Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - October 29, 2021

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
School board earns prestigious state Board of Distinction award for fourth consecutive year

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors ranks among the best in the state after being named Board of Distinction by the Washington State School Directors’ Association for the fourth straight year. School board members will be honored Nov. 19 during the WSSDA Annual Conference.

Walla Walla school board members were recognized for shifting instructional models and successfully managing the health and safety challenges associated with COVID-19. This year’s application submission also illustrated how their actions exemplified visionary leadership and helped the district close opportunity gaps.

Walla Walla Public Schools 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 nearly 90%, 10% above the state average. In the past five years graduation rates have soared to all-time highs, from 79.4% to 91.7%.

“School board members have continued to support and fund the mission and vision developed in the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan,” said Vice President Ruth Ladderud who has led the award application process the last four years. “Developed on a foundation including stakeholder voice and inclusion, the school district prioritizes quality instruction, aligned systems, student supports and community partnerships.”

More students are prepared when they get to college based on data linked to students taking remedial courses. Walla Walla graduates are persisting and outpacing state averages for staying enrolled in college. Approximately 60 percent of district graduates pursue higher education, which includes two-and four-year colleges and vocational schools.

Board of Directors
• Derek Sarley, President
• Ruth Ladderud, Vice President
• Eric Rindal
• Terri Trick
• Sam Wells

This year WSSDA recognized 34 school districts with Board of Distinction awards for 2021. To be awarded, boards had to show a clear link between their leadership in applying the Washington School Board Standards and closing gaps that impact student success.

Remember to Vote!

Please remember to vote in the November 2, 2021 General Election Contact the Walla Walla County Elections Department for more information. Ballots must be returned or postmarked by Nov. 2.

You may drop off your ballot at:
County Elections Office - 315 W. Main St., Room 203
• Open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Election Day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This is the only location to get a replacement ballot.

County Auditor's Office - 315 W. Main St., Room 201
• Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This office cannot issue replacement ballots. These offices are closed on Federal Holidays.

Walla Walla ballot drop boxes - open until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day
• Walla Walla County Courthouse - 315 W. Main St. (Drive up box between Courthouse and Jail, enter on 5th Ave.)
• Walla Walla County Elections Center - 310 W. Poplar St. (Corner of 5th and Poplar)
• Fire Station #2 - 170 N. Wilbur Ave. (Drive up box in parking lot)

Walla Walla County Elections
315 West Main St., Room 203
PO Box 2176
Walla Walla, WA 99362
• 509-524-2530

School Board Regular Study Meeting 

• Tuesday, Nov. 2
• 5:30 p.m.
• Meeting open to the public
• Supporting documents are available via the followinglink: https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997
• Board of Directors Meeting Schedule & Information: https://www.wwps.org/district/information/school-board/board-meeting-schedule
• Per State of Washington Department of Health guidance, every person must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth.

Upcoming Important Calendar Dates

• Friday, November 5 - Student Half-Day - Early Dismissal
• Thursday, November 11 – NO SCHOOL (Veterans Day)
• Wednesday, November 24 - Half-Day - Early Dismissal (Thanksgiving holiday)
• Thursday, November 25 & Friday, November 26 - NO SCHOOL (Thanksgiving holiday)

Sources of Strength Suicide Prevention program expansion

Walla Walla Public Schools staff and students trained this week at SEATech as part of this year’s district expansion of the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program. A comprehensive Sources of Strength program will be active at Garrison Middle School, Pioneer Middle School, Walla Walla High School and Lincoln High School.

Sources of Strength is a program that promotes seeking help, developing protective factors, and reminding young individuals that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on. Sources of Strength aligns with Goal Three of the district’s Strategic Plan which supports the social and emotional needs of all students.

District Mental Health Specialist Kristen Duede is serving as the district's Sources of Strength coordinator.

Follow Sources of Strength on Twitter @sourcesstrength

Sources of Strength Mission: Our mission is to provide the highest quality evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training, supporting, and empowering both peer leaders and caring adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.

Sources of Strength Vision: We believe that many strengths are more powerful than one, and our united goal is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities.

What is Sources of Strength?
Sources of Strength is a strength-based, comprehensive wellness program that focuses on suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. The program is based on a relational connections model that uses teams of Peer Leaders mentored by Adult Advisors to change peer social norms about help seeking and encourages students to individually assess and develop strengths in their life.

Sources of Strength is most often implemented as a school-based program in middle school, high school, or college. However Sources of Strength is also often used in community, faith-based, and cultural settings. It promotes and focuses on connectivity, school bonding, peer-adult partnerships, and help seeking behaviors.

Trained peer leaders use their network of friends to:
• Have one-on-one conversations.
• Develop a Hope, Help, Strength messages using local faces and voices.
• Present peer-to-peer presentations.

School Stories
Principal Spotlight – Ron Higgins

October is an opportunity to show your appreciation for Walla Walla Public Schools’ principals in celebration of National Principal Appreciation Month. The school district recognizes the essential role principals play in providing opportunities for students to realize their potential and follow their dreams. This month the district will spotlight its principals as a way of thanking them for their service.

Walla Walla High School Principal Ron Higgins grew up on a farm in rural Montana graduating from Flaxville High School in 1981 with a graduating class of 12. Ron would get up early to care for animals and do chores around the farm. He learned to drive trucks and farm equipment at a young age and was tasked to do a variety of jobs as needed. He was a good athlete and participated in cross country, basketball and track. His school was small and Ron soon realized if he wanted activities he would need to recruit friends to participate. He joined the band, performed in plays and sang in the choir. He loved people and interactions and felt drawn to bring people together. This mindset and these leadership skills, developed in his teens, have served him well in his professional life.

Ron graduated from Carroll College in Helena, MT with a bachelor’s in Mathematics Education and minor in Computer Science. He earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Washington State University.

He accepted his first teaching job in 1984 at Walla Walla High School. During his 37 years in the district, he has served at Wa-Hi for 29, including 16 as a math teacher, eight years as an assistant principal and the past five years as principal. He also has three years of experience at Pioneer Middle School as assistant principal and five years as WWPS Director of Assessment.

Ron has had strong influencers in his life including his father who taught him to maintain an even and steady lifestyle. His dad would tell him -- "Don't let your lows be too low, nor your highs too high." He stressed the key to success was to stay regulated.

You see this trait in Ron as he works with students, staff and families. He is known for being fair, respectful, honest and caring. Legendary Walla Walla High School Principals Dick Neher and Abe Roberts also had a profound influence in his life. In fact, it was Dick Neher who encouraged Ron to go into administration. Dick saw Ron’s talent and believed he could have a positive impact on the entire school’s culture. To this day, students from years past continue to tell Ron how he made a difference in their lives and inspired them to be their best.

Ron has a framed handwritten note from Abe Roberts hanging on the wall of his office. Abe’s advice to Ron was -- “Don’t worry about the things you can’t do, concentrate on things you can do.”

Ron says his high school math teacher Terry Bakken was his most influential educator. He maintained a welcoming classroom environment where it was safe for students to make mistakes and admit when they didn't understand something. Mr. Bakken instilled confidence in his students that they would learn the material even if it was confusing to them at first.

Colleagues at Wa-Hi also influenced Ron’s life. Teachers Bob Meyer and Johnnie Dennis served as mentors and Mira Gobel was a constant source of support and energy. Ron says all of these longtime Walla Walla educators knew the importance of establishing positive relationships with students and colleagues and creating positive school and classroom culture. He said they also knew their subject matter well enough to have multiple ways of explaining challenging topics.

Ron believes in giving back to his community. He refereed high school basketball, umpired little league baseball and has served on boards for Junior Achievement, Camp Fire and St. Patrick’s church. Ron also uses his musical talents at his church. His interests outside of work include taking walks with his dog and wife, doing yard work and golfing. He is also an avid puzzler- both sudoku and crosswords.

Ron and his wife Beth of 36 years have a son Michael (daughter in-law Brittany, granddaughter Jane and grandson Will), and daughter Annie.

Here is what staff and students are saying about Ron:

“Mr. Higgins is an all-around great person who loves his job and cares for all Wa-Hi students! He is filled with a kind spirit and his empathetic characteristics make it easy for everyone to feel comfortable in our school. Mr. Higgins goes out of his way to provide a fun learning environment at school while also setting boundaries to keep students in line. I can honestly say he is the most involved principal I´ve ever had and it´s obvious how much staff and students admire him. Happy National Principal Appreciation Month, Mr. Higgins!” - Student Brynn Watilo

“Mr. Higgins is the best principal I have had. He is always looking to make people smile, and always makes students have a better day! He is such a kind principal who works hard, but also makes the whole school experience a lot more fun.” - Student Rachel Clark

“One of the many things I admire about Ron is his tireless quest to improve Wa-Hi from the smallest detail to the largest obstacle. It’s a daunting task; one that requires persistence and dedication. Ron takes on that task every day with enthusiasm and professionalism. Spend a day with Ron Higgins and you’ll be exhausted. But, on that day, you will come to see how much Ron cares about the kids, the staff, and physical buildings that make up Walla Walla High School. Ron has a powerful emotional connection to Wa-Hi, and it shows in his every action. I think for Ron, Wa-Hi is one big classroom. Being out on campus is like walking around his classroom. Building relationships with kids, supporting staff, overseeing the remodel and completing all his other necessary tasks are like checking for learning, all done with unmatched commitment and energy. Exhausting, yes, but it’s usually punctuated with a somersault and a flip.” - Keven Peck, Digital photography teacher

“Ron Higgins gives Wa-Hi his whole heart. He doesn't ask anything of us that he wouldn't do (or hasn't already done) himself. In times of COVID and construction, I couldn't choose a better leader to follow.” Kristin Hessler, Drama teacher

Ron has listened and learned from some of the best educators in Walla Walla Public Schools. He has made a difference in thousands of lives of students over the years. He also says working with young people has helped him to remain "youthful" even as he approaches the last chapter of his career in education. Hence the famous front handsprings he performs in front of students and staff to this day. Thanks to Ron Higgins for joining the ranks of legendary Wa-Hi principals for his commitment to excellence for nearly four decades.

Principal Spotlight – Kim Doepker

October is an opportunity to show your appreciation for Walla Walla Public Schools’ principals in celebration of National Principal Appreciation Month. The school district recognizes the essential role principals play in providing opportunities for students to realize their potential and follow their dreams. This month the district will spotlight its principals as a way of thanking them for their service.

Garrison Middle School Principal Kim Doepker comes from a family of educators. Her father was an Assistant Principal in her hometown of Cheney, WA. She graduated from Cheney High School in 1986, but it was in first grade when she realized she wanted to be a teacher. She loved hanging out with her dad at school during her childhood and considered a school setting to be a home away from home. Her parents were tremendous influences in her life. Kim describes them as supportive, helpful and caring. She remains very grateful to them to this day.

Kim was an excellent student-athlete in high school playing three years on the varsity basketball team. Kim’s leadership skills were noticed by others at a young age. She was named a co-captain on the basketball team and was a teammate who led by her positive example.

She considers her high school head basketball coach Don Eggart as her most influential educator. Elementary PE teacher and Wa-Hi Head Boys tennis coach Bryan Eggart (wife Jami is a math teacher at Garrison) is Don’s son, and Pioneer Middle School PE teacher Jim Eggart is Don’s younger brother. Kim says Don Eggart had an amazing work ethic, which pushed his players to get the most out of their athletic abilities and academic endeavors. She said he always stood up for doing the right thing and was an outstanding role model. Kim has always modeled his example in everything she has done throughout her professional career.

Following high school Kim attended the University of Idaho where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She also holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and Administrative credential from Eastern Washington University. Kim is pursuing her superintendent credentials from City University which she will complete in December.

Kim has an extensive resume in public education. She taught for 16 years in classrooms at College Place, Prescott and Walla Walla. She was also a learning specialist and instructional coach during her time at Sharpstein Elementary. She was assistant principal at Pioneer Middle School for two years and principal at Blue Ridge Elementary for a decade. Kim received Elementary School Principals Association of Washington Regional Elementary Principal of the year in 2012. She is in her third school year as Principal of Garrison Middle School.

Kim and her husband Bob of 25 years have three daughters. Madi (24) is an accountant in Spokane, Kate (23) is attending WWCC working towards a nursing degree and Olivia (21) is a sterilization tech at Tietan Dental. Kim is thrilled they are all gainfully employed! Kim also has two grandchildren, Isella (6) in first grade at Berney Elementary, Axcel (2.5) and Baby Boy Ramos due in December. She says soon-to-be son-in-law Oscar Ramos has been a great addition to the family.

In her spare time, Kim enjoys running, reading, being around family and spoiling her grandchildren.

Here’s what staff are saying about Kim:

“Mrs. Doepker works hard to help problem-solve situations and is willing to be creative about her approach when the obvious answer won't work. Her open-door policy shows how much she cares for students, parents and staff alike. Mrs. Doepker takes great pride in being a Trooper!” – Jami Eggart, teacher

"Hearing" Mrs. Doepker come rocking her way through the hallways with her Jammy Pack makes the kids' day! (and mine!) They come running to guess whatever she is rocking out to and can't wait for her daily announcements to see if they have won! From her joke of the day to the acts of kindness she shares on GNN I always appreciate how much Kim does to reach out and include and recognize all of our students! She's the best! – Conor Fish, teacher

Kim Doepker made the music fanny pack a hit at Garrison Middle School. You will often see her jamming to classic tunes with a big smile on her face during passing periods. She enjoys giving students high fives and words of encouragement. Thanks to Kim Doepker for making Garrison Middle School a fun and safe place for all students to receive a quality education.

Admission fees for playoff games

Wa-Hi fall sports teams are gearing up for the playoffs. Mid-Columbia Conference and Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules require admission fees for fans to attend playoff games. Cost is $7 for adults and $5 for students. Students will need to show their student ID.

For games schedules, visit: https://wallawallaathletics.com/

JROTC Cadet of the Month 

Congratulations to Walla Walla High School JROTC Cadet Private Kairi Kincheloe for being named Cadet of the Month. She received a total of 433 out of 630 points with the help of her company and Cadet Sergeant Aviella Wilson in preparing for Cadet of the Month.

Kincheloe was born and raised in Walla Walla, and had an older brother in the program. “I’ve been watching the program for four years and am now excited to be in it,” says Kincheloe.

After high school, Kincheloe hopes to pursue her passion of working with animals by becoming a veterinarian.

Walla Walla Center for Children and Families joining virtual job fair

The Youth Development, Early Learning, Child Care & Family Services Job Fair will be taking place virtually Thursday, November 4. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. participants can interact with recruiters and learn about job openings from a variety of organizations focusing on youth development and early learning. Setting up your profile is easy and gives you the opportunity to identify potential employers and even possibly interview on the spot. This event is sponsored by WorkSource and features employment opportunities in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla Counties.

To register: https://bit.ly/3DaWZUr
Contact: Thailee Gomez at: tgomez@esd.wa.gov / 509.734.5953

Community Stories
Camp Fire Afterschool Childcare at Walla Walla Center for Children and Families

Camp Fire is currently in the licensing process to open an Afterschool Childcare Program at the Walla Walla Center for Children and Families. Registration details and an opening date are yet to be determined. To receive updates, please add your name to the interest list at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2VLTKXF

United Way of the Blue Mountains Photo Contest - Celebrating Our Region – By United Way

To celebrate our work across the Blue Mountain region and the move into our new Walla Walla office, United Way of the Blue Mountains will host a photography contest from October 15 - November 19.

There will be two categories: our Focus Areas and Funding Regions. Winners of each category will have their photo displayed in the new office at 13 ½ E. Main St., Ste. 202, in Walla Walla.

Focus areas: Successful Students Cradle to Career; Healthy People and Thriving Communities; and Disaster Recovery.

Funding regions: Columbia and Walla Walla counties, WA., Baker, Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties, OR.

A selection committee will choose the top photo of each focus area and each region.

If you have any questions, please contact the UWBMT office at 509.529.1183 or info@uwbluemt.org

To enter: https://woobox.com/xkusqw

City of Walla Walla Parks and Rec Update

• Pumpkin Carving Contest (FREE) – Ages 3-12. New location at 1st and Main. October 28.
• Downtown Trick-or-Treat Drive Thru – Join us for free tricks and treats in the old Macy’s parking lot! October 29 from 3-5pm.
• Beginning Ukulele/Christmas Carol Ukulele – Ages 11 and up. Cost is $70.
• Indoor Soccer – Grades K-8. Cost is $50 until 11/21/21 then increases to $60.
• Open Arts and Crafts Studio Time (Spanish and English) – Ages 8 and up. Cost is $14-$20.
• 2022 Season Pool Passes go on sale on Black Friday, November 26. Cheapest price of the season!

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

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, recreation@wallawallawa.gov 

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