Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - May 7, 2021

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
Graduation Rates Exceed Strategic Plan Targets

Tuesday evening, School board members reviewed success indicators of the Strategic Plan as part of the accountability component promised to the community. School board members teamed with Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith in 2017 to develop an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process. Built on a foundation of stakeholder voice and equity, the plan incorporated a “We All Belong Here” vision that prioritized quality instruction, aligned systems, student supports and community partnerships.

Since the plan's inception nearly five years ago, graduation rates have soared to all-time highs, from 80.4% to 91.7%. Additionally, the district has virtually eliminated the graduation gap between student populations through an unwavering commitment toward equity and access. The Hispanic/Latino graduation rate has increased nearly 20% under the school board's oversight to 88%, 10% above the state average.

"The district exceeded graduation rate targets two years ahead of time," said Superintendent Smith. "We are seeing more kids graduate and more kids prepared when they get to college based on data linked to students taking remedial courses. Our kids are persisting and outpacing state averages for staying enrolled in college than their counterparts across the state."

Superintendent Smith reported approximately 60 percent of district graduates pursue higher education, which includes two and four year colleges, vocational schools and military service. He said students are also having success in college based on favorable persistent and retention rates. Persistent and retention rates are based on continued enrollment in an institution for two consecutive years following high school graduation.

"Our school board has provided the leadership that has resulted in measurable growth in student achievement," said Superintendent Smith.

Legislative Update: Federal funds help stabilize financial impact of pandemic; new requirements for schools

Tuesday night Legislative Consultant Marie Sullivan provided a 2021 Legislative Session wrap-up to school board members. Legislators had a $4 billion increase in funding to utilize for this year’s budget session, largely due to federal pandemic relief dollars.

Legislators used these funds to help school districts stabilize funding for 2020-21 due to transportation loss and enrollment declines. Walla Walla Public Schools lost more than $2 million dollars due to a dip in enrollment this year, primarily at the kindergarten level. Walla Walla Public Schools received federal funds to support programs aimed at helping students’ missed learning opportunities associated with the pandemic. The district is developing a comprehensive plan to utilize these funds over several school years.

The Walla Walla Center for Children and Families received $55,000 through a state grant. District leaders also continued their collaborative relationship with 16th District Legislators this session by meeting with them regularly. Sullivan also reviewed the long list of new requirements for school districts from lead testing and professional development to website requirements and school resource officer training.

How Funding Policies Impact WWPS:
• Additional transportation funding for 2020-21 school year.
• ESSER I and ESSER III funds not counted in the formulas to stabilize enrollment. Enrollment stabilized for 2020-21 school year for general education, special education, transitional bilingual, CTE/skill centers, dropout re-engagement – not LAP
• Enrichment levy collections were stabilized.
• Walla Walla Center for Children & Families has a $55,000 grant, available after July 1 for facilities improvements.

Superintendent Smith salutes teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week 

This week marks Teacher Appreciation Week; an opportunity for parents, community, and our nation to thank so many who dedicate their lives to the noble cause of educating and impacting our future generation. At our recent School Board meeting I shared a proclamation highlighting the incredible impact teachers across our own state and district have every single day on the lives of our students.

As we celebrate the service of some 400 teachers in Walla Walla Schools, this year’s acknowledgement is even more profound as we reflect on the extraordinary circumstances that have transpired since last year’s recognition was bestowed. Teachers across our district have navigated incredible challenges, put in countless hours, and persevered in the most daunting of circumstances. Most have had to overcome three different transitions due to COVID and have done so with grace, professionalism and care for their students and each other.

Teachers serve at the heart of our core mission; they are on the front lines helping ensure we are able to carry out our goal of delivering high quality instruction, in spite of the challenges COVID has brought us. Our teachers are incorporating social and emotional support for their students while they continue to focus on their learning needs. Whether shoring up letter recognition with kindergarteners, or ensuring the senior student is provided the best AP Chemistry experience possible, all are working harder than ever to accelerate student learning while inspiring, engaging, and connecting with their students.

It goes without saying that we have amazing teachers across our district. The sacrifices they make often go unnoticed and underappreciated by those who do not know what it truly takes to be an effective teacher. Please help me in thanking the hundreds of teachers in Walla Walla who continue to make teaching their calling, passion, and way of life.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Superintendent Wade Smith, Ed.D.

Superintendent and students featured in city video urging vaccinations

This week Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith and Walla Walla High School seniors Jaden Bergevin and Bob Watson were featured in a City of Walla Walla video published in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin urging Walla Walla residents and students to get vaccinated. See complete story HERE

District begins preparing pandemic recovery plan

Tuesday night the school board deeply explored ways to support students and staff over the coming years as a result of the pandemic by utilizing federal funds targeted for schools across the nation to support these efforts.

Late last month, OSPI provided guidance to all districts on when, how, and what the dollars could be used for over the coming two year spending window. OSPI is requiring every school board adopt its Student Recovery and Well-being Plan by the end of this month for next fall.

District plans must address a comprehensive list of recovery elements including learning loss, social emotional needs, diagnostic measures, equity and community partnerships.

Personnel Report (from May 4, 2021 School Board Meeting)

• Keith Ross, Director of Technology and Information Services, Walla Walla Public Schools

• Alex Esparza, Behavior Specialist (2021-2022 School Year), Teaching and Learning
• Emily Stein, Physical Therapist (.4FTE) (2021-2022 School Year), Special Education
• Ethan Stutz, Music Teacher (2021-2022 School Year), Pioneer Middle School
• Jana Dickman, Science Teacher (2021-2022 School Year), Walla Walla High School
• Ryan Campeau, Language Arts Teacher (2021-2022 School Year), Pioneer Middle School
• Theresa York, Language Arts/Social Studies Teacher (2021-2022 School Year), Pioneer Middle School
• Zoë White, Language Arts Teacher (2021-2022 School Year), Garrison Middle School

• Cameron Perron, Summer Sol Program Site Coordinator (Temp), Berney Elementary School
• Eric Odem, Technology Specialist, District Office

• Bart Wuest, CTE Teacher, Walla Walla High School, 3 years
• Lindsey James, English Teacher, Walla Walla High School, 7 years

• Ariana Valverde, Para-Educator, WWCCF, 5 years
- Ariana was on a Leave of Absence for the 2020-2021 school year
• Kim Locken, Administrative Assistant, Teaching and Learning, 19 years
• Mark Franklin, Transportation Coordinator, SE Washington Transportation Co-Op, 9 years
• Menell Mina, Para-Educator, Berney Elementary School, 12 years
- Menell was on layoff and a Leave of Absence for the 2020-2021 school year

Mark Stimmel, Custodian, Garrison Middle School, 3 years

Summer Sol registration Now Open

Summer Sol registration is now open for summer programming. Summer Sol is Walla Walla Public Schools’ FREE summer program open to all WWPS students, grades K-12. The program provides access to additional learning opportunities, fun and engaging hands-on projects and activities, and free access to select community partner programs. Transportation and meals provided. To register for the program, go to:


Paper copies of the registration form will also be available in the main office of your child’s school. For more information on the program, visit summersol.org or call (509) 526-6787.

Summer Sol – “It’s a VIBE!”

WW Dept. of Health Weekly COVID Dashboard Report

COVID Activity Report timeline: April 17, 2021 to May 1, 2021

Every Monday, Walla Walla Public Schools posts the Walla Walla Department of Community Health’s COVID-19 Activity Report. This report, provided weekly to regional school districts, is what the Walla Walla Board of Directors has used to guide school reopening.

This week’s report reveals local COVID rates decreased slightly from the previous reporting period. There are 75 cases combined between Walla Walla and College Place over the last two weeks. There were 77 cases combined during the last reporting period. Washington DOH reports the Positivity Rate for the previous 7 days is 4.5%. The Governor’s Office reviewed data on 5/4 for the Healthy Start Phases and kept all regions in their current phase status.

BMAC receives state grant to Support Student Learning

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently announced a list of community-based organizations (CBOs) selected to receive the Supplemental Community-Based Organizations (CBO) Grant to Support Student Learning. OSPI identified $1.9 million dollars in unspent Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER funds) through the CARES Act funds from the 2020 allocations to be used for this supplemental competitive grant process. Blue Mountain Action Council of Walla Walla received $200,000 to help local school districts.

School Stories
Gradwohl honored for four decades of coaching

Longtime Walla Walla High School baseball coach Keith Gradwohl was honored prior to the game with Southridge May 4 for 41 years of coaching. Gradwohl’s motto of have fun, play hard and be coachable was the foundation of his program over the years.

“Baseball is a lot like life, it’s not always going to go your way and you’ve got to learn how to deal with it,” said Gradwohl. “We talk to our kids all the time about how baseball prepares you for life.”

Former baseball players Eric O’Flaherty (Class of 2003) and Moe Handcox Jr. (Class of 2012) surprised their beloved coach prior to the game with a beautiful recognition plaque. Gradwohl told his players O’Flaherty, a former major league baseball pitcher, and Handcox were among the best he ever coached.

“He was kind of the first hard-core baseball coach I’d been around that had a little bit of an edge to him,” said O’Flaherty. “You need that as a young kid and it really prepared me for pro ball.”

Handcox said other than his dad, Coach Gradwohl was the other person who challenged him to have confidence and believe in himself.

“Without confidence the ability kind of goes away,” said Handcox. “Grady really drilled that into me and I still refer back to those conversations to this day, whenever I’m interviewing for a job or trying to better myself.”

Although this is Gradwohl’s last season, the memories will live on.

“There have been a lot of good players and a lot of good kids who have gone on to do great things in our community and in other communities,” said Gradwohl. “I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

Local college tutors appreciated - By Katharine Curles (Walla Walla High School Career Center) 

As the school year winds down, I want to thank college student volunteers for all they have done to help Wa-Hi students this year. The Wa-Hi, Pioneer, and Garrison staff and I are incredibly grateful for their dedication to our students.

Whitman and Walla Walla University made it possible for 78 middle and high school students to receive academic support from about 20 college students. These Garrison, Pioneer, and Wa-Hi students received support in a wide range of classes: math, English, world languages, sciences, even agriculture and other CTE courses. In addition to academics, tutors provided a connection to the world of higher education and social interactions through the lonely and isolated time that was distance learning. To have the support available for grades 8, 9, and 12, our grades not supported by the WSU GEAR UP program, has been very helpful. The counselors and I really appreciate being able to extend an additional resource. I was fortunate enough to be privy to some of the communication between students and tutors, and the conversations and support the tutors offered was truly heart-warming.

Thank you again for all you’re doing and have done. We appreciate our college tutors!

District plans Virtual ParentCamp event 

• Thursday, May 20
• Event features a discussion with author Diana Graber about digital literacy through her book “Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.”
• Learn more about Graber and her work in digital literacy by visiting the following site:
• Register at www.bit.ly/parentcampww
• Questions: Contact Family Engagement Coordinator Pam Clayton – pclayton@wwps.org

Community Stories
Local author donates thousands of children’s books to inspire love of reading

Local author Patrick Carman is giving away 10,000 hardback books for students in grades kindergarten to 8th grade in Walla Walla, Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland as part of his initiative to get students excited about reading while living through a pandemic.

Every child in Walla Walla between grades K-8 will receive a book. The bestselling author has spoken at every elementary school in the area over the years, and wanted to do this as a way to encourage kids to keep on turning pages during what has been a difficult time for young readers. With summer break right around the corner, Patrick hopes an adventurous read will help kids choose reading over screen time.

“Kids are spending four or five times as much time as they should be on screens,” said Carman. “Video games, YouTube, and so much more are gobbling up a tremendous amount of time, so getting a book in 10,000 kids’ hands is one way of turning the tide.”

Younger students will be getting a title called Elliot’s Park, about a variety of park animals who come together to solve big problems. “Elliot’s Park is set in our own Pioneer Park, and Elliot, the main character, lives in the same tree with the new bronze limb being donated by the Walla Walla Foundry, said Carman. “What a great way for kids to connect to reading, by visiting the actual locations where the story takes place. It’s an especially good book for kids in Walla Walla.”

Older readers will receive either Towervale or The Inventors. Towervale is a big, sprawling fantasy that’s perfect for 4th and 5th graders, according to Carman.

“And bonus, it’s also a video game, so a lot of gamers will enjoy the reading and the playing of the story,” said Carman. “The Inventors is all about the power of invention, as an orphaned kid tries to make his dreams come true at the Lion’s Den, where invention reigns supreme.”

Mr. Carman is also introducing a new collection of story-driven podcasts just for kids. They’re completely free, full of humor and adventure, and fun for the whole family, according to Carman.

“The first two big shows, Bobby Wonder and Lucy Wow, release in the first week of May and I’m really excited for kids to listen to these stories,” said Carman. “Listening activates the imagination just like books do, and the GoKidGo podcasts are a fantastic screen-free alternative.”

Search for Bobby Wonder or Lucy Wow in any podcast store, or visit www.gokidgo.com.

Sing United – Clash of Blue Mountain Beats (from United Way of Blue Mountains)

CALLING ALL MUSICIANS! Sing United is a virtual singing competition and fundraiser, celebrating and recognizing local talent right here in the Blue Mountains Area. Proceeds from the competition will help friends and neighbors in need in our local communities during these unprecedented times. The singing competition is for local bands and musicians who are from, live, go to school, or perform in the counties: Walla Walla, Columbia, Umatilla, Morrow, Baker, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Harney, and Malheur; musicians from the Tri-cities area are also able to enter!

• $2,500 CASH
• Live performance opportunities
• Musicians photoshoot
• All video entries must be family-friendly. Email info@myfanraiser.com with questions.
• Website: https://www.uwbluemt.org/

Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition seeks input on child care needs


The Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition is working to make child care and early learning programs more available and affordable locally. This survey will help WWVELC understand what families want and need.

Please take this survey if you have any children or dependents 12 years old or younger, and you live in Walla Walla County or Columbia County. Please limit the survey to one per household. Your answers will be anonymous, which means you will not be asked to provide your name or identifying information, and no one will know how you answered the survey. Please complete the survey by May 11. At the end of the survey, you will be given the opportunity to sign up to receive $10 as a thank you for your help.

If you have any questions about this survey or about the Early Learning Coalition, please contact Eiledon McClellan, Early Learning Coalition Program Director (eiledon.mcclellan@wwcc.edu; phone 425-419-6126).

Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Update

Looking for work? We are hiring Ambassadors! This position will provide extensive customer service to citizens and visitors downtown. $13.69/hr.

• Lifeguard Certification/Re-Certification – Ages 15 and up. Certification class starts May 10! Cost is $85/$175.
• Blue Mountain Boys Baseball – Grades 6-10. Cost is $60.
• Blue Mountain Girls Softball – Grades K-8. Cost is $30-$40.
• Blue Mountain Pre Tee Ball – Ages 3-5 years. Cost is $40.
• Adult Softball League – Ages 16 and up. Men’s and Co-Ed Leagues.
• Symbol Quest – Interactive journey for all ages to discover the stories etched in stone throughout Mt View Cemetery – Cost is $20-$30 (customer hoodie included).
• T’ai Chi – Classes open to Ages 12 and up. Cost is $48.
• Youth Fencing – Beginning Classes for ages 8-18. Cost is $60. Equipment provided.
• Adult Fencing – Classes for ages 18 and up. Cost is $75. Equipment provided.
• Ukulele Class - Ages 12 and up. Cost is $65.

Registration for summer programs opens on Monday, May 10.
• Swimming Lessons – Ages 3 months and up. Cost is $35.
• Sea Monkeys Swim Team – Ages 6-16 years. Cost is $85.
• Discover Scuba – Ages 12 and up. Cost is $60.
• Lap Swim 101 – Ages 17 and up. Cost is $35.
• Sweat & Swim Boot Camp – Ages 16 and up. Cost is $40.
• Fall Youth Soccer League – Grades K-8. Cost is $60.
• Youth Fencing – Beginning Classes for ages 8-18. Cost is $60. Equipment provided.
• Adult Fencing – Classes for ages 18 and up. Cost is $75. Equipment provided.
• Youth Fencing – Beginning Classes for ages 8-18. Cost is $60. Equipment provided.
• Hatha Yoga – All ages. Cost is $60.
• NFL Flag Football – Grades K-8. Cost is $50.
• Pickleball For Youth – Ages 10-16 years. Cost is $60.
• Walla Walla Soccer Alliance Skills Clinic – Ages 5-10 years. Cost is $30-$50.
• UPlay Summer Camp – 10am – 3pm, Monday – Friday. Free for ages 7-12 years.

Veterans Memorial Pool Passes – Phase 3 allows for the pool to operate as normal while maintaining social distancing. THIS MEANS THERE WILL BE OPEN SWIM!! Pass prices Youth/Senior/Veteran $75 Adult $88 Family $180.

NEW – Parks and Recreation App! Easy access to game schedules, program registration and more! Download it from your App Store/Google Play Store - Walla Walla Parks and Rec
In need of financial assistance to help with youth program costs? We have simplified the youth scholarship application process for 2021, thanks to private community donations we are able to help with 75% of the program cost! Call 527-4527 or email recreation@wallawallawa.gov us to request a scholarship for your child(ren). The only requirement is that you establish an online account so that we have a place to apply the scholarship.
Pottery Studio is OPEN! Thursday/Friday 2pm-5:30pm and Saturday 10am-12:30pm.

Please visit our website at www.wwpr.us for updated information regarding recreation programs as it becomes available. If you have questions, feel free to contact the Parks & Recreation Office at 509-527-4527

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