Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - Feb. 24, 2023

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
District receives community input at Strategic Summit

Thursday evening school board members hosted a Strategic Planning Summit to get input on the district’s new Strategic Plan. The new Vision 2030 Plan focuses on student learning, rigor, culture of belonging and family partnerships. Walla Walla Public Schools has utilized a number of different modes to ensure feedback from stakeholders was gathered, including ThoughtExchange electronic discussions, four surveys, 50 face-to-face listening sessions and 21 focus group meetings in English and Spanish. This fall district leaders began to synthesize this feedback and have developed a draft plan ready for public review and feedback which was on display last night. The district’s work will conclude this spring with the school board and leadership team operationalizing the plan in preparation for a 2023-24 school year implementation.

Thursday night guests were treated to a light dinner before having an opportunity to learn more about the draft plan and share input. School board members and district administrators were placed at four stations in the Wa-Hi Commons to highlight and discuss each of the plan’s four goals. The input was recorded and will be included in the outreach files along with additional feedback for future consideration. Thanks to everyone who attended, and stand by for more updates in the coming weeks.

Vernon named principal for Prospect Point Elementary school

Walla Walla Public Schools announces Justin Vernon has been selected principal of Prospect Point Elementary. The extensive hiring process included a formal interview in front of two committees as well as a public meet and greet session where parents, faculty and students provided input on both finalists.

“Serving as interim principal these last few months has been an honor, and I am excited to continue to serve the Superstar community as its permanent principal,” said Mr. Vernon. “I feel very fortunate to have landed in a school and community dedicated to doing what is best for students. I am committed to the growth of all our students and know, as a community of learners, we are on the right track. I want to thank the parents, staff and students in entrusting me with this task.”

Mr. Vernon is serving as Interim Principal at Prospect Point Elementary for the 2022-2023 school year after former Principal Barb Casey was promoted to a directorship. Vernon, who has been an educator for 20 years, served as Assistant Principal at Prospect Point Elementary for two years prior to accepting his current interim principal role. He was principal of Blue Ridge Elementary from 2019-2020 prior to the school being repurposed to an early learning center. Vernon spent three years at Green Park Elementary as the school’s Dean of Students and Math Coach and has five years of additional administration experience in previous districts prior to coming to Walla Walla Public Schools. He also has 11 years of service as an elementary teacher.

“I am so proud of the leader Justin Vernon has become,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “In short fashion he has developed high levels of trust and strong relationships with staff, students and families. The sky is the limit for our Prospect Point Superstars under Justin's direction.”

Mr. Vernon will assume his new duties as permanent principal July 1, 2023.

Winter iReady results on track with state and national performance 

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Dr. Wade Smith, Mrs. Christy Krutulis, Mrs. Michelle Carpenter, Mrs. Maria Garcia, Mrs. Kim Doepker and Mrs. Kris Duncan facilitated a review of fall to winter iReady data. The district met or exceeds its performance goals for reading and math from fall to winter.

"Before the pandemic, our district was below state and national reading and math iReady performance," said Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Christy Krutulis. "We are now on track with state and national performance and have exceeded our pre-pandemic levels."

Krutulis attributes the growth to strong core instruction and significant increases in utilizing the personalized instruction tools that come with iReady. She thanked our staff and students for all their hard work.

School board meeting recap

Click HERE for a recap of the Feb. 21, 2023 School Board Business meeting.

Highly Capable Referral Period  

Walla Walla School District's Highly Capable programming provides students of high academic and intellectual ability with designated time to explore concepts in greater depth. The goal of the Highly Capable Program is to encourage the development of higher-level thinking skills.

Information on Highly Capable Program services and the 2023 referral process is currently available on the district website. Referral forms are available in all district schools and on the district website

The annual selection process for in-district students occurs in late winter/early spring. Following the testing and selection process, all parents and guardians will be notified in writing of the results of the process.

Second and fifth grade students took a cognitive abilities screener the week of February 13. Results of the screening process, along with other data points, will be used to determine which students will be recommended to participate in the next steps of the identification process. Parents will be notified of screening results in early March.
• Parent/guardian referral paperwork will be due March 23, 2023.

Parents/guardians of K, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students should talk with their child's teacher(s) to determine if Highly Capable testing is recommended. Parent/guardian referral paperwork is due by grade level on the following dates:
• 3rd/4th: March 15, 2023
• 6th-8th: March 17, 2023
• K/1st: March 30, 2023

Students elected for Highly Capable programming will begin services at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.

For more information, please contact Casey Monahan. cmonahan@wwps.org (509) 526-6783.

School Stories
February 23 Blue Devil Athletics Update - by Athletic Director Chris Ferenz

This past week has been very exciting and successful for Walla Walla High School athletes. At the Mat Classic State Wrestling championships last Friday and Saturday, senior Mateo Caso powered his way through the bracket to win a state wrestling championship. After finishing 3rd as a Junior, Mateo became the first state wrestling champion from WWHS since Shane Anderson in 1996. To get a peek at what it takes to be a champion, please read the feature story about Mateo and his wrestling career in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.

Also placing at the Mat Classic was freshman Kylie Whitaker. After an outstanding freshman year, Kylie wrestled her way to a 3rd place finish in Tacoma. After an outstanding season on the gridiron, named all-conference on both the defensive and offensive lines, senior Jon Smith earned a 5th place medal on the mat. Congratulations to Mateo, Kylie, Jon, Coach Jacob Butenhoff, and all the program coaches for their success at the state championships.

Also, competing last week, the WWHS Swim and Dive team traveled to Federal Way for their state championship. Freshman Eli Bona swam to a 9th place finish in the finals of the 500 Freestyle, earning 9 points for the team. Also earning points at the meet was the 200 Medley Relay team of Noah Stillman, Jerry Yao, Hayes Hendley, and Zach Juhnke. Congratulations to the athletes and coach Nancy Rose for their performances at state.

Saturday, February 18, the Blue Devil boy’s basketball team defeated Kennewick HS 57-53 to advance to the Regional Round of the WIAA State Basketball tournament. A vocal and enthusiastic crowd of Blue Devil supporters saw the Blue Devils come storming back from a 9-0 deficit to win an intense and physical basketball game. The reward for making the state playoffs, a Tuesday, February 21 matchup 330 miles one way at Mount Vernon High School. In the historic “Sistine Chapel” of high school gyms, as named by the Seattle Times, Walla Walla jumped out to a 27-15 lead at the half behind a stingy defense. Wa-Hi closed out the game with timely free-throw shooting for a 55-46 win.

With the first round victory, the team will head to Arlington HS (WA) to take on the home team Eagles in an 8:00 p.m. matchup Saturday, February 25. For fans willing to make the 630 mile round trip drive to Arlington, you may purchase tickets online at AHSTicket.  There will be no cash sales at the door. To view a livestream of the game, the NFHS network will carry the game at AHSVideoLink

I AM WWPS Video Series - Jessica Johnson, Wa-Hi Ag Teacher


Walla Walla High School teacher Jessica Johnson specializes in Agriculture Education and is also an FFA advisor. Jessica attended Walla Walla High School and was active in the Ag program as a student. She enjoys working with her students and teaching them about ag mechanics, welding, electrical and how this supports the world of farming. She is also an expert roper and spends much of her time away from school riding horses in her arena.

Pioneer Middle School student receives Building Belonging Award

Tuesday night school board members honored Pioneer Middle School student Lea Davalos with a Building Belonging Award.

The Building Belonging Award is a new student recognition program aligned to the district’s "We All Belong Here" unity message promoting a civil, safe and compassionate learning environment.

The "Building Belonging" Recognition Award recognizes students who promote activities that create and sustain a sense of belonging, fairness, and justice for all students. Equity and Dual Programs Department Director Dr. Julie Perron coordinates the Building Belonging Award program.

Last spring, Lea Davalos, then 6th grader, hand-wrote Pioneer Library Media Specialist Sara Strickland a letter about having a Spanish section in the library with interesting books for the fluent Spanish readers. This prompted Sara to hire her as a Library TA this school year, and hopefully next year for her 8th grade year. Part of Lea's job is to help review and update the library's Spanish section and ensure the books on the shelves are what students want to read.

"She may be quiet, but she is mighty," says Sara. "Lea ensures students find the books they seek and that the library is in tip-top shape. Lea even sees when I'm overwhelmed and quietly takes over jobs that I later realized are finished because she's completed them. She is an advocate for her fellow students and assists new monolingual Spanish-speaking students with the crazy world that is middle school."

Walla Walla High School Student Awarded Prestigious National Honor Society Scholarship

The National Honor Society (NHS) announced that Jackson Adams, a high school senior at Walla Walla High School and NHS President, has been selected as an NHS Scholarship semifinalist. As a National Semifinalist, he will receive a scholarship award of $3,200.

Since 1946, more than $21 million in scholarships have been awarded to outstanding NHS senior members to support college access and student success. The scholarship program is supported by the parent organization of NHS, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

In the 100+ years since NHS was founded in 1921, members have been making a difference in their schools and communities, and the NHS Scholarship is NASSP’s way of recognizing the most exceptional of these student leaders. Recipients are chosen based on their demonstrated work to support the four pillars of NHS: scholarship, service, leadership and character.

National Honor Society Adviser Kim Cassetto explains that Jackson has been a dynamic leader at Walla Walla High School. In addition to being NHS President his senior year, he is an active member of Green Club and Film Club. He co-founded the Students for Social Justice Club and served as president his sophomore year and has earned Eagle Scout rank. Jackson has served three years on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee and served on multiple student advisory committees. Jackson is the student of Dan and Teresa Adams. He plans to attend Northwestern University to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in journalism. 

National Merit® Scholarship Program Finalists named

Walla Walla Public Schools continues to Develop Washington’s Most Sought-After Graduates as the 2023 National Merit® Scholarship Program Finalists are announced. Walla Walla High School Seniors Erin Iverson and Lily Franklin have been named National Merit Scholarship Program Finalists. As finalists, Erin and Lily are in the running to be selected for one of 75,000 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million that will be awarded later this spring.

National Merit Finalists score in the top 1% of the 1.66 million students who take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) each year.

“At Walla Walla High School, ensuring high academic achievement is written into our vision statement. These students are demonstrating that at the highest level, and we are extremely proud of these students' accomplishments,” shared Walla Walla High School Principal John Schumacher. “It is exciting to have our seniors recognized for their academic accomplishments. These students have worked incredibly hard to achieve this recognition and they are the latest group of Blue Devils who have distinguished themselves academically.”

Erin Iverson is the student of Sarah Hurlburt and Jack Iverson. After graduation, Erin plans on attending a four-year institution and concentrating their studies most likely in an engineering field, mathematics, or chemistry.

Lily Franklin is the student of Lisa and Nathan Franklin. Lily plans to attend either Western Washington University, Oregon State University, Seattle University or Gonzaga University to pursue environmental engineering.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) test during their junior year of high school.

FFA Ag Mechanics teams shine at WSU competition

Walla Walla High School’s two FFA Ag Mechanics teams placed first and fourth (out of ten teams) at a contest hosted at WSU by undergraduate Agriculture Education students. Congratulations to Amiria Cross, Wyatt Aycock, Quinton Grimes, Treyton Sams, Rem McBride, Brody Pingree, Josh Nelson, Kenny Gabel, Ben Stillman and Parker Morgan for your success.

Spanish book fair at Pioneer MS

The second half of the community-wide Spanish book fair is fast approaching. The book fair will be at Pioneer Middle School in the library. There will be 165 different titles (608 copies) available for purchase.

Spanish Book Fair Schedule:
• Tuesday, March 7 from 3:30-7:30 p.m.
• Thursday, March 9 from 8-4 p.m.

Community Stories
Walla2Hoops AAU basketball club hosts “Tournament of Hoops” Feb. 25-26 

Walla2Hoops welcomes 63 teams from Washington, Idaho and Oregon to Walla Walla for its “Tournament of Hoops” AAU Basketball Tournament Feb. 25-26 for boys and girls grades 3/4-8. Games will be played at Walla Walla High School, Garrison Middle School, Pioneer Middle School, Berney Elementary, Green Park Elementary and DeSales High School during the two-day event. Follow all the action on the Tourney Machine app.

“We’re so excited to host our local tournament and bring this great competition to our community,” said Walla2Hoops Club President Matthew Price-Huntington. “This is a great opportunity for our community to come out to the gyms and support our athletes. Several of our teams have already qualified for state and the games promise to be exciting and competitive.”

Sunday Championship Game Schedule:
3/4th Grade Girls - 2:30 pm DeSales
5th Grade Girls - 1:30 pm DeSales
6th Grade Girls - 1:30 pm Pioneer Main Gym
7th Grade Girls - 2:30 pm Pioneer Main Gym
8th Grade Girls - 4:30 pm DeSales
5/6th Grade Boys - 3:30 pm DeSales
7th Grade Boys - 3:30 pm Pioneer Main Gym
8th Grade Boys - 4:30 pm Pioneer Main Gym

All day admission costs $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors. A full tournament schedule can be found online at TourneyMachine.com or download the app.

Walla2Hoops is a 501C3 Non-Profit basketball club which operates under the umbrella of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Walla2Hoops provides an enriched basketball environment with a mission to create a positive competitive culture focused on developing character and basketball fundamentals.

For more information about the tournament, contact: walla2hoops@gmail.com.

Walla Walla Public High Schools Scholarship Fund

Donations are being accepted for the Walla Walla Public High Schools Scholarship Fund. The fund has a value $225,000.00 and has granted more than $31,000 scholarship assistance since its inception.

This year’s deadline to apply for scholarship funds is March 6, 2023. Students should contact the Blue Mountain Community Foundation or their High School Counselor with any questions.

To make a donation, contact co-advisors Andy Zahl (509) 540-0880, or Jerry Zahl (509) 520-6694 or by email at: jkazahl@charter.net.

• Blue Mountain Community Foundation
• (509) 529-4371
• Gifts may be mailed to the Foundation at P O Box 603; WW, WA 99362
• Submit electronically to: bluemountainfoundation.org
• Gifts are tax deductible, as the Blue Mountain Community Foundation is a 401c organization.

City of Walla Walla Public Library Update

Every Monday is Mathtastic at Walla Walla Public Library! Drop in all day for games, play, and creative imagining to help make math fun. Math is everywhere and strong math skills are essential for all students, so come have fun and build those math mind muscles at the library! Walla Walla Public Library is open Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. & Saturday 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; more program information is available at https://www.wallawallapubliclibrary.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/8594/60

Do you love to strategize, dominate opponents, and stretch your mind muscles? All middle & high school students are invited to join other teen chess players for Chess Club at Walla Walla Public Library, every Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. Whether you're a casual player, grand master, or total newbie, chess is for everyone & all levels of play are welcome. Come experience the Community, Competition, & Culture of the world's most dynamic game! More program information is available at https://www.wallawallapubliclibrary.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/8760/60

Sign up today for Great Explorations – Hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math Adventure

Spots are still available for the Great Explorations event March 11 at Whitman College for all kids in grades 5-7. This free event features more than 25 hands-on STEM workshops and a keynote address from Dr. Taylor Heckman. Dr. Heckman works at the University of California researching infectious diseases in aquatic animals. Visit the website sign up https://gewallawalla.com/#/

Camp Fire Afterschool Program Update

Our theme for the week of 2/27 - 3/3 is Dinosaur Week. Dinosaur Week is always a hit with dinosaur themed activities and trivia.

We have lots of as-needed and daily registration spots open at our Pre-K Camp Fire program at the Center for Children and Families. More information here: https://www.wwcampfire.org/programs . Other programs with open spots include Berney, Green Park, Prospect Point, and Sharpstein.

We've started planning for Summer Camp, which will come with lots of fun volunteer opportunities. Email natalie@wwcampfire.org if interested in volunteering or joining the summer staff substitute list.

We're hiring after school program staff. 12-16 hours a week, childcare experience prefered but not required. Email resume, availability, and optional letter of interest to natalie@wwcampfire.org.

Parks and Recreation Update

• Father/Daughter Ball March 4 – Open to all ages. Cost is $20 per Father.
• Beginning Ukulele – 10 years and up. Cost is $45-$60
• St Paddy’s Day Dash – Ages 5 and up. Cost is $15-$25.
• Blue Mountain Girls Softball – Grades K-6. Cost is $40-$50.
• Pre Teeball-League – Ages 3-5. Cost is $35.
• Fencing - 8 years and up. Cost is $20-$75.
• Veterans Memorial Pool 2023 Season Passes are on sale! Prices increase the 1st of each month until May when they are full price.

Do you have the 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

For more information or to register, please visit our website at www.wwpr.us. If you have questions, feel free to contact the Parks & Recreation Office at 509-527-4527

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