Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - Dec. 4, 2020

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
WWPS continues graduation success: Highest on-time four and five-year rates in recent history

Walla Walla Public Schools’ on-time four-year graduation rate reached an all-time high, jumping to 91.7% for the graduating Class of 2020. This is up 16.6% since the implementation of the district’s new strategic plan in 2016-17. According to data released from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Walla Public Schools’ five-year graduation rate also achieved its highest mark ever at 93.9% for the Class of 2019, up 8.1% since 2016-17.

“I’m so proud of our recent graduates and staff for staying engaged and focused on learning despite the many challenges COVID brought to our school system last spring,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “When the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan was established, school board members set a lofty target of reaching an 85% on-time graduation rate by 2022. We surpassed this benchmark three years early and continue to make annual improvement”

The district has also closed the gap between student ethnic populations as the Hispanic/Latino graduation rate nears
88%, up almost 18% since the 2016-17 school year.

“Our strategic plan commits us to prioritizing equity and access for students and their families,” said Superintendent Smith. “These focused efforts continue to pay dividends in student success and outcomes as we close racial achievement gaps across our district.”

Superintendent Smith credits the district’s strategic plan, dedicated staff and deliberate efforts in keeping students connected and engaged in school for this historic data. “This is one of many indicators that takes us one step closer to our vision of ‘Developing Washington’s Most Sought-After Graduates’,” noted Smith.

New video explains winter break FREE meals program

Walla Walla Public Schools is providing free meals during Winter Break to all children ages 1-18. Each child will receive a meal box with 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches. Pre-order by clicking on the link below, or you can get paper pre-order forms at each meal pick up location daily from 11 a.m. to 1p.m.

Online Pre-Order Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSftR_CmZ8FoVxNX8cjDnjiZcWF4psBe9SdhK0otW_J9NRPrzw/viewform?gxids=7628&fbzx=3767944643433921516

Must Pre-order by 4 p.m., December 11, 2020. Late forms will not be accepted due to the district’s food order deadline.

Click on the link below to watch a brief video with more information on the meal program.
• ENGLISH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS-QhkF-2fU
• SPANISH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_wW7e9QazU&t=1s

Walla Walla Public Schools teams with Gesa on new branded debit card to support local students

Walla Walla Public Schools has partnered with Gesa Credit Union on a co-branded Walla Walla High School debit card paving the way for Gesa members to earn funds to support local student programs and activities. Visit any Gesa Credit Union branch to get a Wa-Hi Visa Debit Card.

Every swipe of a Blue Devil branded debit card generates proceeds to be used to expand the district’s Adopt-a-Blue Devil Program. This program ensures all district students, from transitional kindergarten to 12th grade, regardless of income or family circumstances, have the resources to fully participate in school-sponsored programs, activities or academic experiences. Examples of how the Adopt-a-Blue Devil Program can be used includes providing musical instrument supplies for students in need, purchasing cleats for soccer if a family can’t afford them, covering the cost of Advanced Placement exams for students who qualify for free and/or reduced lunch, and eliminating fees associated with industry certifications for families in need.

“We continue to seek ways to remove barriers for students to participate and engage in all of our school programs and activities,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “Our strategic plan challenges the school district to support the social and emotional needs of all students in a safe and engaging manner and this partnership with Gesa directly aligns with this initiative.”

Visit the district’s website to learn more about the Adopt-a-Blue Devil Program:

The new Wa-Hi Visa Debit Card joins Gesa’s suite of 18 other high school co-branded affinity debit cards across Washington State. Last year Gesa members earned more than $227,000 for its partner school districts through branded debit cards, increasing the program’s cumulative donation total to more than $500,000.

COVID delays Highly Capable Program review process

The highly capable referral process for kindergarten through eighth grade typically begins in January when we return to school after Winter Break. This year, due to our continued remote learning status, we will be delaying the referral period for all grade levels. Updated information about the timeline for this year’s process is expected to be posted later in January.

“As we considered the challenges of testing remotely, and limited time we have had to get to know students learning styles through Zoom, we are postponing the referral period in hopes of having more time with students in person this spring before we complete the process,” said Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Christy Krutulis.

If you have questions about your child’s current programming or the referral process, please contact your building assessment specialist or principal.

New Bilingual Teaching & Learning/Assessment secretary named

Ivonne Salas will transfer from Wa-Hi Athletics Secretary to Bilingual Teaching and Learning/Assessment Secretary effective January 1, 2021.  

School Stories
Seahawks invite Melito Ramirez to raise 12th Man Flag

Walla Walla High School Intervention Specialist Melito Ramirez, who was recently named the 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year, has been invited by the Seattle Seahawks to virtually raise the “12th Man Flag” for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. The Seahawks are honoring local heroes through this program.

Ramirez raised the 12th Man Flag in front of Walla Walla High School. Staff from the school’s 21st Century afterschool program filmed Ramirez as he raised the flag. All of the raw video footage was sent to the Seattle Seahawks’ video team for production. The video will be posted on the Seahawks official website.
• Video Link: https://www.seahawks.com/fans/the-12s/flag

The Seahawks gave Ramirez a special 12th Man jersey with his name on it. He also gets to keep the flag and other tokens of appreciation from the Seahawks.

Ramirez has dedicated the past four decades working professionally to support students and families in the Walla Walla valley and the past 12 years as an Intervention Specialist for Walla Walla Public Schools.

Ramirez will continue on to the national competition being the first Washington Classified School Employee of the Year to compete for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) award, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

SEATech construction students make desks for local elementary students

SEATech instructor Eric Matson and students in his Construction Technology program have teamed with Builders First Source and Jackson Contractor Group to make desks to support students in distance learning. Later this month 25 desks will be delivered to the homes of district elementary students who don’t have adequate study areas.

Builders First Source and Jackson Contractor Group donated all the materials for the lightweight, 30”x3’ wood desks which feature a shelf and area to plug in a Chromebook device. Local artist Brad Rude has also partnered on the project to help students come up with creative ideas for painting the desks.

“Sharpstein Principal Maria Garcia reached out to our program this fall to see if we could build desks for students who don’t have them in their homes,” said Matson. “We are so excited to see this project come together to help students have a place to study while our campuses are closed due to the pandemic.”

Matson is using his technology skills to keep the project going as local COVID rates continue to spike keeping all students off campus. Matson has live ZOOM sessions with his students as he constructs the desks in the SEATech construction shop. Students interact with Matson during the ZOOM sessions to ensure they understand how they are being constructed. Rude is also using ZOOM sessions to teach the students how to paint the desks and come up with fun design ideas to make them more interesting. Next week students will pick up a desk to take home and paint before they are delivered to students Dec. 16. Matson and his students plan to build another 20 desks for students after winter break.

“It’s critical for our students to learn the importance of giving back,” said Matson. “I’m so proud of our students for using the skills they are learning at SEATech to help our youngest learners in the school district.”

All School Read-a-thon announced for winter break

WWPS librarians are teaming up with the Walla Walla Public Library as the city’s library hosts a grade-level reading contest over winter break. Winners will be determined by which school has the grade level with the most logged reading time (i.e. which school has the 1st graders with the most time? 2nd graders? etc.). Additionally, school librarians are helping to promote the contest where a single student winner at each school will be determined by the most reading time total over the break.

Students register and create accounts for the contest on the library’s beanstack website: https://wallawallapubliclibrary.beanstack.org/

Virtual Ready for Kindergarten sessions now available

Walla Walla Public Schools is now offering families Ready for Kindergarten workshops. The new e-learning format allows parents to access the sessions on their own schedule. Session 1 modules for ages Birth-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4 and 4-5 in English and Spanish are currently available. Session 2 will be available starting in January and Session 3 will be available in March. All three sessions focus on different learning targets, strategies and different materials.

“We encourage families to participate in all three sessions,” said Pam Clayton, Family and Engagement Coordinator. “If you are not familiar with Ready for Kindergarten, it is a kindergarten readiness program for families who have children ages Birth-5.”

Parents will learn about each age level and strategies they can use to help promote curiosity and learning. The sessions also explain why starting young is so important and ways to play with their child in a purposeful and engaging manner. Families are provided a bag full of materials and toys to promote playtime, engagement and learning.

To register, please go to https://forms.gle/LVAtLnMFhADm27rJ7 to receive the e-learning links. For questions, please contact Pam Clayton at 509.526.6781.

United Way funds help provide tutoring services for Wa-Hi students

Walla Walla High School is partnering with Whitman College, Walla Walla University and the United Way of Walla Walla to provide additional tutoring services to students. College students are serving as tutors and the United Way of Walla Walla is providing the funding for the program.

“We had a huge need for tutors for grade 9 because that class doesn’t have the GEAR UP grant and now we have 30-40 hours of tutors available and student requests are flowing in,” said Katharine Curles, Wa-Hi/SEATech College and Career Center adviser. “It’s a win-win because college students who needed jobs are now getting employment and paid through the colleges while our students are receiving the help they need.”

Curles said they have space for more students and the United Way is prepared to supply more tutors to meet demand as needed. Families can sign up at: wahi.link/tutoring

Local businesses and firefighters provide learning incentives 

Several area businesses and the Walla Walla Professional Firefighter’s Union donated items and funds to support students during distance learning. These incentive items will be distributed to students to encourage engagement and connection to learning.
• Walla Walla Professional Firefighter’s Union provided a $500 donation to purchase Wa-Hi imprinted stress balls. All Wa-Hi freshmen or other students who need a Wa-Hi connection will receive one.
• Giddy Up and Go - $5 gift cards for students who make great strides in improving their academics.
• Dairy Queen – Hundreds of free mini Blizzard coupons to use as incentives.
• Big Cheese Pizza - Hundreds of free slice of pizza coupons to use as incentives.

NOTE: All students who passed their classes the first quarter are receiving a DQ or Big Cheese coupon.

“We’re so incredibly grateful for these donations and would love the world to hear how thankful we are,” said Katharine Curles, Wa-Hi/SEATech College and Career Center adviser.

Community Stories
Walla Walla Cares Giving Program supports families during holidays

Walla Walla Cares is working with elementary schools to provide food and essential supplies for local families through its Holiday Giving Program. The organization recently coordinated a five day campaign to fill the pantry at the Walla Walla Center for Children and Families.

“It was very successful,” said Clare Ferguson-Capps, one of the Walla Walla Cares organizers. “Now we are underway with the giving program. We have a lot of momentum going and feel it will also be very successful.”

To learn more about Walla Walla Cares and how to contribute, please visit its website:

OSPI grant supports Friends of Children of Walla Walla program

Congratulations to the Friends of Children of Walla Walla for receiving a state grant (under $100,000 category) for Student Learning Supports Awards from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Friends of Children of Walla Walla was one of 40 Community-Based Organizations to receive a grant through this competitive process. The state will award over $8 million to community-based organizations across the state to provide direct support to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 191 requests were submitted, totaling more than $40 million in need. Given the limited funds available, this means that just $1 of every $5 requested could be awarded. Priority was given to applications that included direct service to students – such as support for remote learning, tutoring, and social-emotional learning designed to address the unique needs of students in student groups that have historically been furthest from educational justice.

OSPI grant recipients list: https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/cisl/pubdocs/List%20of%20CBO%20Grants%20for%20Student%20Learning%20Awardees.pdf

Scotland Tour: Something wonderful to look forward to in 2022 by Kathryn Southwick Hess

Students and their families are invited on a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience on the EF Stories of Scotland” tour. Currently 16 have already enrolled for this adventure.

“I decided to offer this opportunity now to give students hope for a brighter future,” said Kathryn Southwick-Hess, ARNP. “While the world might feel like it’s filled with uncertainty, I want to give families the chance to look ahead.”

EF is offering a risk-free enrollment period that our group can take advantage of if they enroll now. Learn more during a virtual informational meeting Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m. Meeting topics include the itinerary, dates and cost of this trip.
Meeting Registration: https://bit.ly/3fxmBAl

“There are limited spots on this tour, so we would love to have you attend this meeting to learn more about this exciting opportunity,” said Kathryn.
• Information: mrstravelmama@gmail.com

NOTE: This is not a Walla Walla Public Schools sponsored activity.

Reach Out group seeks community feedback on substance abuse and mental health

Reach Out Walla Walla is in the process of conducting their yearly survey to understand adult concerns facing teens in Walla Walla. This survey is given in every county and will assess concerns around substance use/abuse and mental health for our community’s youth. The survey is anonymous and should take no more than five minutes to complete. Results will be shared with the public in the spring of 2021, prioritizing concerns for our youth.

Please take a few minutes to help Reach Out by completing this survey. For more information contact Peggy Needham at pneedham@co.walla-walla.wa.us or call (509) 524.2654.


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