School board strategizing for future

Published on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 by Steve Guntli

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The Blaine school district is facing a number of big changes over the next few years and school board members are planning their strategy to stay ahead of the game.

The board held its annual August work session on Monday, August 12 to discuss the challenges affecting the district in the 2013-14 school year and beyond. 

In addition to some changes in the school’s evaluation policies, the board discussed the up-coming transition to a five-day kindergarten program, necessary improvements to the school’s facilities and ways they could  improve communication within the community at large.

“This is a unique meeting for the board,” superintendent Ron Spanjer said. “We have a lot of new considerations going into the new year.”

The state of Washington has begun gradually transitioning all public kindergartens to a five-day schedule by the 2017-18 school year. Blaine kindergartners currently attend school for six hours a day every other day.

Funds for the five-day kindergarten program are disbursed according to financial need, with the lowest-income districts receiving money first. 

Blaine school district will not receive funds for the program for another two years. In the meantime, the board will decide how to handle the new challenges posed by the program, including raising money for full time kindergarten teachers and potentially building new classrooms.

Jim Kenoyer, facilities, operations and maintenance supervisor for the Blaine school district, outlined the maintenance needs for the school’s facilities. Kenoyer recommended roofing upgrades for both the high school and middle school and new carpets for 16 classrooms between the high school and elementary school. The high school track is also in need of some foundation repair.

The most pressing repair needed is to Blaine Primary School’s fire-suppression system. The system requires new parts and upgrades that may cost as much as $100,000. 

“That system is now 21 years old,” Kenoyer said. “Nothing is leaking or gushing, but we need to move this up on our priority list.”

Funding for maintenance projects like these currently comes out of the school’s general fund. 

The board is considering options for alternative funding for these projects, such as a capital levy or a capital projects bond. 

Enhanced communication between the school, parents and the rest of the community is going to be a priority in the coming school year. 

“The consideration this year, as it has been in the past, will be how to bring parents into the mix, so we have a broader base of representation in decisions and more significant feedback,” Spanjer said.

A number of recent school-sponsored programs, addressing modern issues such as cyber bullying and social media etiquette, were poorly attended. Spanjer said he would like to expand the school district’s website to provide a better forum for the school to inform parents about programs like these. 

“People are doing more and more of their communication through social networking,” Spanjer said. “Other districts have experimented with blog sites, but I think the jury is still out on whether or not that’s beneficial.”

Stacy Thomas, executive director of teaching and learning, discussed the changes in evaluation procedures. The district has implemented procedures from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative, Smarter Balanced Assessments and the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP). 

CCSS is a nationwide program designed to provide clear, uniform standards for what students need to know. While the program has been adopted by 45 states and four U.S. territories, the state legislature does not provide funding for its implementation. 

Thomas said the district has been doing well training its teachers in the new state standards, but more training will be needed over the next few years. 

Additionally, new computers and wireless internet will have to be installed before the school is fully aligned with the program.

To view minutes of the meeting, visit boarddocs.com/wa/wabsd/Board.nsf/Public.