Hello Hockinson Families!
This is Steve Marshall, your HSD Superintendent. Over the past few months, I have been trying to figure out how to better stay in touch with you. This blog is an attempt to do just that! My intention is to post here regularly to keep our families current with district news items that may not necessarily appear in our quarterly newsletter.
Your time is valuable. So, by taking the time to read about what is going on in the HSD, you are making an important investment in our schools - and great schools don’t just happen. They require a team effort by the entire school community: school employees, students, parents and community members. Thank you being part of the HSD Team!
Saturday, March 28, 2020
In the interest of “pulling back the curtain,” I’d like to share a letter with you that I recently sent to our district staff members. It’s all about using resourcefulness and persistence to keep learning alive through unconventional means.
Dear HSD staff,
This week's weekly update is a departure from the normal format. It is a message that blends language, history, present challenges and optimism for the future.
Right now, epidemiology is the name of the game. Our personal and professional lives have been upended by a statewide effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. But I have done some reflection and found inspiration in etymology (the study of words and their history).
Interestingly, this outbreak almost coincides with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 100th anniversary of the worldwide flu epidemic and the 150th anniversary of the HSD. There are lessons we can learn from our history, and for the purpose of this email, there are two particularly relevant lessons that happen to be contained in a couple of words with international origins:
“Eureka” comes from the ancient Greek word εὕρηκα heúrēka, meaning, “I have found (it).” It is closely related to heuristic, which refers to experience-based techniques for problem-solving, learning and discovery. The initial “h” is dropped in some European languages, but preserved in others, such as Finnish, Danish and German.
One of my grandfathers was Finnish and I remember that he equated “Sisu” to spirit and toughness. He illustrated it with stories of how Finnish soldiers used wile, white jumpsuits and skis to overcome the invasion of a much more powerful Russian army. Below are a couple of more elaborate definitions of this personal quality:
Extraordinary endurance in the face of adversity; persistence, determination, guts; full of tenacity, courage, resolve, willpower and an indomitable spirit.
Extraordinary determination, resoluteness and courage in the face of adversity. An action mindset which enables individuals to reach beyond their present limitations and take action against all odds and transform barriers into frontiers. An integral part of Finnish culture and also a universal capacity that we all share.
As you know, Hockinson was founded by Finnish settlers who originally named the town Eureka, and early life here was not easy. It required Sisu.
So you see where I am going with this.
The coronavirus is putting us to the test. I know there is worry about implementing online instruction. I acknowledge the obstacles and the work it will require, but for the sake of our students, we have to rise to the challenge and figure it out. I am grateful that we have the resources to make this happen. We have online resources and we have each other; at-home teaching and learning will depend on the involvement of the three big players in public education: Our parents, our students and you. I think everyone is ready to move forward.
It is time to show our wile, resourcefulness and persistence, and keep learning alive through unconventional means. As it should be in education, the adults will be making discoveries alongside our students. There are about to be some serious “Eureka” moments, and I hope you find that exciting. It makes sense if you also find that scary or intimidating. The dividing line between excitement and fear is very fine, but we have over a week to steel ourselves. When we return from Spring Break I expect all of us to be ready to confront any fears that remain by digging in, reaching beyond our present limitations, and taking action against all odds “to transform barriers into frontiers.”
Rest up over the coming days and get ready. We will Sisu through this together.
Monday, March 16, 2020
I have said this many times over my career in education: Great schools are the product of a community, school staff and students who all buy into the importance of a high-quality education. I know it is not an original thought. But it is accurate.
This concept is built on the assumption that each group - in its own way - contributes equally. Traditionally, this has looked like educators and students participating in the teaching and learning process in a school setting and parents supporting this process at home or as on-campus volunteers. Well, the decision to close schools through April 24 has disrupted this configuration. For the interim, formal education has shifted to the home, where a lot of education already takes place between students and their parents and families.
This is obviously a big adjustment. Educators now find themselves in the support role. Over the next few days, HSD administrators and teachers will be exploring ways to effectively facilitate distance learning. However, as my 8-year-old son reminded me, we cannot underestimate how students can contribute to the success of this new model.
My son’s name is Brady. On Friday evening, he approached my wife with an idea: He wanted to create a home school schedule so he could continue to learn. He created what he felt was a realistic (10:30 am start time) self-directed learning program. Here it is:
Brady’s schedule reset my attitude. On Friday, I was overwhelmed with the logistics of trimming 4 weeks worth of seat time and redesigning our educational model. This responsibility was 100 percent on my shoulders. Then Brady reminded me that student learning is a shared responsibility and students bear some responsibility for their education.
Now, Brady is a pretty determined 2nd Grader. I do not doubt that he can stick to his plan. Realistically, though, he will need monitoring and encouragement from us to stay focused. Plus, he can only do so many adaptive online learning programs. At some point, he will need to have access to curriculum and instruction that is aligned with 2nd Grade standards and prepares him for the expectations of 3rd Grade. This is where the school and teacher enter the picture, and I want you to know that we are up to the task. But we will need a little time to get organized.
And this brings me to my final thought. When counseling students who are behind in school, I encourage them to do the work first, then have the fun (this is not to say that school work can’t be fun, but you know what I am saying). As I have learned from personal experience, you run a big risk if you reverse the order. So, as much as possible, I ask that you and your students do your best to create a structure that will help to get them through the next few days of independent learning with their school year habits intact.
We will be joining you soon.
Sunday, March 8, 2020
I hope this weekend's newsletter finds you rested and, yep, healthy. As you likely already know, late Friday Clark County Public Health announced the first case of coronavirus in our county. While that man is currently in isolation at PeaceHealth, I tried to find out if he lives in Vancouver, east county, or north county, to no avail. I figured that kind of information would not be released...but at the same time, I knew many in our community would want to know.
So, we head into this week in the same status as last week: No COVID-19. but cautious. I ask for your continued help with keeping us that way by reinforcing good hygiene habits with students. Also, starting tomorrow our custodians will be disinfecting our buildings three days a week. I ask for your understanding because this extra focus on sanitizing our classrooms and common areas will come at the expense of tasks like vacuuming and general cleaning.
I know this might surprise many of you because the top story in the news is the coronavirus and the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water at grocery stores have been stripped bare... but there are other topics to cover in the HSD. Here are just a couple:
A few weeks ago, Hockinson HS purchased two 10-passenger vans through our state's surplus program. This week, I heard that there were some questions about this purchase - in particular, “How can a school district that says it has no money go and buy vans?” So I will share with you some details that will hopefully answer those questions. Here is the rundown:
The total cost of both vans was $12,000. Josh Johnson, HHS Associate Principal and Athletics/Activities Director, had inquired about new vans and the lowest price he could find for one van was $17,000 + taxes.
The price was split evenly between the HHS general budget, HHS Athletics budget, HSD General budget, and the AAA Boosters.
They are not new. The vans are from 2010 and each have over 110,000 miles. But they are in very good condition!
The vans are the right size and were the right price. Josh and Andy Schoonover, HHS Principal, were looking for a cost-effective way to transport some of our smaller teams and clubs to local competitions. These fit that purpose. Cascade Transportation does provide us with great service, but bus transportation makes most sense when you fill the seats. Since the price is the same for a team of 10 as it is for a team of 45, vans will give HHS another option for its smaller programs. This past fall, it cost more than $500 for the boys golf team to take a bus to Longview and $450 to travel to Woodland. Using the IRS mileage rate, these trips would cost our Athletics program less than $100 altogether if they used a van with the coach as a Type II driver.
While there are many costs (e.g., facility repairs, insurance, and necessary contracted services) we cannot control, we are trying to reduce our expenses wherever we can. These vans were purchased to reduce costs, once they get rolling. They still need a thorough mechanical inspection and the school is developing check-in/check-out procedures so we can keep them in good condition.
The Laramie Project
The recent production of The Laramie Project is an illustration of what is possible when students are given the opportunity to follow their passion. I will admit that there was a little trepidation when senior Musse Barclay approached me and Andy with the idea of putting on this play. Since this was proposed as a student-led production, I will also admit that there was even a little doubt that they would be able to pull it all together. After all, putting on a play is a huge undertaking, and the timeline was short.
But these 25 students amazed me with their organization, skill and dedication. They had a purpose and they delivered. If you didn't already see the recent article in The Columbian on this play, here is the link:
That article inspired a couple who lived in Hazel Dell to come and watch the play on opening night. They stopped me to tell me that and compliment our students for their leadership, teamwork and talent. I am confident that these HHS Theatre students inspired many others in the same way. Thanks to Greg Saum and the HHS community for supporting this play.
ESD 112 Art Show
Shifting the focus from the theater to the art studio, I wanted to give a shout out to HHS Art Teacher, Tanya Hochhalter, and her students who submitted works of art to the ESD 112 Superintendent's Art Show. Here is just a sample of what our students produced:
They represent different mediums, but they are all creative and, as you can see, high quality. The big art show is officially on Wednesday, March 18 from 5-7 pm at the ESD 112, but the artwork will be displayed for weeks afterward.
Starting March 9, the HSD is observing Classified Employee Appreciation Week and I am going to ask you to bear with me as I go on a birdwalk. I know this week's blog entry seems to be HHS-centric. That was not intentional. However, it does give me a chance to talk about teamwork and shared success. The unique thing about HHS students is that, in many cases, they have been taught and supported by many, many HSD employees from kindergarten through to graduation. Similarly, all of our employees - classified, certificated, non-represented, and contracted - play important roles in our district. We all belong to the same team and we contribute to the same mission.
So, this week is set aside to honor our classified employees. Please make good on that opportunity by expressing your appreciation in whatever style is most comfortable to you: A hug, in-person thank you, card, or email...or better yet, a treat.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
I had an extra day in February and I still did not post this entry until March 1. What can I say? The school year is picking up. But, as you will see, the increased workload comes with increased good news, too. I am going to cluster this news thematically and while I want to make sure you read the section on “Good Health” I am going to start with the first theme of...
1. Thank you to Sue Thompson and her Jazzercise devotees who, as they have in years' past, donated money into a “Hearts for Kids” fund. This year, they contributed a total of $605 to help low-income HSD students pay for things such as yearbooks, sports fees, eye glasses and school supplies. During the holidays, Sue and her friends raised $1,400 to support Hockinson families-in-need. Sue informed me that during her years as a counselor in the HSD she became aware of the hidden, yet prevalent, poverty in our community. She raises these funds so teachers and counselors do not have to support our students out of their own pockets.
If you are or become aware of a student or family who would benefit from a little financial support so they can cover the cost of a school essential or a fee, please let your building administrator know and they will see what is available in Sue's fund.
2. I want to give a shout out (or maybe I should call it a screech out) to students and staff of Hockinson High School who recently raised $1,557 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - that is $300 more than they raised last year and included a $370 “Miracle Minute” collection at the kick-off assembly! This “Pennies for Patients” coin drive was organized by ASB Advisor Beth Tugaw and her Leadership students.
3. Finally, congratulations and thank you to our PWT volunteers who coordinated a very successful Book Swap, which is kind of a “give one, get one” kind of event that helps our parents maintain age-appropriate home libraries as their children grow up. Here is the recap from Jamie Hebert, PWT volunteer:
“We had a total of 6,185 books donated this year; 1,000 of those were from the Middle School who we partnered with for the first time this year thanks to the efforts of Middle School Librarian, Sandra Stroup, and parent volunteer, Heather Porter. We had over 400 attendees, including Buzz, our mascot, who continues to be a welcome addition to all of our school events, eliciting smiles from students and parents alike. Katy Anderson and her team deserve special recognition for the literacy AND math activities that they both coordinated and hosted for the evening. And last, but not least, this year’s Book Swap coordinators Ami Hamlin and Stacie Burnham deserve a round of applause as do all of our teachers and volunteers who collected and hauled books over a period of four weeks, including our high school National Honor Society students who helped set up and break down the event this year. This is truly a community event!”
Fun & Learning
Speaking of assemblies, the students at HHES had a special assembly on Friday. OperaQuest NW stopped by to entertain and educate students about musical theater. HHES Associate Principal Meredith Gannon shared that 3rd Grader Cruz Crouch (pictured) and other student volunteers joined the performers on stage while students in the audience served as the chorus.
Opera-man reportedly gave the learning experience five handkerchiefs – his highest rating! Great job, HHES!
It appears that the Coronavirus is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Although there are no cases of this virus in the HSD, our custodians are taking preventive steps against it and other viruses in our schools. For them to do their jobs, I am asking for your understanding and for your help.
First, your understanding: Your room may not get vacuumed as frequently as normal. Our custodians are going to be spending a lot more time sanitizing desk tops, handrails, door knobs and counters, which will take away time from other tasks.
Second, your help: On Mondays and Wednesdays, please ask your students to leave their chairs down at the end of the day so our custodians have access to tables and chair surfaces.
Thank you to Shaniko and our custodians for being proactive. Also, while those of you who are HSD parents already saw it, I thought I would share the letter that went out to our families on Friday evening. It is a tricky message to deliver. but we wanted them to know that we are aware of the potential health threat that the coronavirus poses and that we are getting organized to respond to it, if necessary.
I looked out my window on Thursday and I have never seen so many happy students and community members… and rugby players. It was sunny and they were enjoying the warm and dry conditions on the HMS track and field.
And there you have it! The HSD community doing its best to connect each student with an activity or area of interest.
Thank you for encouraging our students, creating interesting learning experiences for them, and doing your part to keep them (and yourselves) healthy!
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
I hope everyone enjoyed their long weekend! Let's kick off this week with some positive stories from across the district:
InvestEd comes to the HSD
I am happy to report that HHS and HMS will receive funding through the InvestEd Foundation in 2020-21. This program, formerly the Saul Haas Foundation, provides funds that can be accessed by students-in-need. These funds can be used for everything from eye glasses and bus fare to coats and school supplies – whatever the school approves.
There are two components to InvestEd:
- Funding based on the number of students who qualify for Free & Reduced Lunch benefits (although students do not need to qualify for this to access InvestEd funds).
- A matching program in which the Foundation matches any funds raised by the school up to $500. While we are expected to spend 90 percent of our allocated funds (1), we are allowed to roll over all of our matching funds from year to year.
We want every student to have the ability to access educational and extracurricular opportunities. This program helps to make that possible.
Hockinson HS Jazz Band Places 1st at 2020 Clark College Jazz Festival
The HHS Jazz Band captured the top spot for the 10th time in 12 years at the 2020 Clark College Jazz Festival! This year, they finished atop a field of 11 schools, including Lake Oswego HS (2nd Place) and Washougal HS (3rd Place).
Congratulations to HHS Jazz Band members:
Sydney Henwood, alto sax; Owen Teckenburg, alto sax; Tanner Linton, tenor sax; Parker Bruning, tenor sax; Ethan Hsu, baritone sax; Davis Baker, trumpet; Josh Saeman, trumpet; Gavin Hubler, trumpet; Max Dorotik, trumpet; Caleb Timbreza, trumpet; Kellan Brinkman, trombone; Brandon Berry, trombone; Jonah Charles, trombone; Abby White, trombone; Caden McNair, trombone; Kaisho Barnhill, piano; Austin Weber, bass; and Sawyer Smith, drums.
Hockinson students stand out at Future Business Leaders of America competition
Another round of congratulations goes to students that participated at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Regional Competition!
1st Place: Jasmine Shigeno, Kelton Duncan, Pierce Barrett, Brecken Guinn and Jaeden Tedsen
2nd Place: Jack Hoefer, Sydney Dahl and Jacob Maitland
3rd Place: Nolan Chappelle
4th Place: Josh Duvon
The FBLA State Competition takes place in early April.
Nutrition Services Program earns a perfect score!
Our food services program is subject to a comprehensive federal audit every three years. This is an extensive process that covers everything from fiscal reporting and meal service requirements to free & reduced lunch applications. Thanks to the hard work of our district and school staff, the program earned a perfect score. This is quite a distinction and an achievement that’s not a reflection of just a few days or weeks of effort; it is based on our entire program over time.
School Board Appreciation Month
Last month, Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation in observance of the 25th Anniversary of School Board Appreciation Month. We formally recognized our Board of Directors at a late January meeting for their dedication to the staff and students of our district. These five leaders volunteer their time and share their expertise for no compensation other than our thanks, of which they are very deserving. Though it’s been said many times, thank you, HSD School Board!
Thursday, February 13, 2020
I hope everyone is having a great week! I'd like to start off today's blog entry by congratulating the HHS Girls Basketball team for advancing to the next round of the District Tournament by virtue of their dramatic overtime win over Rochester! Good luck tomorrow vs. Washougal, ladies!
1-2-3 Grow & Learn
In 2018-19, the HSD’s WaKids readiness scores of our incoming Kindergartners were some of the lowest in the area. That creates quite a challenge for our Kindergarten teachers as well as for the children themselves. So, the hope is that programs like 1-2-3 Grow and Learn can help our young learners develop their academic and social skills so that their transition to school is a positive one.
Since this once-a-week program’s launch last month, attendance has exceeded expectations! Between kids and caregivers, I would estimate that the Grow and Learn room has been filled with around 30 people. The program, which runs through early June, is made possible by an early learning grant from ESD 112.
Our district’s enrollment has been increasing in recent months. This is a welcome trend because our enrollment had fallen short of projections during the first few months of the school year. The budgeted student annual-average-full-time-equivalent (AAFTE) for this year is 1,919. However, we started with 1,902 FTE students in September. If we had remained at that level our costs would have exceeded our funding, which is never a good thing.
On our January count day, our student enrollment stood at 1,932 FTE. As it now stands, Hockinson Heights is 9 FTE under budget, Hockinson Middle is 4 FTE over and Hockinson High School is exactly on budget. Unfortunately, these additions have not been uniform across K-12, and in some cases have magnified overages that already existed at certain grades. The bad news is that they will likely remain in that status because we do not expect to add enough students to fund an additional teacher(s) for second semester. However, the good news is that it looks like we will avoid a really bad financial situation. We entered this school year using money from district reserves to contain personnel cuts. Our outlook would have really deteriorated had we gone further in the red.
Grounds team at work
Our grounds team has contributed a new fence to the HHES playground. People have long mused whether fences keep people in or out, but this one primarily keeps students off (of a wall). Our main reason for doing this is student safety, but it doesn't hurt the look of the school's community garden either!
The split-rail fence reminded me that this year’s Hockinson Fun Days theme is “Wild West – A Celebration of 150 Years of Hockinson Schools!” If you are planning on joining the Fun Days scene, you will want to circle May 29 & 30 on your calendar.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Light bulbs going on!
Let's get things started with "Eureka!" - a word that has long been used as an exclamation of discovery akin to a light bulb coming on.
As many of you know, Eureka was the original name for this area. It was also the name of the community's first public school. The residents responsible for establishing that school held their first board meeting precisely 150 years ago! To mark this occasion, we've established this 150 years of HSD web page, which we will continue to add to in the coming weeks and months. Additionally, the district has formed a 150th Anniversary Committee, which consists of past/current employees, community and parent representatives (here's a photo!). This committee is tasked with putting together a celebratory event for the entire community. Stay tuned for more information on that.
"Eureka!" did not come out of HHS Principal Schoonover's mouth, but he was definitely excited to see all of the lights finally working along the entrance to the high school. Until last week, only a small percentage of them would turn on, posing a safety issue in the evenings. While the original bids to fix this issue were too expensive, our Maintenance/Operations Supervisor, Shaniko Ristau, kept after it. He reached out to a new contractor and to Clark Public Utilities. The result? New LED lights at a low cost to the district!
Shaniko has partnered with Clark Public Utilities in the past on a number of light replacement/energy conservation projects. He is also currently exploring the possibility of installing street lamps at the entrances to all HSD schools.
What's going on at the HSD Warehouse and old Middle School site?
While on the topic of efficient operations, there have been a few questions about what our grounds and maintenance employees are up to at the former Middle School building and the HSD Warehouse (behind the new middle school). Here's the answer: When they're not pruning or doing other seasonal work outside, the maintenance crew has been turning their focus inside and following a "5 S" program to clean and organize both sites. Now that probably leads to another question: "What is 5 S?" 5 S is a system for organizing spaces so that work can be performed efficiently and safely. It applies the old idea of putting everything in its place and keeping the workplace clean, which makes it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury.
The five S's are: 1. Sort (throw away, surplus or keep); 2. Set in place (according to frequency of use); 3. Standardize (standard operating procedures and visual reminders like floor markers and labels on shelves); 4. Shine (a commitment to keeping things clean); and 5. Sustain (keep it going). Additionally, they are repairing our equipment in-house to save on repair costs and get prepared for spring.
Learn about a teacher: Leslie Pershall
This interviewee emphasizes 5 Rs in her classroom: Relevance, Relationships, Responsible decision-making, Respect and ca-Reer preparation. Okay, I obviously had to stretch things on that final one, but I wanted to recognize HHS health teacher Leslie Pershall's willingness to pursue Career Technical Education (CTE) certification on top of her master's program to create the foundation of a Health Sciences pathway for our students.
After interviewing Leslie, I realize that many of you are already familiar with her and her family. However, there is always something to learn...
Job: Health teacher at Hockinson High School
Worked in the HSD since: 2015, but she has been in our district for a few decades as a former K-12 student and 2010 graduate of HHS. Upon earning her Teaching Certificate, Leslie was encouraged to look for job openings in the district. She did exactly that, applied for an open position and got it! She has loved her job ever since.
Noteworthy: Unlike many teachers, Leslie's parents did not work in education. She was influenced by a number of elementary teachers including Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Fern, Mrs. Dodson, and Mrs. Hedman.
Family: Leslie has four brothers (three older and one younger). She credits them with imparting on her a couple of prominent life lessons: Be yourself no matter what, and be straightforward. Leslie also shared that playing games as the "5th brother" helped her to develop a competitive attitude as well as a thick skin. The summer of 2015 was a busy one for Leslie: In addition to marrying her husband, she also graduated from college and got a job. The Pershalls have one son, Grant. He is nine months old and full of Pershall spunk!
Hobbies: Leslie and her husband like to hike in the Columbia River Gorge. If she had to choose, her favorite hike is Wind Mountain (Washington side). She also likes to kayak in Round Lake or Lacamas Lake - not necessarily for the water quality, but more for the convenience.
Talents: Leslie knows how to golf and her favorite local course is Camas Meadows. She honed her skills as a golfer at HHS and participated in the state golf tournament. She is not quite sure she has musical talent, but she loves to sing, especially 80s and 90s songs. Leslie and her husband have been known to karaoke.
Leslie also has a hidden talent: She has a knack for catching fruit snacks in her mouth. It has been documented that she can handle both trick shots and long-distance passes. I looked on YouTube and could not confirm her claim that she caught a fruit snack that was thrown from a distance of 71 feet!
What she loves about the HSD: Leslie looks back on her 13 years as a Hockinson student with fondness. She feels the same about her 4.5 years of teaching in the HSD. In particular, Leslie enjoys working with Hockinson students. She thinks they are different - in a good way. As members of a small campus, she likes that HHS students are involved in many different activities and have the opportunity to develop their talents.
Leslie believes in the power of relationships. She has found that it makes her job easier and more fulfilling when she connects with each student as a person, so she does her best to show her support at plays, games and other student activities.
She views teaching as more of a lifestyle than a job. On many occasions, she feels more like a coach and a mom than a teacher - and she is cool with that!
A dedicated teacher makes all the difference. Our district is so fortunate to have teachers like Leslie demonstrating an amazing commitment to our students everyday.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to visit this page again soon for new entries. -- Steve Marshall