Sept. 22, 2018
In this issue:
Community support helps THS students, staff during tragedy
Curriculum, program connections: Suicide prevention, mental health
Upcoming events, resources for suicide prevention
"Collaborative Teammate" skill helps foster connections
Technology Model Review committee members chosen
News briefs
Coming up in Bear Country
What's for lunch?
Community support helps THS students, staff during tragedy
Editor’s note: Many community members, organizations and churches have reached out to offer support, ideas and resources, along with planning events for students and residents. We want to acknowledge all these offers, and let our students, parents and the community know that we are working diligently on best practices and how to proceed in the short term and long term in order to best serve our students and partner with the community. As one example: Many have asked why we don’t host assemblies about suicide prevention. While we certainly want to reach every student, we have been advised that assemblies are not the best, nor the safest way to do that. Parents and community members, thank you for working alongside us on this societal issue to help prevent any more deaths. This is not an attempt to answer every question about suicide prevention, but rather as an answer to a few questions we have heard recently, such as “What is Tahoma School District doing about suicide?” and a call for us to “do better.” While these three deaths are fresh in our minds and in our hearts, we also acknowledge that this isn’t a new issue. It’s an ever-present one, and we wholeheartedly accept the community’s offers to partner with us in new and better ways to help every student.

To our students: You are the reason we are here. You are the reason we work in education, whether we have a master’s degree in teaching, drive a bus or order supplies. You are at the center of every decision we make in Tahoma. You matter to each of us.

As news of the death of Tahoma High School junior Kylee Snyder spread Sunday and Monday, students, staff and community members grieved together. As residents of all ages tried to process the tragedy, the high school, the district and the community all worked to support those who knew and loved her, as well as offering resources and help to others who are suffering now. Kylee was the third Tahoma student or alumnus to die by suicide in about the last year, including 2018 graduate Kione Gill, who died Sept. 9, and Garrett Sypole, who died in August 2017. 

“I was proud of how people came together,” Superintendent Tony Giurado said. “We had students supporting each other, we had staff supporting students and we had community members who came out at different times of the day.”

Terry Duty, principal of THS, echoed that sentiment, noting that support from district staff and the community were vital this week.

“During these difficult, grief-filled times, our school district and community lifted us up and gave us the strength to lead and support our kids. Your unwavering care gave us the inspiration to be our best when we were on our knees.

The outpouring of support from district staff and community, offering to help in any way; your care, affection and compassion was felt by every student and staff member at Tahoma High School. To the teachers and parents who responded with signs, cookies and hugs, greeting our students and wiping away tears, you made a difference.
We often talk about the ‘Tahoma Way.’ This week, with tears in our eyes, we watched what the Tahoma Way looks like. We demonstrated what ‘community’ looks and feels like to our students. We all know what happened; we will never know why it happened. What we do know is that Tahoma and the greater Maple Valley community is a special place.”

The high school canceled the spirit days that had been scheduled last week, and handed out purple and teal ribbons for suicide awareness Friday. Students could sign memory books for Kylee’s family and community members donated two banners for people to sign in their support of Tahoma students and staff. There is more work to do, but leaders at the high school, the district and among students recognize that it is important to listen to what experts have to say and move forward steadily but carefully in order to use best practices and kindness.

District Counseling Crisis Plan
On Monday, the district implemented its crisis plan, which has been developed by the counseling team and is being updated with information through Tahoma’s partnership with King County Best Starts for Kids and the middle school-level mental health grant. 

The district counseling crisis response plan, in summary, calls for verification of information, notification of the crisis team coordinator, district office and staff notification. It outlines how additional staff members such as counselors from other district buildings are pulled in, calls for an all-staff meeting before school, describes how students are informed (in classroom settings via teachers, rather than over intercom or in an assembly) and describes how to establish a “safe room” where students will receive help and services.

The coordinator helps anticipate needs based on the incident and other factors and also helps determine the best use of crisis response team members and outside resources. Teachers and staff are given instruction to suspend curriculum as needed to help students talk about the loss. A normal schedule and routine are kept where possible.

The plan also outlines duties and expectations for the building administrator, counselors, crisis response team members, the safe room coordinator and teachers. An explanation of how to assess the incident and communication is included, as well as a checklist that asks staff to help “protect the family’s integrity in the process of meeting the students’ needs.”

After the school day, staff members meet to debrief.
Curriculum, program connections to suicide prevention, mental health
Topics that relate to suicide prevention, emotional health, stress management and mental wellness are woven into the curriculum at all grade levels. Classroom lessons, which are connected to health and fitness at the secondary levels, are complemented by relationship-building activities and programs. Districtwide, there is also a belief that providing many opportunities for strengthening connections is central to student success -- both for mental health and academic reasons.

All freshmen take a class called “Foundations of Fitness,” which integrates physical fitness with healthy lifestyle curriculum, including topics such as nutrition, drug use and mental health. Dawn Wakeley, executive director of Teaching and Learning, said that the district is having seven staff members attend an upcoming training to evaluate the Jordan Binion Project to determine whether some components will be added to strengthen Tahoma’s curriculum.

Also in ninth grade, Tahoma has added a program called LAUNCH, which aims to provide students with skills such as goal setting, organization, time management and relationship-building to help them connect with their peers and staff member. The program was created in part to be a soft start for freshmen so we aren't just dropping them into this huge school with no additional supports, Associate Principal Chris Feist said last year. 

"How do we make 'Community, Character and Commitment' more than just words in our school?" Feist asked. "What does it feel like to make someone feel welcome? ... We're doing deliberate, little things that can reach someone and help them feel recognized even if just for a moment. It's (being) upbeat, positive, smiling and deliberately going out of their way to make someone feel welcome." 

As a complement to curriculum and lessons, many efforts at the high school help students connect and build relationships.

Through the years THS students have participated in a powerful activity called “Breaking Down the Walls,” which is designed to help students understand a bit about one another’s stories, and foster a sense of connection and caring. To read more:

In recent years, Tahoma High School has worked to adjust its leadership program by reaching out to teachers and staff for recommendations of students from all groups, interests and circles.

“We try to recruit outside of leadership to get a broader cross-section of students,” said Dave Peters, who teaches leadership and also is the activities director for THS. To that end, Bear Crew includes a wide variety of students, as well as including sophomores along with juniors and seniors. “They have provided a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Also, they are less intimidating to the freshmen. … That way we get experience and familiarity.” 

The leadership students help plan and run a variety of activities throughout the year such as “Love is a Verb” week, which encourages everyone to actively demonstrate non-romantic love. “Love is a verb stands for the daily choices we make to treat others with kindness and to put their needs above ours,” Peters said.

A focus at the high school has been the Character Strong initiative; THS has used both the curriculum and brought in speakers who help “cultivate a culture of character and develop social-emotional skills.” To read more, click here.

When the high school model work was done, a decision was made to create one lunch period, referred to as Power Hour. During this shared time, students can connect with each other and with teachers and staff, both socially and also to get help with classwork if they need it. Also during Power Hour is the opportunity to participate in clubs. Gone are the days of a handful of clubs: THS offers a host of clubs and activities that touch on many areas of common interests such as Astronomy, Sports Med, Drama, Gay Straight Alliance, Math Team, Newspaper, FFA, Robotics, DECA and many others.

“All research shows that students who are connected to anything at school other than just going to class are much more likely to succeed, including lower dropout rates,” Peters said. “My personal observation is they simply enjoy school more.”

Many students find joy and purpose through Tahoma sports teams as well, learning to work as one part of a whole, persevering and overcoming obstacles together.

Middle School
At the middle school level, students in health class learn about how to cope with anxiety and anger, the dimensions of wellness, self image, communicating and sharing feelings with peers, resolving conflicts and decision making. 

Last school year, Tahoma was one of more than 40 schools in King County to be awarded a grant from Best Starts for Kids that will provide added mental health screening and supports. The $280,000 grant is designed to help students cope with stress and social pressure, and has the potential to be extended for two additional years. That grant translates to one additional counselor in each middle school. Those two mental health and wellness coordinators have been hired and attended a training this week about SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral To) services. We will share more information about that work soon. To read more about the grant, click here.

Both middle schools last year also started the program “Where Everyone Belongs,” which teams incoming sixth-graders with eighth-grade mentors in order to encourage positive culture and discourage bullying and harassment. To read more about WEB, click here:

At the elementary level, students in kindergarten through fifth participate in the Second Step curriculum, which helps them develop social and emotional skills. In general, many of the elementary teachers are the ones to share the Second Step lessons with their classes, but in some cases the school counselor also teaches some of the lessons.

“It’s common language around recognizing and being able to speak their feelings,” said Keri Silvers, counselor at Glacier Park Elementary. The lessons address topics from learning problem solving, what bullying is and how to get help, and strategies for calming down, communicating and regulating their emotions. “It arms them with emotion awareness and then gives them tools that are appropriate for that age range.”

Silvers also stressed that Second Step lessons are not the only time that students hear about social-emotional topics. “It’s a constant theme with teachers and counselors.”

At the elementary level and middle level, another integral effort is P.B.I.S., or, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a program started by the U.S. Department of Education’s special education division. All six Tahoma elementary schools, as well as the two middle schools, are using the ideas, which are designed to encourage good choices and discourage negative behaviors. The efforts help students understand expectations, through common messaging and rewarding positive actions noticed by staff. More information about PBIS is available here.

Upcoming events, resources for suicide prevention
Tahoma has received help and guidance this week from University of Washington’s Forefront Suicide Prevention group, which is a “focused on reducing suicide by empowering individuals and communities to take sustainable action, championing systemic change, and restoring hope.”

Breaking Down the Walls: This program for THS students will happen on Nov. 13-15.

Nov. 14, 6-8 p.m.: "Suicide: A Community Conversation," co-hosted by Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation, the Enumclaw School District and Tahoma School District. The evening will feature speaker Deborah Binion of the Jordan Binion Project. Location: Enumclaw High School commons, 226 Semanski St. S., Enumclaw.

We are working on additional offerings and will share those when the details are confirmed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Connections
Crisis Text Line
Text “HEAL” to 741741

Teen Link, which offers peer counseling from teens who are trained in crisis intervention. Teen Link is available from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. by calling 206-461-4922.

Tahoma School District also offers a tip line, called Safe Schools Alert, which can be used to share information about students in crisis. It can be found here (and also under the quick links on each district/building website):
"Collaborative Teammate" skill helps foster connections
Students in Beverly Meeks' class at Shadow Lake Elementary place a clothes pin with their name on a Future Ready skill chart to indicate they have successfully completed their assignment.
Editor’s note: Each month of the school year, Tahoma asks its teachers and students to place special emphasis on one of the nine Future Ready Skills. Tahoma Matters will feature examples of how those skills are being taught in classrooms. This month’s featured skill is Collaborative Teammate.
When a quarterback completes a pass, it is because all 11 players on offense worked together to make it happen. Teamwork is essential in team sports. It’s just as necessary in the classroom and workplace, which is why Collaborative Teammate is one of Tahoma’s Future Ready Skills.

On a recent morning in Beverly Meeks’ classroom at Shadow Lake Elementary School, second-graders were paired up to work on three math games. After completing a game, they were paired with a different partner and moved on to the next game. But before they could play the game, the students had to collaborate and decide which game to play and who would go first. They even had to decide how to decide: Would they use rock, paper, scissors or a roll of the dice?

Being a Collaborative Teammate goes beyond simple cooperation. The object of collaboration is to encourage innovation to produce a quality product or result. The definition for Collaborative Teammate is: “Students work effectively with a team for shared purpose. Students understand that high-functioning teams produce better results than can be achieved independently.”

For second-graders in only their second week of school, collaboration means taking some risks because the students don’t know each other very well yet. Meeks said she was a little surprised at how well her students cooperated and collaborated to complete their assignments.
Before the students began working together, Meeks reviewed a list of expectations for students to help them be successful teammates. Among the expectations are: All working together; taking turns; sharing materials; helping each other; body control; making a team plan; and following the Tiger Way. Other expectations included sharing ideas, taking turns talking, asking questions, using kind words, offering encouragement and being polite.

“We had to do a lot of talking about how to work with others, sharing the workload,” she said. “They are doing a really good job.”

At Tahoma High School in Jeana Haag’s ninth grade Foundations physical education class this week, students paired up to work on bouldering, which is moving horizontally across the climbing wall without a harness. In prior class sessions, Haag helped the students establish trust, and covered expectations and safety. 

In the student pairs, one person climbs while the other is the spotter, and then they switch roles. Climbers are asked to strive for a personal best, while the spotter helps keep their partner safe, cheers them on, makes sure they don’t climb too high and helps them climb down rather than jumping. 

Haag asks the student pairs to break into two groups. One half practices bouldering and attempts to make it across half of the climbing wall horizontally. The other half of the class uses the remaining expanse of wall to take on a challenge: obstacles to complete while climbing horizontally. The obstacles involve climbing through a hula hoop that is attached perpendicular to the wall; and also removing one hand from the wall to reach back and move a clip from one cone to a second cone while hanging onto the wall.

During his turn, Rex Bayoca clung to the wall on one side of a hula hoop for several moments, looking for foot and hand holds that would allow him to maneuver through the hoop without falling off. After a number of tries, he made it through and smiled, looking relieved.

“It felt amazing,” Bayoca said.

Asked how this activity emphasizes being a Collaborative Teammate, he said his spotter helped him figure out where and how he should move next.

“We were kind of solving a problem,” he added.

Partners Will Aris and Seth Wright said the teamwork is key to succeeding on the climbs.

“It helped me because I could go to different footholds (that I couldn’t see). He was directing me and helping make it less awkward,” said Aris, whose goal for the day was to climb slightly higher than he did on the prior bouldering day. Wright said he worked to increase the distance between his holds.

On the other side of the wall, partners Katie Skevington and Hadley Johnson said they really relied on each other in their climber and spotter roles.

“You have to trust that person,” Skevington added.

At the end of the period, Haag taught the class how to correctly and safely put on a climbing harness, and how to tie a knot called a “Figure 8 on a bight.” Soon the students will work in groups of four to climb vertically on the wall, with the ultimate goal of reaching the top. Haag taught them how to check one another’s harnesses and knots, and complimented them on their work on the wall.

“I heard really good communication today, and I saw some amazing persistence.”
Students in Jeana Haag's ninth-grade Foundations of Fitness class work together at "bouldering" on the rock wall in the gym. Bouldering involves climbing horizontally along a section of wall at a lower height without a harness.
Bear Metal wins off-season
The Tahoma High School Bear Metal robotics team recently won an off-season event at Peak Performance, hosted by Seattle Christian School’s Apex Robotics.

The game requires robots to pick up covered milk crates and put them on scales to tip them in their alliance’s favor. There is a period where the robot must be autonomous, and a driver operated period. The team played hard and was ranked second out of 28 at the end of the qualification matches. Bear Metal selected Team 1318, the Issaquah Robotics Society from Issaquah High School, and Team 2733 Pigmice from Cleveland High School as alliance members. After quarterfinals and semifinals, Bear Metal and their alliance members won best two out of three matches in the finals and took home the winner’s trophy.

To check out a video of the final match, click Here. Bear Metal is team 2046, in blue.
In the photo, the drive team poses with drive teams from 1318 (right) and 2733 (left).
Parents, community members invited to superintendent listening sessions
Superintendent Tony Giurado is hosting a series of listening sessions with Tahoma staff, and also wants to hear from parents and community members. 

Giurado is asking those who attend to share about what is working, what needs improvement or tweaks, and what is not working. The sessions call for attendees to work in small groups, brainstorm and prioritize top points to share.

“My goal is to identify patterns and trends, as well as some priorities to present to the School Board,” he said.

There will be a daytime and an evening session for parents and community members. The daytime meeting will be from 9:30-11 a.m. on Oct. 11 at the district office. The details are still being arranged for the evening meeting, and will be shared soon.

Technology Model Review Committee volunteers selected
Beginning late last school year, the district put out a call for volunteers to sit on the upcoming Technology Model Review Committee. More than 60 people volunteered, with a well balanced representation across elementary and secondary, staff and non-employees, as well as students and community members. Volunteers were sorted by categories, and, if they fit more than one category, their name was in both sections.

Volunteers selected include: 2 parents of elementary students, 2 parents of secondary students, 2 parents of students at multiple levels. The district decided to add to the committee in order to capture some participants who work in technology related businesses or have professional technology skills.

Of the large group of parents who offered to serve on the committee, many answered the question “Why do you want to participate” with information about their careers. Two parent volunteers chosen out of the hat in the category work in the technology industry, two work in the education field, and one parent volunteer was chosen from other industries. One community volunteer was chosen out of the hat.

The district asked two fifth grade students from Rock Creek to draw the names, during a meeting Thursday of all the presidents of the PTA and PTO groups from Tahoma buildings. The committee will also include three classified staff members, three administrators, one reading specialist, six elementary teachers (one per building), one middle school dean, one elementary school dean, one secondary non-elective teacher, one world language teacher, one instructional coach from both the elementary and secondary level, two math and science teachers representing middle and high school level, two ELA/social studies teachers representing middle and high school level, one counselor or career specialist, one CTE or Project Lead the Way teacher from the high school, one STEM teacher from both elementary and secondary levels, and one librarian. In total, the committee will have about 40 members.

The first meeting will be at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at Central Services Center..

Backpack Buddies to hold Bunco fundraiser
Community members are invited to a fundraiser for Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley, a nonprofit group that provides food for Tahoma students who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend. The Bunco Night will be from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 12 at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. 

Tickets are $25, and include dinner and dessert, raffles and beverages (tickets for raffles or beverages are $2 each).

For more information, click here:

Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee meets
In its first meeting of the new school year, Tahoma School District’s Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee discussed a variety of issues, including training opportunities and equipment purchases.

The committee includes representatives from each school, parents, district administration, law enforcement, fire district, the School Board and the Puget Sound Risk Management Pool. 

Members were informed that ongoing training is being held at schools to instruct staff in the "Run-Hide-Fight" response to violent intruders. The committee also discussed a proposal to purchase emergency medical kits and to offer refresher training in dealing with traumatic injuries. A subcommittee will do further research and report at the committee’s next meeting on Dec. 5.

The annual armed intruder drill scheduled for Tahoma High School has been moved to a new date, Nov. 7. The annual earthquake drill is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The committee heard a report from Superintendent Tony Giurado about efforts by the school district and City of Maple Valley to partner on suicide prevention and mental health programs. Giurado said the district and city are researching services and programs to find the most effective and appropriate services to offer.

The committee also heard a report about new emergency procedure manuals and wall posters that have been distributed to all schools.

Immediate need for substitute custodians, bus drivers
The Tahoma School district is hiring substitute custodians and substitute bus drivers to fill immediate openings.

For more information or to apply, visit our Human Resources online application system here.
TUESDAY, Sept. 25
Cedar River Elementary open house, 6:30 p.m., CRES
School Board meeting, 6:30 p.m., Central Services Center

THURSDAY, Sept. 27
Lake Wilderness Elementary open house, 6 p.m., LWES

Rock Creek Elementary open house, 6:30 p.m., RCES
"Saving & Paying for College," open to parents with children of all ages; 6:30-8 p.m., THS PAC

FRIDAY, Oct. 12
Backpack Buddies of Maple Valley Bunco fundraiser, 6-9 p.m., Shepherd of the Valley Church. Information and tickets:

"Suicide: A Community Conversation," sponsored by Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation, Enumclaw School District and Tahoma School District, 6-8 p.m., Enumclaw High School, 226 Semanski St. S., Enumclaw

What's for lunch?
The Tahoma School District does not discriminate in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups The following employees have been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination:
Title IX Officer
Director of Human Resources
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
ADA Coordinator
Director of Human Resources
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Section 504 Coordinator
Director of Special Services
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Tahoma Matters staff Wendy Castleman:
Tahoma School District | 425-413-3400 | Visit our website
25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Rd. S.E., Maple Valley, WA 98038