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Superintendent’s Update - October 7, 2011

Posted: Monday, October 10, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

The week of October 3 was a busy one.  Several important developments are summarized below.

International Walk to School Day
Little Mountain and Centennial participated in International Walk to School Day on October 5 (http://bit.ly/oiJ2cb).  In preparation for limited bus transportation for students within the walking mile next year, both schools are piloting walking and biking to school initiatives, supported by a Department of Transportation Safe Routes to Schools grant, awarded to the City of Mount Vernon last spring.  Approximately 720 Little Mountain and Centennial students participated in Wednesday’s event.  They were joined by 42 staff. 

Principal and Teacher Evaluation Systems
In 2010, the legislature passed a broad education reform bill (E2SSB 6696), which, in part, mandated significant changes in principal and teacher evaluation systems.  Last school year, eight districts and one small district consortium participated in a pilot project  to research instructional frameworks and related evaluation systems. Through their work, they prioritized three teaching frameworks and one administrative framework, subsequently approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). 

This year, OSPI is funding ESDs to work with several districts in their region to learn about and pilot one or two of the frameworks and evaluation systems.  On Tuesday, we learned that the district was awarded one of these grants.  This allows us to get a head start on a change which, if left until 2013-14 – i.e., the deadline for implementation - would be very daunting.  In the coming weeks, we will work with our teachers’ association to put together a steering committee of teachers, principals, and district office administrators, who will lead this effort.  

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
Over the past six years, a consortium of districts from the Skagit and Yakima Valleys (including Mount Vernon) has been supported by a U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant, administered by the University of Washington.  GEAR UP (http://1.usa.gov/9dzAqE) is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.  The program has provided a variety of supports, including after school tutoring, field trips to colleges and universities, and help navigating the college and financial aid application processes.  Services begin for students in 7th grade and follow those students through high school.  This week, we learned that the UW has received funding for a new student cohort, beginning with this year’s seventh graders.  Though details aren’t yet available, we do know the new grant emphasizes support for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content areas.

Microsoft IT Academy
Thanks to Ernie Rinn (Tech Department) and Ryan Beatty (CTE Director/MVHS Assistant Principal) Mount Vernon High School will soon participate in the Microsoft IT Academy program (http://bit.ly/pYMTUa).   As part of the Academy, the high school will receive upgrades to the Windows 7 operating system and licenses for Office 2010 and other Microsoft products.  Students will be able to earn certification in a variety of software applications.


Robotics
Mount Vernon High School’s new Technology teacher, Michael Criner, is out to bring Robotics to MVHS.  Michael and fellow CTE teacher, Tim Hornbacher, successfully applied to OSPI for a FIRST Robotics grant, which will bring $7,000 to assist in program startup.

Migrant Student Documentary
In April 2011, as part of a project for the Migrant Leaders Club, five middle school girls made a documentary about their experiences titled, “Who We Are”, while attending a week-long documentary production workshop, sponsored by “Reel Grrls” in Seattle (http://www.reelgrrls.org/).  The group’s advisor, Migrant Graduation Specialist Janice Blackmore, learned this week that “Who We Are” has been chosen as one of the Official Selections for the 2011 Young People’s Film Festival in Portland, OR.  Janice is working to identify funding to support the girls’ trip to Portland in November.

Science Assessments
Elementary teachers Andrea Clancy (Little Mountain), Dale Fournier (Washington), and Susan Kruckenberg (Lincoln) were selected to participate in a Math/Science partnership with six other school districts and Skagit Valley College in the Assessing with Learning Progressions in Science (NW ALPS) project.  With the goal of improving student learning in science, they will be focusing on deepening their own knowledge of the big ideas in science and collaboratively creating formative assessments and learning progressions for the Foss science kits.

If you have questions about any of these projects, please feel free to contact me at cbruner@mv.k12.wa.us.

Carl Bruner, Superintendent