian schools beginning in July.
The Meridian School Board on Tuesday, March 27, unanimously selected Tom Churchill to replace Tim Yeomans, who is leaving the top job at Meridian to be superintendent of Puyallup schools.
“Tom Churchill has more experience and more credentials to effectively run the school district,” school board chairman Brian Evans said.
“He understands rural school districts like Meridian. I think he’s going to extend the good work done at Meridian,” Evans added.
Churchill beat out David Forsythe for the superintendent post. Forsythe is executive director of teaching and learning for Meridian School District and former principal for Ten Mile Creek Elementary School in the district.
“I feel honored to be selected. I look forward to building relationships with the people in Meridian. We’re in a people business so it’s all about relationships,” said Churchill, who also is principal in the Hood Canal School District.
He said he looked forward to being part of Meridian’s leadership team — comprised of core administrators, principals, assistant principals and department leaders in the school district — and working with the school board.
Churchill, 49, praised the work that Yeomans has done.
“Tim will be a hard act to follow,” he said, adding that Yeomans “is a pretty dynamic guy” and that there were many good things in place in Meridian because of his leadership.
Meridian School District has about 2,100 students, and Yeomans has been its superintendent since July 2007.
As for his plans for Meridian, Churchill said that will be guided by a transition plan being put together by Yeomans and the school board.
“They’re in the middle of some pretty major construction projects, so that will obviously be a high priority,” Churchill said. “I need to get to know the leadership team and the work that’s being done there and to get up to speed. My highest priority will be building relationships with folks in Meridian.”
Churchill also has previous experience as a superintendent when he served in that capacity in the Entiat School District from 2002 to 2004.
Although he’s coming from a smaller school district — with a $4.6 million budget compared to Meridian’s $17.5 million — Churchill said he will be able to hit the ground running because the responsibilities of state reporting and budgeting are the same for all school districts in Washington state.
“We all have the same responsibilities to the state and federal government and local taxpayers no matter the size of your school district,” he said.
Churchill also was a finalist for superintendent of the nearly 2,000-student Mount Baker School District, but the Mount Baker school board last week picked Charlie Burleigh, principal of Kendall Elementary School, to be the new superintendent.
Churchill said he was interested in coming to Whatcom County as a step up in his career and also because he had two grown sons in Bellingham.
“We spent a lot of time, my wife Patty and I, in Bellingham visiting our sons,” he said, adding that one son has moved to L.A. to try to make it as an actor.
The Puyallup School District board hired Yeomans for the Puyallup superintendent job on March 6.
That school district has about 21,100 students.
The Meridian School Board has selected two finalists for the superintendent post to replace Tim Yeomans, who is leaving the top job at Meridian to be superintendent of Puyallup schools starting in July.
The board selected the finalists Saturday, March 24.
The finalists will be in the district Monday, March 26, and Tuesday, March 27, to interview with staff, students, the school board and community.
Meridian School District has about 2,100 students.
The two candidates are:
• David Forsythe, executive director of teaching and learning for Meridian School District since 2011. His interviews will be on Monday.
Forsythe has a Master of Education from Lesley College.
Before becoming executive director of teaching and learning, he was principal at Ten Mile Creek Elementary School in the Meridian district from 2008 to 2011.
• Tom Churchill, superintendent/principal for the Hood Canal School District in Washington state since 2007. He will visit Meridian on Tuesday.
The district has about 300 students.
Churchill has a Master in Educational Leadership from Pacific Lutheran University.
Before 2007, he was superintendent for the Entiat School District from 2002 to 2004.
Churchill also was a finalist for superintendent of Mount Baker School District, but the Mount Baker school board last week picked Charlie Burleigh, principal of Kendall Elementary School, to be the new superintendent.
Forsythe and Churchill also will meet with the community during their visits. Those forums begin at 4:45 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in the library at Meridian Middle School, 861 Ten Mile Road.
The library is in a detached building in the southeast corner of campus.
The Puyallup School District board hired Yeomans for the Puyallup superintendent job on March 6.
He had been superintendent of Meridian School District since July 2007.