Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - May 21, 2021

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
Melito Ramirez, Walla Walla Intervention Specialist, Receives National Award by OSPI

OLYMPIA—May 18, 2021—Melito Ramirez, Intervention Specialist at Walla Walla High School in Walla Walla, Washington, has been awarded the national Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award by the U.S. Department of Education, the Department announced Tuesday.

“We are thrilled that Mr. Ramirez is being recognized on the national level,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “He has served Washington’s schools for decades, going above and beyond for his students and his community. Mr. Ramirez’s dedication, compassion, and outside-the-box thinking has been instrumental in helping many of our young people thrive in school and beyond.”

In his work as an Intervention Specialist in Walla Walla, Ramirez is a model for excellence, demonstrating courage, wisdom, and creativity in solving the most challenging problems in education. Ramirez builds positive relationships with students to help them succeed and graduate, conducting home visits, bridging the gap between home and school for Spanish-speaking families, and working to secure mental health and technological resources for students.

This has been particularly important to the Walla Walla community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramirez’s office is no longer just his physical office—it’s anywhere he can reach a student.

“We are so proud of Melito for receiving this well-deserved recognition,” said Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. "Melito lives our district's core commitments around equity, access and engagement, serving as a trusted mentor, role model and passionate advocate for student success."

Although Mr. Ramirez has spent nearly 40 years working in education, his career path nearly went a different way. Growing up, Ramirez had always planned to be a truck driver, but a “practice interview” led him to a job offer working with bilingual students in the College Place School District.

In the years since, Ramirez has transformed his community in countless ways. One example of his support for his community includes helping to organize Garrison Night School, a program for adults over the age of 20 to learn a second language. Ramirez’s involvement ensured there was a strong component for adults learning English, and the school now teaches first aid/CPR, citizenship classes, driver’s education, and even viticulture.

Melito Ramirez is the first recipient of the national RISE Award, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Ramirez was selected as Washington’s nominee based on his selection as 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year last September.

As the national RISE Awardee, Ramirez will have the opportunity to share his perspective with state and national decision-makers.

Ramirez joins a select group of nationally recognized educators from Washington state—including another from Walla Walla High School—Johnnie T. Dennis, a Physics Teacher who was named National Teacher of the Year in 1970. Other recent National Teachers of the Year from Washington include Mandy Manning from Spokane (2018), Jeff Charbonneau from Zillah (2013), and Andrea Peterson from Granite Falls (2007).
More Information
Video of the Award Announcement with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona  
Washington Classified School Employee of the Year Profile
Photos of Melito Ramirez

School Board Approves Pandemic Recovery Plan

Tuesday night school board members approved the district’s Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan. Throughout the month school board members and officials deeply explored ways to support students and staff over the coming school years as a result of the pandemic by leveraging federal funds targeted for schools to support these efforts.

OSPI provided guidance to all districts on when, how, and what the pandemic relief dollars could be used for over the coming three-year spending window. School boards were required to adopt their Student Recovery and Well-Being Plans by the end of this month for next fall. Walla Walla Public Schools’ plan addresses a comprehensive list of recovery elements, including missed learning opportunities, social emotional needs, student engagement, supporting students who qualify for special services, and leveraging community partnerships.

“We are prioritizing millions of federal pandemic relief dollars to support academic acceleration and social/emotional support,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “Our Summer Sol program has more than 1000 kids already signed up. We’re hiring 20 teachers to reduce class size, eight new school counselors and bringing in additional home visitors and intervention specialists to make positive connections with our students. Our recovery plan is based on best practices for supporting the whole child.”

The district received $14M in federal recovery dollars and will utilize $4M during the 2021-2022 school year to support the plan.

See WWPS Recovery Plan to learn more. 

2021 Partners of the Year recipients named

May is Partners in Learning Month. This month Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith sent nearly 150 proclamations and letters of recognition to the individuals, businesses, organizations and agencies who partner with the district throughout the year.

Tuesday, May 18, Superintendent Smith honored this year’s Partners of the Year recipients:
• Blue Mountain Community Church
• Camp Fire of Walla Walla
• Care-A-Lot Daycare and Preschool Center
• Little Angel’s Bio-Dome Daycare & Preschool
• Providence St. Mary Medical Center
• Teacher Katie’s Preschool
• Walla Walla County Department of Community Health
• YMCA of Walla Walla

“These Partners of the Year served a large number of district students when the district was required to move to distance and hybrid learning,” said Superintendent Smith. “Childcare staff helped students log into their classes; assisting with synchronous and asynchronous learning during the school day. Our local health experts assisted with testing, safety planning, vaccinations and communication. COVID created anxiety in the community and their expertise helped school officials have the factual information necessary to ease the fears of staff, students and parents. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility to be charged with educating children. We know we cannot do this work alone. It is through community partnerships where we broaden our reach and have a greater ability to improve student achievement.”

CEE survey data reveals students feel supported by staff

Erich Bolz from the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) briefed school board members Tuesday night on this year’s Educational Effectiveness Survey (EES) results representing students in grades 4-12. This anonymous survey tool is used annually to help the district better serve parents, students and faculty. The pandemic pushed the traditional fall release date of the survey to the spring time, making it nearly 18 months between administrations.

Bolz said despite the pandemic, student input on topics like clear and shared focus, high standards and expectations, parent and community involvement and supportive learning environments improved this year.

He did report the data suggests approximately 20 percent of students have struggled during the pandemic and need additional support. Superintendent Smith reported the district’s Pandemic Recovery Plan addresses these needs and the district will use the annual survey data to continue to better support its students.

WW Dept. of Health Weekly COVID Dashboard Report

COVID Activity Report timeline: May 1, 2021 to May 14, 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 stayed the same from the previous reporting period. There are 55 cases combined between Walla Walla and College Place over the last two weeks. There were 55 cases combined during the last reporting period. Washington DOH reports the Positivity Rate for the previous 7 days is 4.9%.

NO SCHOOL – Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day)

There is No School Monday, May 31 in observance of Memorial Day. Classes resume Tuesday, June 1. 

Personnel Report (from May 18, 2021 School Board Meeting)

Alexis Austin, Special Education Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Pioneer Middle School
Karli Hart, English Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Walla Walla High School
Jacob Heezen, English Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Walla Walla High School
Sara Lamanna, Kindergarten Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Sharpstein Elementary School
Matthew Manley, English Language Arts Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Pioneer Middle School
Brittany Miller, Special Education Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Green Park Elementary School
Jennifer Mouat, English Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Walla Walla High School
Elisabeth Roberts, School Counselor (2021-22 School Year), Location TBD
Anne Vallerga, English Teacher (2021-22 School Year), Lincoln High School

Gerald Towslee, Bus Driver, SE Washington Transportation Co-Op

Tyler Comstock, Speech Language Pathologist, Special Education, 3 years
Elizabeth Jagelski, Music Teacher, Berney Elementary School, 31 years

Lynette Echevarria, Assistant Secretary, Garrison Middle School, 10 years
• Lynette has been on a Leave of Absence since February, 2021
Cecilia Solis Avelar, Bilingual Para Educator, Equity and Dual Programs, 2 months

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!”

School Stories
Walla Walla FFA member earns position on 2021-22 Washington State Officer Team

Walla Walla FFA Chapter members participated in the 91st Washington FFA Convention & Expo. FFA member Kinsey Nelson completed the Washington FFA State Officer election process prior to convention and was elected to serve as the Washington FFA State Treasurer for the 2021-2022 school year.

Senior Kinsey Nelson set the goal for herself to become a Washington FFA State Officer, the highest leadership positions in the state. To prepare for the process she practiced interviews, expanded her knowledge of FFA, Agriculture Education and CTE, and polished her public speaking skills. Kinsey was elected as one of six FFA members to serve as a 2021-2022 Washington FFA State Officer.

She has a full year ahead of her as she will represent the Washington FFA Association at legislative events, visiting numerous FFA chapters across the state, facilitate state FFA activities, and travel across the United States. Kinsey will have the opportunities to promote Agriculture Education and the Agricultural industry across Washington State in schools, at the legislature, in Agri-businesses, and related industry functions.

Kinsey is most looking forward to the many opportunities to continue growing her leadership skills. She has been involved in FFA since her freshman year and has completed three Sheep Entrepreneurship SAE projects. Kinsey has served as a Chapter Officer, as a Washington FFA District VI officer and a delegate for the Washington FFA Association at the National FFA Convention & Expo. State Officer Candidates completed several interviews, tests, and speeches. A special committee of FFA members, state FFA staff and FFA advisors selected the officer team, along with the vote of the chapter delegates representing chapters across the state. Kinsey is the third Walla Walla FFA member to be elected to a state office position in the last four years.

Wa-Hi coaches honored by Mid-Columbia Conference

• Boys and Girls Track MCC Champs, Eric Hisaw Coach of the Year
• Fast Pitch MCC Champs, Arch McHie Coach of the Year

Congratulations on a job well done!

Preschool partners with Tri-State Steelheaders Association for FREE family fishing event 

The Walla Walla Center for Children & Families and the Tri-State Steelheaders Association are planning a FREE fishing event at Jefferson Park Saturday, May 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. The Tri-State Steelheaders Association is donating supplies such as fishing poles, bait and snacks. Members are volunteering to help with fishing/casting techniques, how to bait hooks, pond etiquette and more. 

More students vaccinated this week at school clinics

Walla Walla Public Schools, in partnership with WW County Department of Community Health, conducted three more vaccine clinics this week in district schools. Students at Lincoln HS, Garrison Middle School and Pioneer Middle School had opportunities to receive vaccines. Parent consent was required for all students under 18. Students under 18 received the two shot Pfizer vaccine. Students over 18 and adults were offered the one shot Johnson & Johnson option if they preferred it.

Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremonies

Lincoln High School Graduation
• Thursday, June 10
• 6 to 7:30 p.m.
• Walla Walla County Fairgrounds (Southwest grass lot near three large trees west of VIP building)
• Principal Marci Knauf – mknauft@wwps.org

Walla Walla High School Commencement & Fireworks Show
• Friday, June 11
• 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• Fireworks show at conclusion of the ceremony – approximately 9 p.m.
• Walla Walla County Fairgrounds Grandstands
• Limited tickets per graduate (see school for details)
• Use Tietan St. entrance and parking lot
• Principal Ron Higgins – rhiggins@wwps.org

Opportunity Program Graduation
• Tuesday, June 15
• 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
• Walla Walla County Fairgrounds (Pepsi Stage)
• Director Tom Porter – tporter@wwps.org

NOTE: All ceremonies will be LIVE Streamed by Blue Devil Northwest

Community Stories
YMCA Youth Program offerings

• T-ball-Age 4-6 starting May 25, Tuesdays and Thursdays
• Athletic Skill Development- Age 4-11 Starting May 24, Mondays and Wednesdays

Y Summer Sports Camps
- Soccer June 21- June 25
- Basketball June 28- July 2
- Tball/baseball July 6-9
- Multi Sport Camp July 12-16
- Soccer July 19-23
- Basketball July 26- 30

• Action Zone open daily after school Monday through Friday. Summer hours starting June 21
• YMCA Summer Fair Friday June 4th at 5PM. Register, meet staff, ask questions.
• The Y will also be hosting tournaments in basketball, soccer and dodgeball over the summer as well. Stay tuned for more information.

Walla Walla United Soccer Club Tryouts

Is your child interested in playing soccer at a more competitive level? Walla Walla United Soccer Club is holding tryouts for the Fall 2021 season during the week of June 7th for kids currently in Grade 2 and higher. For more information and to register for tryouts visit www.wwusc.com You must pre-register for tryouts by June 4th. The club is also looking for parents who are interested in coaching. Training and other incentives are provided. For more information contact club president Doug Hayes at wwusc.president@gmail.com

FREE airplane rides for youth 8-17

• Young Eagles Flight Day
• FREE flights for youth 8-17
• Saturday, June 5
• 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• 219 Martin Field Lane - Walla Walla, WA 99362
• Event also includes toy airplanes, static displays and food trucks
• Masks required
• Online registration at https://yeday.org/ or Day-of registration in-person beginning at 8 a.m.

The Blue Mountain Baseball League, formerly known as Babe Ruth Baseball, is back

The 2020 season was lost to COVID-19, but the league — open to players ages 12 to 16-years-old — will resume play this year, starting this month. Registrations are now being taken.

The first practice is set for May 24 at Howard Tietan Park with the first games starting June 7. The season will run through July 16, when the city championship game will be played. Games and practices will take place on weekdays, with no play on Saturday or Sunday. Each team will play about 20 games at various locations, including Howard Tietan Park, Walla Walla Community College and Borleske Stadium.

There will be no tryouts this season. Instead, players will be placed on teams according to age, skill and school. The league is run through the city of Walla Walla’s Parks and Recreation Department. To register go to the city’s website, wallawallawa.gov, and then to the Parks and Recreation link (bit.ly/335izcY) or go in person to the Parks and Recreation office at 55 E. Moore St.

For more information or questions contact Clay Lindsey at clindsey@wallawallawa.gov or call 509-527-4527.

Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Update

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.
Registration for summer programs are open!

• Blue Mountain Boys Baseball – Grades 6-10. Cost is $60.
• Blue Mountain Pre Tee Ball – Ages 3-5 years. Cost is $40.
• 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.
• Fall Youth Soccer League – Grades K-8. Cost is $60.
• 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.
• Cornhole Throwdown Tournament – July 24 Ages 12 and up. Cost is $50/team.
• All Comers Track Meet – Ages 1-12 years. Cost is $3.
• CJoy Yoga in the park – Ages 12 and up. Cost is $11-$100.
• Little Kicks Soccer – Ages 3-5 years. Cost is $70.
• Youth Track Clinic – Grades 1-5. Cost is $35.

Pool Programs
• 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.
• SUP Yoga – Ages 15 and up. Cost is $35. (Paddleboard included)

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
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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