Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - November 17, 2023

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District Stories

School Stories

Community Stories

District Stories
School Board Regular Business Meeting 

Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023
Walla Walla Public Schools District Office (364 S. Park St.)
5:30 p.m. – Regular Business Meeting
Board Meeting Agendas, Minutes & Recordings: https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997

American Education Week: November 13-17, 2023

Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith salutes local educators

“Let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you as we celebrate American Education Week. November 13-17 marks this important week - a time set aside annually where our nation celebrates our public school systems and its faculty whose noble calling continues to fulfill the remarkable responsibility of educating our future citizenry. It is as true today as it was 100 years ago; our nation’s democracy and success is best guaranteed through a prosperous public education system.

With World War I in our rearview mirror, a devastating conflict that claimed more than 16 million soldier and civilian lives worldwide, our country found herself at a crossroads in the early 1920’s. At the time, graduation rates hovered around 17%, college attainment was less than 5%, and students with disabilities were excluded entirely from school systems. Established in 1921, American Education Week was born to help draw attention to a nation whose future success was sure to be impaired by a lack of educational attainment and proficiency of its people. We understood that to maintain the democracy and freedoms we fought so hard to protect, our country had to out-engineer, out-invent, and out-develop others. In order to do so, we rightly recognized that the only logical way forward was to out-educate our adversaries through a robust, free, public school system.

Over the last 100 years, remarkable advancements have been made in our nation’s educational program thanks to the dedication and hard work of faculty who have made the field of education their calling. Locally, graduation rates in Walla Walla Schools near 95%, exceeding statewide levels and five times higher than historic figures. Well over half of our high school students now attend college, trade schools or military service upon graduation, a ten-fold increase over 100 years ago. And locally, we continue to make great strides supporting our students with disabilities. We have come an incredibly long way these last 100 years thanks to your hard work and dedication.

Thanks again for all that you do and Happy American Education Week!”

Thanksgiving Holiday Break Schedule

• Wednesday, November 22 - Half-Day - Early Dismissal (Thanksgiving holiday)
• Thursday, November 23 & Friday, November 24 - NO SCHOOL (Thanksgiving holiday)

I AM WWPS video series – Shari Widmer

Learn more about Walla Walla High School Counselor Shari Widmer by watching her I AM WWPS video. Shari has been a counselor at Wa-Hi for five years. She grew up in Nevada and was active in all aspects of school. She is married to Wa-Hi graduate Zac Widmer and they have two school-aged children.

District seeks input on upcoming school year calendars

The district’s Calendar Committee has developed options to consider for the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 school year calendars. The group is seeking input on these options from parents/guardian, students and community members prior to making a recommendation to the school board. Everyone is welcome to attend and share their feedback.

Calendar Input Sessions
• Monday, Nov. 27 – 6:30 p.m. at the district office (364 S. Park St)
• Tuesday, Nov. 28 - 6:30 p.m. at the district office (364 S. Park St)

Walla Walla High School honored by national magazine for successful renovation project

Walla Walla High School received an Education Architectural Award from Learning by Design for its schoolwide renovation project made possible by a successful bond in November 2018. Learning by Design is the premier source for education design and innovation excellence.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by this prestigious magazine which recognizes the nation’s preeminent architectural firms by publishing outstanding pre-K to 12 and college/university projects,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “We delivered on every promise made to our community and are so thankful for the support of this project and all the others connected to the 2018 bond measure.”

The Commons features a brand-new kitchen and serving lines. It also includes an addition housing the student store, more seating space and new energy-efficient fan-fold windows for the north-facing wall seen from Abbott Road. The original science and academic buildings were stripped to the studs and rebuilt to today’s construction and learning standards. All buildings have new roofs, ADA provisions and energy-efficient air conditioning. A new science wing was added and the original music building was renovated to support the award-winning drama and music programs.

Parking lots have been expanded and improved to enhance safety and traffic flow. The new main entrance at the corner of Abbott Road and Fern Avenue is easier for visitors to access and provides a welcoming feel to the campus. Safety and security have been improved through campus-wide access control systems, better cameras and window treatments in all buildings. Also, all portables have been removed and replaced with permanent spaces.

“Thanks to Architects West, Jackson Contractor and the Wenaha Group for being great partners throughout this project,” said Superintendent Smith. “This award represents a collective effort from everyone involved to create a 21st Century learning space to support local students for generations to come.”

WWPS Levy Measures on Feb. 13 ballot


The renewal Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy and a Capital Levy to improve outdoor athletic and activity facilities will be on the Feb. 13, 2024 special election ballot.

The EP&O Levy, often referred to as the “Learning Levy,” is not a new tax. It replaces the expiring levy approved in 2020 and requires voter reauthorization every four years. Its renewal maintains programs and offerings not funded by the state and has been approved consecutively at the ballot box for over half a century in Walla Walla. EP&O Levy funds make up 15% of the Walla Walla Public Schools budget and provide for the continuation of honors classes, music, art, drama, school safety, technology, nursing, athletic programming, financial literacy, driver education, counseling and support staff. Altogether, the levy funds over 110 teaching and support staff full-time positions and more than 230 part-time positions across the district.

Replacing the same rate approved by voters in 2020, the EP&O “Learning Levy” remains capped at $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It will run from 2025 to 2028.

The short-term Capital Levy will be used to update outdoor spaces for athletics, activities, JROTC, physical education, marching band and other outside programming, including community use. These improvements were identified by the independent Outdoor Athletic and Activity Advisory Committee and address the priority projects most in need of upgrades to maximize access, safety and participation. In order to minimize impact to taxpayers, the district has identified grants and outside funding sources to help reduce costs. As a result, the Capital Levy rate is estimated to be no more than 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and will automatically expire after six years. The Outdoor Capital Levy would cost about $3 per month for every $100,000 of assessed value. For a home assessed at $300,000 the annual cost would be $114 per year or $9.50 per month through the six-year Capital Levy time frame.

Ballots for these levies will mail out to voters in late January. Both levy propositions require a simple majority to pass, 50% plus one vote.
• Arts Programs
• Band, Choir and Orchestra Programs
• Honors & Advanced Placement Classes
• Theater/Drama
• School Safety
• Foreign Language Programs
• School Nursing/Health Services
• Explorers and Highly Capable Program
• Athletics, Activities and Clubs
• Driver Education
• Counseling and Intervention Specialists
• Facilities Maintenance & Custodial Staff
• Classroom Technology and Technology Staff
• Physical Education
• Educational Assistants/Para-Educators
• Library and Media Services
• Staff Professional Development and Training
• Curriculum and Classroom/Lab Supplies and Materials

• Replace the 60-year-old original tennis courts at Wa-Hi
• Install an all-weather track at Pioneer MS for athlete, school and community use
• Repair the 43-year-old Garrison tennis courts (Chubb Courts) and resurface the 20-year-old track
• Consistent with all league schools, install high-quality artificial turf playing surfaces and field lighting (low spill/low glare) in order to maximize utilization, participation and post-season play at both the Klicker and Hayner Park fields at Wa-Hi
• Install outdoor lighting (low spill/low glare) in order to minimize instructional loss and maximize family participation for baseball and softball players
• Install elevated bleachers with ADA access at the Klicker Track and Field site for soccer, football and track and field spectators
• Provide adequate access to restrooms and changing rooms for high school athletes
• Construct a JROTC "Raider Obstacle Course" for student, first responder and community use

School Stories
Education Roundtable sponsored by The Gates Foundation

Wa-Hi students and Superintendent Smith selected to participate in esteemed Education Roundtable sponsored by The Gates Foundation

Earlier this month Walla Walla High School senior Turner Van Slyke and sophomore Eva Maxwell traveled to Seattle, WA with Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith to attend a statewide Education Roundtable made possible thanks to a partnership between the Gates Foundation and The Scholar First. This was the first of several Education Roundtable sessions scheduled this school year to bring together a diverse group of over 40 individuals representing students, K-12 educational leaders, higher education and non-profit education partners. The workgroup’s focus is on highlighting national best practices that position more students for post-secondary success, particularly traditionally underserved students.

“I am so proud of Turner and Eva and look forward to our next session,” said Superintendent Smith. “They are but a handful of students from across the entire state who were invited to serve on this important workgroup, representing over 1.1 million K-12 students across Washington.”

For the 2023-24 school year, the Education Roundtable members will focus on the following goals:
• Creating a common definition of post-secondary success;
• Drafting indicators and strategies that align to the definition; and
• Routinizing strategies to share their work to influence both policy and practice.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected Dr. Tammy Campbell from The Scholar First to facilitate the work of the Education Roundtable. Campbell, who has worked with Superintendent Smith on various statewide committees and initiatives, appointed two Walla Walla students and Smith to serve on this important panel.

“Visiting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was an incredibly impactful and transformative experience,” said Eva Maxwell. “Engaging in conversations with leaders and innovators from across Washington state opened my eyes to the diverse perspectives and innovative ideas driving academic and social progress in today’s society.”

Turner said it was clear that the educational leaders who attended the Gates Education Roundtable's first convening were committed to listening to him and his peers.

“We spent the day confronting educational challenges by digesting data, identifying socioeconomic inequities and barriers, and outlining our norms for future discussions,” said Turner Van Slyke. “Throughout, there was a clear emphasis on centering the student voice. In a world that often fails to address problems facing youth, it was exciting to be in courageous conversation with a receptive and forward-thinking group.”

Turner and Eva will be accompanying Superintendent Smith to Seattle in February for the next Roundtable discussion.

FFA students shine at State Tractor Driving and Potato Judging Competitions 

Walla Walla FFA advisor Alyssa Drader reports Walla Walla High School FFA students had strong performances at the State Tractor Driving and Potato Judging competitions in Moses Lake.

Tractor Driving
Students Wyatt Aycock, Sheldon Coburn, and Rem McBride represented Walla Walla FFA by completing a knowledge exam, tractor parts identification, and driving a tractor and trailer through a designated course. Out of 32 teams, they placed 18th. Each student placed in the top two-thirds individually.

Potato Judging
At the Potato Judging competition, Walla Walla Team 1, consisting of Hanna Wright, Amanda Tilley, Makenna Wright, Molly Duncan, and Rem McBride, as well as Walla Walla Team 2, with Natalie Liueallen, Breanna Sweeney, Tazie Betzler, and Reagan Milliman, tested their knowledge on a variety of industry standards. During the Potato Judging competition, these teams graded 100 individual potatoes based on USDA consumer quality standards, ranked 4 classes of seed potatoes, identified 10 different types of potato blemishes, and graded 10 potatoes with oral reasonings to a panel of judges. These students were able to practice their terminology and public speaking skills. Out of 47 teams, Walla Walla 1 placed 12th and Walla Walla 2 placed 32nd! Congratulations to Rem who placed 20th out of nearly 200 individuals!

“These members have never competed in the Potato Judging Competition before,” said Drader. “Please make sure to congratulate these students when you see them.”

Wa-Hi music students named to Washington All-State Honor Choirs

Congratulations to the following Walla Walla High School students for being named Washington All-State Honor Choirs and Bands. They will perform with other honor music students from around the state in February.
• Jordan Fox - All-State Treble Choir
• Simone Wheeler - All-State Treble Choir
• Teresa Wheeler - All-State Treble Choir
• Micah Vawter - All-State Wind Ensemble
• Jazz Zanger - All-State Symphonic Choir

Blue Devil Athletics Fall Sports 2023 – By Athletic Director Chris Ferenz

The Fall sports season ended over the course of the last two weeks as Blue Devil athletes competed in their respective District 8 and Washington state tournaments. Although placings were not earned, we had several young athletes earn valuable experience. In addition, MCC All-Conference teams were announced.

On Saturday, November 4, juniors Macy Eggart and Ian Lash competed in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships. The experience of competing in this large meet as juniors will serve as great motivation and experience as both Macy and Ian will return for their seniors season. Congratulations to Macy and Ian.

Thursday, November 9 saw senior Elliot Zanes and junior Miriam Hutchens dive in the WIAA championships. Elliot became the first Walla Walla High School diver in school history to qualify for the finals by placing in the top 20. Hutchens, a junior, is a first-year diver and missed the finals by less than a point. On Friday, November 10, juniors Abi Guest and Lindsay West competed in the 500 freestyle in the swim preliminaries of the WIAA State Swim Championships. Both swimmers gained valuable experience in racing on a big stage. Congratulations to our swim and dive team members who earned spots in the state meet.

The Lady Blue Devil volleyball team, after finishing as the #2 seeded 3A team in the MCC, bowed out of the District 8 tournament with a road loss to the Ferris Saxons on Tuesday, November 7. The Blue Devils earned the trip north by defeating the University Titans on Saturday, November 4 by a match score of 3-1.

A special thank you to Lenna Henry, fall gameworker coordinator, and all of the people who stepped up and stepped in to support our student-athletes, coaches, and their programs by making our games happen. In addition, Harlie Schaeffer and Brendan King deserve a huge shout out for their support and supervision of the athletic department and athletic contests. I truly appreciate the support and efforts of all involved to support Blue Devil athletics. We look forward to seeing you this winter.

The Mid-Columbia Conference coaches have voted and released Fall 2023 All-Conference awards. Congratulations to our Blue Devil athletes who have earned recognition by the MCC.

Boy’s Cross Country
• Gabriel Coram, JR, Second Team
• Turner Van Slyke, SR, Honorable Mention
• Lincoln James, JR, Honorable Mention
• Ian Lash, JR, Honorable Mention

Girls Cross Country
• Macy Eggart, JR, First Team
• Katie Burt, FR, Honorable Mention

• Carter O’Dell, SR, Second Team - Linebacker, Honorable Mention - Running Back
• Ethan Kregger, SR, Honorable Mention - Offensive Line
• Ethan Belcher, JR, Honorable Mention - Defensive Line
• Kooper Shields, JR, Honorable Mention, Kicker

Girls Soccer
• Bridget Boyd, SO, Second Team – Forward
• Korinne Hayes, SO, Second Team – Midfield
• Ally Beuck, SR, Second Team – Goalkeeper
• Jaden Ryan, JR, Honorable Mention - Defender

Slow Pitch Softball
• Sara Justice, SR, First Team – Infield
• Clarabell Hall, SR, First Team – Infield
• Brooklyn White, FR, First Team – Infield
• Anna Delarosa, Jr, First Team – Outfield
• Madison Worden, SR, First Team – Pitcher
• Nicole Bobadilla, SR, First Team – Utility
• Emily Meliah, SO, Second Team – Outfield
• Jacky Solomini, FR, Second Team – Outfield
• Addie Bowen, SO, Second Team - Extra Hitter

• Kasey Wegner, SR, Second Team - Middle Hitter
• Eden Glaus, SR, Second Team - Outside Hitter
• Jailyn Davenport, JR, Second Team - Setter

Communities In Schools - Blue Mountain Region Awarded $304,000 to Expand Services in Partnership with Walla Walla Public Schools

Communities In Schools of the Blue Mountain Region (CISBM) is thrilled to announce that it has been awarded a generous grant of $304,000 to supplement the expansion of its services in partnership with Walla Walla Public Schools. This transformative donation is part of Ballmer Group's $9 million contribution to Communities In Schools of Washington (CISWA). It aims to scale its integrated student support model to 45 new schools across Washington State in the next three years, seeking to equalize educational opportunities for students from every background. These matching funds will support the expansion of CISBM's services to Lincoln High School and Walla Walla Center for Children and Families, employing a full-time Communities In Schools (CIS ®) member for three years at both schools.

CISBM is a local fiscally sponsored affiliate of Communities In Schools of Washington, which is part of CIS, a national network dedicated to surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. The past few years have posed unprecedented challenges for students and families, including social isolation, economic crises, stress, and trauma. Ruben Alvarado, Executive Director of CISBM, expressed his enthusiasm about the grant, stating, "This investment enables CISBM, in partnership with the school district and local schools, to provide critical coordinated resources to more students by hiring a trained professional who can help connect them to community supports and services needed more than ever." In the 2023-2024 school year, CISBM is serving 10 schools in Walla Walla Public Schools and one in Milton-Freewater Unified School District.

Since its launch in 2021, CISBM has demonstrated measurable success in improving student outcomes. In the 2022-2023 school year, the organization made a significant impact, and it continues to support schools with vital initiatives such as managing student caseloads, increasing parent engagement, facilitating school-wide events, organizing volunteer opportunities, and employing efforts to decrease chronic absenteeism. To support students and families, CISBM's school-based staff work closely with students to navigate issues and remove barriers in the classroom, at home, and in the community. They coordinate with schools and local service providers to meet the needs of students and families, ensuring access to critical resources like food, housing, healthcare, counseling, and more.

CISBM believes that transformative relationships are key to unlocking a student's potential. By putting students at the center of their efforts, CISBM provides each student with the opportunity to have their best educational experience, setting them on the path to a successful future.

To learn more about Communities In Schools of the Blue Mountain Region, visit bluemountainregion.ciswa.org

Juvenile Justice Center named as recipient of Gesa Credit Union’s Local Heroes Grant Award

Walla Walla Public Schools to use grant for Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) classroom library books

Walla Walla Public Schools recently announced it has been chosen by the Gesa Community Foundation as a recipient of Gesa Credit Union’s Local Heroes Grant Award, receiving $4000 in funding. With the award money, Walla Walla Public Schools Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) plans to update its classroom library with new books. The school district contracts with Walla Walla County to provide educational services for students detained at JJC.

“Gesa is honored to support the Local Heroes in our community whose selfless dedication and unwavering commitment betters the lives of those across Washington,” said Don Miller, President and CEO of Gesa Credit Union. “We are inspired by the remarkable efforts of Walla Walla Public Schools that continue to make a positive and lasting impact, and we’re thrilled to honor their work with our Local Heroes Grant award today.”

Gesa’s Local Heroes Grant Program offers funding to organizations that assist Local Heroes in Washington, such as firefighters, healthcare workers, law enforcement, teachers and veterans. This year, 42 organizations were awarded through the program. Launched in 2021, Gesa’s Local Heroes Grant Program has provided more than $1,000,000 to 108 organizations across Washington state.

"I'm so excited to use this grant to develop and update JJC's detention library," said Walla Walla High School Library-Media Specialist Kim Cassetto. "We can finally replace the rest of the severely worn and outdated books and add more non-fiction and contemporary fiction books."

Walla Walla High School Drama Presents Twelfth Night final weekend

• Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
• Wa-Hi Black Box Theater (in the music building)
• 800 Abbott Rd (parking available off Abbott and Reser Road)
• Friday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m.
• Saturday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
• Limited tickets are free and available at the door 30 minutes before curtain
• @wahidramaproductions

Community Stories
Camp Fire Afterschool Program Update

Our theme for next week is I'm Thankful. Campers will be encouraged to reflect on the people and things that are imortant to them in journal prompts and other actifities.

Additional registration dates opened this week. Enroll here: https://wwcampfire.org/programs/

We are hiring after school program subs. Applicants can email resume, availability, and 1-2 sentences explaining why they are a good fit to natalie@wwcampfire. We are often able to work around the WWPS schedule so WWPS subs looking for extra work are encouraged to apply, especially elementary school subs.

Reminder: there is no Camp Fire programming on half days or no school days. We do not have program Weds-Fri of next week due to Thanksgiving break. WWPS staff FAQ: wwcampfire.org/wwps-faq

City Public Library update

Happy Thanksgiving from the Walla Walla Public Library! The library will close early for the holiday at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 22 and will re-open Saturday, November 25 at 10:00 a.m. Beginning November 30, the Walla Walla Public Library will host drop-in papercraft & gift making for the holidays every Thursday 10am-7pm through December 28. Please also consider joining the library in supporting the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless through the Library Giving Tree, November 25 through December 21 at the library. Pick a tag from the tree or visit the library’s website at wallawallapubliclibrary.org for a complete list of requested donations.

Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner Tuesday

• Everyone invited to a Free Thanksgiving Dinner
• Tuesday, Nov. 21
• 4 to 7 p.m.
• DeSales High School (919 E Sumach St, Walla Walla, WA 99362)
• Sponsored by: St. Frances Cabrini (formerly St. Vincent de Paul), The Salvation Army. Provided by: many stores, churches and indivuals

City Parks & Rec Update 

• Breakfast with Santa December 2 – All Ages. $8 per person.
• Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony December 2 at 5pm. Carols, Cookies, and more!
• The Reindeer Races December 9 – All Ages. 1K - $20/5K - $35.
• Indoor Soccer - Grades K-8. Cost is $50 ($60 after 11/19).
• Veterans Memorial Pool Passes go on sale on BLACK FRIDAY!
• Fencing – Ages 8 years and up. Cost is $20-$75.
• M.E.L.T Fitness – Ages 12 years and up. Cost is $12-$40.

Youth scholarships available. Visit www.wwpr.us or the Parks and Recreation office to apply.

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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