School board hears SHS improvement plan

The Sequim High School improvement plan was examined at the latest school board meeting

The latest plan for improvements at Sequim High School looks to help students earn credits toward graduation.

Special assignment principal Vince Riccobene and vice principal Kristi Queen told Sequim School Board directors to consider the need for more methods of “alternative access” to earning credits for students who have fallen behind the Core 24 graduation requirements —particularly with Sequim Options School limited in how many seniors it can help each year — at the board’s Nov. 4 meeting.

“We also need to have those options earlier,” Riccobene said. “We have students who fall behind as freshmen, so SOS is too late as a senior. Summer school isn’t enough in the meantime.”

Riccobene mentioned during his discussion of those opportunities that the Sequim School District is the only one in their Educational Service District — a regional group of school districts assigned by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction — that does not offer an online education component to their curriculum or an Open Doors program to give students further options on how to earn credits.

Directors got a chance to see what Sequim High leaders focused on last year and what they are planning to focus on in the 2019-2020 academic year during the administrators’ annual school improvement plan presentation.

Improving the “special services delivery” to help students with various disabilities earn credits at a higher rate — and thus increase their graduation rate and improve access to grade-level materials for them — are areas Riccobene said the district supports.

With SHS principal Shawn Langston recovering from knee replacement surgery, Queen and Riccobene led the presentation.

Test score scrutiny

Board directors expressed concerns over the district’s assessments scores at the high school grades, noting that 39 percent of students were meeting the state’s math standard.

Riccobene said students weren’t prioritizing the assessment, given the “alternative paths” available to them to meet graduation requirements. Several school board members pointed out that those paths are a relatively new measure implemented by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

Board director Jim Stoffer asked Riccobene to provide specifics on how the high school will try to drive improvements in those scores. Riccobene called that a “complex issue.”

Board president Brian Kuh said he thinks the “measuring tools” for such assessments may not reflect current practical realities of the world, but also mentioned that as they’re what OSPI currently uses, there’s only so much they can do for now.

Interim superintendent Rob Clark added that the district is “woefully behind” on updating curricula across the high school aside from a recent update to English curriculum, and that working on getting those in place might help the assessments.

Other business

• The board heard presentations from Sequim Middle School athletic director Marcus Hollan and Sequim High School athletic director Dave Ditlefsen on their respective fall sports seasons. As part of Hollan’s presentation, he mentioned that the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has approved including sixth graders in numerous sports, and while the school doesn’t currently have the facilities to include them in things like football or basketball, they have the capacity to include them in wrestling and track and field. The biggest hurdle they need to clear is adding another assistant coach, which he needs board approval for. Board directors seemed interested in the idea but said they want to look at the issue further before making a decision

• A discussion about updates to a district policy regarding gender inclusiveness to reflect state laws and new OSPI policies sparked discussion among board directors. The policy update needs to be in place in order to update procedures that are considered vital by OSPI, district staff said, and while the updates to the policy bring it in line with the current law, Kuh said he was concerned about the policy’s impact on teachers. Kuh said he wanted more time to examine and potentially re-write the policy update to make sure it “doesn’t exceed the legal mandate.” Other board members present — Heather Short was excused — disagreed, however, pointing out that the policy was in line with the law. Board vice president Brandino Gibson noted that, with help from legal sources, his own workplace recently made similar changes regarding gender inclusiveness, and that the school policy update as presented was in line with what his workplace had put together. In the end, Kuh’s request for a delay in the adoption of the policy was declined; he was the lone dissenting vote in the adoption of the policy.

• Stoffer noted the resignation of David Lyke from the Sequim School District’s McKinney-Vento Program, a federally-mandated program designed to help homeless students. Stofer said replacing Lyke should be a priority given the importance of the program. He also noted the limitations of the position being just 20 hours a week, and that while the Washington State School Directors’ Association is working on finding a way to fund additional resources for McKinney-Vento, the district needs to find their own path to additional funding as well.

• Clark informed the school board that the school district has received a tort claim from a former student who was injured at a Sequim school in 2017. The district’s legal team and insurance company are examining the claim right now and that he will update the board as updates are available — including if the claim becomes a lawsuit.

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