Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - November 8, 2019

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
School board earns state recognition again

Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors has been selected to receive a WSSDA Board of Distinction award for the second consecutive year. Board members will be recognized at the Annual Conference in Bellevue Friday, November 22. The Boards of Distinction program is designed to encourage boards to examine their practices as governing bodies and how their actions and decisions impact the success of students. National research on the Washington State School Board Standards shows a correlation between board actions and student outcomes. Those recognized as Boards of Distinction have reviewed their decision-making and shown how that is tied to positive student outcomes.

Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors highlights linked to the award include passing the largest bond is district history. Also, the school board’s professional development and efforts to remove barriers to participation by eliminating fees and partnering with the United Way for the Adopt a Blue Devil program were recognized. The decision to align school hours, growth in the Dual Language program prompting improved academic achievement for second language learners and the Strategic Plan’s focus on improved graduation rates and ACT scores were also key to the award.

Early Learning Center Update

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith provided the school board an update on the repurposing of Blue Ridge Elementary into an early learning center. The early learning center will be open to serve children and families for the 2020-21 school year. The center will provide birth-to-five services for students and families as a coordinated and comprehensive community learning hub. From parent training and supports to infant care to early learning, the center is far more than just a preschool.

"The center’s services will address and help overcome the staggering access gap for many Walla Walla youth and families, promoting an inclusive community resource that encourages integration, engagement and opportunity for all," said Smith. "Every year, fewer and fewer Walla Walla kindergarten students are entering school prepared, primarily due to lack of access from quality birth-to-five experiences."

With less than one in four kindergarten students coming to school kindergarten ready, nearly half the statewide average, this has resulted in dramatic challenges in ensuring social and academic success for all.

"Over the last decade, several groups have convened to explore the needs of young children and to make recommendations on how to address those needs as a community," said Smith. "Multiple studies and workgroups all point to a comprehensive birth-to-five early learning center to address the valley’s significant lack of access and streamline coordination of services."

Currently more than two dozen partner agencies have indicated they may wish a presence at the district’s early learning center.

"The WWPS Board and leadership remain committed to working collaboratively with regional partners and programs to ensure that early learning center programs do not adversely impact community early learning providers," said Smith.

More information and the naming of the center will be released in the coming weeks.

District survey seeks name ideas for new Early Learning Center


Following eight months of study, stakeholder engagement and research, the Walla Walla Public Schools’ Board of Directors reached a unanimous decision in October 2019 to repurpose Blue Ridge Elementary School into a regional early learning center for children and families effective the 2020-21 school year.

The center will provide birth-to-five services for students and families as a coordinated and comprehensive community learning hub. From parent training and supports to infant care to early learning, the center will be far more than just a preschool. Programmed services will address and help overcome the staggering access gap for many Walla Walla youth and families, promoting an inclusive community resource that encourages integration, engagement and opportunity for all.

With the repurposing of the facility from an elementary school to a comprehensive early learning center, the district is seeking public input in naming the new facility. Please complete the survey to share your thoughts. The survey will remain open through Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Bowen named to lead Blue Ridge Elementary transition to Early Learning Center

Walla Walla Public Schools has partnered with Walla Walla Community College who will be assigning Samantha Bowen to help lead the district’s early learning center development process from now through June.

“She will be directing the incredible amount of outreach, engagement, development and planning required to implement our Board and community’s vision as we repurpose Blue Ridge Elementary into a comprehensive center for children and families,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “From the development of our state-funded, four-year-old Jump Start Kindergarten program, to identifying and coordinating community partners, to outlining shared facility-use agreements, Mrs. Bowen is the perfect person to help us lead our historical and transformational early learning efforts.”

Bowen is the Director of Early Childhood and Parenting Education at Walla Walla Community College where she offers vision, direction and support to faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, for more than 11 years, Bowen has coordinated the Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition, a collaborative network of organizations which act as a catalyst for improving and expanding early learning opportunities for all children in the Walla Walla Valley.

She served for five years as the Director of Early Learning at Educational Service District 123, overseeing the regional implementation of WaKIDS and initiating state-funded ECEAP preschool programs in five school districts. Bowen has been recognized as a leader in early learning system development and participates on a number of local, regional and statewide committees focused on improving outcomes for children and families. She is a native resident of the valley, attending Berney Elementary School before moving across the border to Milton-Freewater for middle and high school. Bowen has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She and her husband Paul are the parents of 15-year-old twin boys who attend Walla Walla High School and foster parents to a three-year-old girl.

Veterans Day Holiday

• Veterans Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL Monday, Nov. 11
• Thank you to all our Veterans

November Pulse video

Click on the link below to view the November Pulse video. Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith provides timely updates on district operations and programs.


Students exiting English Language Development services on the rise

Tuesday night Director of Equity and Dual Language Programs Dr. Julie Perron provided the school board an annual update on English Language Development (ELD) and Dual Immersion programs. Currently, approximately 800 students are receiving services through Perron’s department. Services include English Language Development, Dual Immersion Programs and Supportive Mainstream.

“We have a menu of options for services for English Language Development,” said Perron. “We meet students at their level of English proficiency and provide the necessary enrichment and strategies they need to be successful academically.”

This school year the Dual Immersion program expanded to Green Park Elementary with two, full capacity kindergarten classes. The growth will continue next year as students progress through the grade levels. Perron also reported students are exiting ELD services just above the state average, with three percent growth since last year.
“Some students need more time than others to acquire proficiency in English, but our goal is to ensure high levels of learning in all of our programs and services,” said Perron. “One of our goals this year is to identify and address the needs of long-term English learners so we can exit them from services and ensure they are successful.”

Perron also noted significant growth in identification of migrant students so appropriate services can be provided to meet their needs. She thanked the school board for its support and said staff in her department are amazing.

Personnel Report (from November 5, 2019 School Board meeting)

Rachel Alinares, Para-Educator, Prospect Point Elementary School
Marnee Contreras, Para-Educator, Pioneer Middle School
Lori Grimes, Health Room Assistant (temporary), Sharpstein Elementary School
Jennifer Mann, Para-Educator, Blue Ridge Elementary School
Miranda McGee, Para-Educator, Berney Elementary School
Araceli Romero, Assistant Secretary/Para-Educator, WWHS Opportunity Program
Tessa Weston, Para-Educator, Berney Elementary School

Elia Esquivel, Para-Educator, Head Start Preschool, 15 years
Chavis Harris, Jr., Campus Security Specialist, Lincoln High School, 2 years
Mike Stroe, Bus Driver, SE Washington Transportation Co-Op, 23 years


Mia Murray, Health Room Assistant, Sharpstein Elementary School, 2 years
• Mia will serve as Behavior Coach for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year

School Stories
Trunk or Treat success supports local food bank

Wa-Hi’s Trunk or Treat Halloween celebration was successful again this year. Approximately 250 children attended the event presented by the Key Club and Kiwanis Clubs of Walla Walla. More than 200 pounds of food was collected for the BMAC food bank. The National Honor Society was named “favorite trunk” this year for its Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Students will receive a pizza party during one of their regularly scheduled meetings.

Walla Walla Youth Speaks (Ted Talks) 

• Friday, November 15, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• WWCC Health Science and Performing Arts Center
• Walla Walla Youth Speaks 2019-2020, a showcase of student speakers presenting great, well-formed ideas in 60 seconds.
• Garrison Middle School and Pioneer Middle School 7th and 8th grade creative writing students, Garrison University 8th grade students.
• This event is open for all to attend. Please come and support our students. If you can’t make it in person watch it online. Visit the Garrison Middle School website for more information.

Community Stories
W2 for Drug Free Youth Community Input Survey 

Behavior Health Prevention Specialist Peggy Needham is encouraging community members to make their voices heard by taking the W2 for Drug Free Youth Community Input Survey. This anonymous survey provides data on youth substance use so they may be better served in the community.

Survey Link 

Results from the W2 for Drug Free Youth Community Input Survey determine priority areas for programs and funding from the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative.

Questions or Additional Information:
Peggy Needham, Behavior Health Prevention Specialist
Walla Walla County Department of Community Health
Email: pneedham@co.walla-walla.wa.us

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