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State of Education Address Spotlights District's Achievements

Superintendent Mike Nelson invited various students across the District to share their experiences and insights with the audience during Thursday's address.

In both operating a school system and running a business, there needs to be a mission and a vision to aspire to, and there needs to be a systematic plan of attack in order to achieve that grand vision, said Enumclaw Schools Superintendent Mike Nelson during Thursday night's State of Education address.

Nelson shared with his audience that a large portion of the leadership books he reads comes from the business world, so the logical step in taking the District on its path toward its mission of 'all students achieving at high levels' is to draw up a plan, known as the Measures of Academic Success.

The 2010-11 academic year served as a baseline for this plan -- a set of data to start with that will help gauge progress down the line, so this 2011-12 academic year is truly year one on that plan.

Already, there are many highlights to share, said Nelson and the students across the District who joined him on stage Thursday.

The Academics

According to Nelson, this past academic year was the first time that all schools across Enumclaw School District saw a marked improvement in students' math assessments.

"We just had a huge system leap," he said, and it's due in large part both to a new math curriculum as well as the dedication of the District's teachers in ensuring each student had a good grasp of ideas and concepts.

The work teachers do during what is known as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) -- the segment of time each Friday afternoon when students have early dismissal -- in on plans to meet each child where they are in grasping a concept has proved invaluable in this achievement, Nelson said.

Enumclaw High School also continues to see an increase in the number of students tackling a challenging Advanced Placement course, he said. Whereas there were 293 students taking one or more AP classes last year, that number has increased to 394 this year. Freshmen were also one of the most enthusiastic groups to embrace the AP program, where this year.

Katja Barnhart, one of those students, shared that she appreciated the course and teacher Steven Murphy in helping students think critically rather than simply "memorizing facts." She also enjoyed having a broader perspective about the world around her.

Systemwide, educators also want to encourage students at the middle school level to start considering their academic plans in high school, which is where the Springboard Curriculum comes in. Grace Sales, an eighth-grader at Enumclaw Middle School, said she enjoys her more rigorous coursework and "knowing the assessments before starting a unit," and she is excited to start taking AP classes in high school.

Nelson said the goal is to have each high school student take at least one AP class. While there are about 1,400 high school students in the district, this year's numbers show that there are still about 1,000 student who aren't opting in to the more challenging courses. But given the current data coming from all schools in the district, "we have in Enumclaw and Black Diamond students who want to excel!" said Nelson.

Tools and Resources

In , Nelson shared what the SMART classroom would look like and that each school would have one model classroom in order to start exploring the technology. This fall, the district would begin to implement the plan -- thanks to the capital facilities and technology levy that residents passed -- to install SMART technology in each classroom at each school in the District.

Enumclaw High School Student Lauren Cary shared that she enjoyed the interactivity of the tools and the instant results. Students can use clickers to take impromptu quizzes and the teacher is able to gauge classroom understanding right then. "That immediate result is nice to see," she said. "It's just really efficient."

One of the greatest resources the District has is its teachers and Nelson shared that teachers who are hired for Enumclaw schools undergo a strict screening process. And the kids are appreciative too. Talia Olson an Enumclaw Middle School student, shared that she really liked her new teacher Mr. Karkainen and Ryan Chynoweth from Enumclaw High shared in a recorded message why he is appreciative of the basketball coach .

The District's custodial staff also got a nod Thursday thanks to their hard work in keeping facilities clear of ice and snow and operational.

Community and Culture

, launched community-wide this fall in an effort to promote kindness and combat bullying in schools, culminates in a community-wide celebrate March 6 at the new Enumclaw football stadium at 6:30 p.m., said Nelson.

The effort is supported by the non-profit Enumclaw Schools Foundation, which raises money to fund full-day kindergarten scholarships as well as the new Springboard curriculum. ESF has two events coming up that the public are invited to:

  • Mardi Gras lunch on Feb. 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Fieldhouse
  • Full-Day Kindergarten Dinner and Auction on April 21 at 5 p.m. at the Fieldhouse

Due to last week's storms, the Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce postponed its Board Installation Dinner until Thursday and the actual ceremony took place on stage before the Education Address. Nelson said the organization's role in the community dovetails with the goals of the school district. "The school district is the largest employer in the area, and so we want the school system to be integrated into the community," he said. "The Chamber helps us to build a strong school system."

According to Mayor Liz Reynolds, the Enumclaw Area Chamber is the oldest continuously running business organization in the state and will be celebrating 110 years this fall.

It's All About STEM

The address ended with a short demonstration by two Enumclaw High School Robotics Team members of the they had built.

It was symbolic in showcasing where Nelson said he wants to take the District's focus to: science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Alluding to Pres. Barack Obama's State of the Union Address this week, Nelson said there are currently STEM jobs open and so the District aims to build a system through the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program toward producing students who can fill the "need for service manufacturing jobs -- to put stuff together," he said.

At the middle school level, that will be called Project Lead the Way.

At a local business owner Ted DeVol of lamented that he was looking to hire but could not find anyone properly trained as programmers and machinists.

In fact, DeVol said he went to WorkSource, the state unemployment resource, looking for potential hires but "there are no programmers on employment."

It can be a lucrative field and one that should be increasing in demand as companies start to realize outsourced products don't meet consumers' demands for high quality. "Manufacturing is middle class," he said. "And no one is talking about it."

Community Impressed

Bryan Stanwood wrote to Patch Friday, "I came away not only impressed, but confident that our students are in great hands as we progress into the future. The tools are certainly in place to succeed with effort and it was great to see all our school system is producing."

 

 

 

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