Jan. 17, 2020
In this issue:
 Levy focus: Local dollars help attract, keep teachers
Parents, community members hear about levies
We the People wins first in Washington state
Update: Housing Committee continues work
"Mamma Mia" opens next weekend at THS
District kudos
Spotlight on Future Ready Day
News briefs
Tuesday snow day to be made up Jan. 27
Coming up in Bear Country
What's for lunch?
Levy focus: Local dollars help attract, keep teachers
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series of stories called “Levy Dollars Focus,” about programs supported by local levy dollars. Prior pieces: Behavioral Intervention Specialists ; Extracurriculars are vital to students ; RAP boosts student readers; Nurses help students stay in school . To read more about the two proposed levies on the February ballot, click here .
File photo
In the fall, Shadow Lake Elementary Future Ready Foundations teacher Danna Steichen taught a lesson about empathy.

The largest portion of the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy pays for the supplemental teacher contract. The district’s supplemental contract with the Tahoma Education Association helps support zero hour classes, elementary art and STEM classes, and positions such as academic advisers of clubs and activities. It also helps pay for other certificated positions such as Behavioral Intervention Specialists, psychologists, counselors and more.

Contractually, about 12.7 percent of teacher salary is provided by local levy dollars. This is not part of basic education; it is Professional Learning and Enrichment as allowed by the state Legislature.

The teachers’ Tahoma Education Association contract states, “We recognize that basic education funding does not compensate staff for the time necessary to complete all the required educational duties determined by the Tahoma School District.” Part-time employees receive a pro-rated share of the supplemental pay. The contract also states that teachers will receive the additional 12.7 percent when the EP&O levy is being collected.

Tahoma’s teachers and certificated staff, and the programs and support they provide, are a large part of the daily student experience, as are bus drivers, front office staff, custodians and nurses.

“What are some of those things that make Tahoma such a special place?” Shadow Lake Principal Mike Hanson asked at one of last week’s levy information sessions. “What are some of those things that are ‘beyond basic’ that we’ve come to expect for our kids?”

Hanson talked about the district’s annual hiring cycle, which typically begins in about February. People who work for other surrounding districts seek out jobs in Tahoma because “This is a great place to work.”

At each building in Tahoma, he pointed out, it’s the individuals who drive school buses, greet students in the office -- and teach -- that truly make up the school.

“As community members, how do we define ‘basic education?’” Hanson asked. “Are these activities and clubs a part of it? Are athletics a part of it? Are field trips a part of it?”

Those programs, along with others such as increased mental health support, zero hour classes, elementary art and STEM, the Extended Enrichment Program, academic coaches, and drama are primarily funded by local levy dollars. As a few examples, athletics and extracurricular activities cost the district $1.46 million for 2019-2020. Of that, $1.35 million comes from the Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which is up for replacement on the February ballot.

“Our kids do phenomenally academically. They really do,” Hanson said. “But part of the reason is because they’re connected to school. They wake up in the morning wanting to go participate in drama, or they have a connection to that bus driver, or they have that connection to that secretary in that school. … Our academic success is tied directly to the programs that we offer at our schools.”

It’s the high-quality teaching and staff position candidates that Tahoma attracts that make the district what it is, he emphasized. “This is a special place.”

Most people can think of one or more school staff members who were instrumental in helping them make it through their school years -- a music teacher who always asked about their day or a coach who inspired them.

Parent Laura Meyers shared one such story at one of last week’s public meetings. The middle school drama program was the element that made the difference for her daughter, who they had pulled out of school and were homeschooling for a majority of the day last year. When her daughter auditioned for the middle school musical and experienced the camaraderie and teamwork that happened as the production came together under the direction of Cheri Ayres-Graves, it was the unknown thing that they had been looking for.

“She found a group of individuals that became her family. Her measure of success, and what was successful to me -- and we take it one day at a time -- is she is back in school full time because of her experience with junior drama. … How we define success? It isn’t basic education for me.”

Although Ayres-Graves is not a Tahoma teacher, she is paid as the adviser of the middle school drama program through the TEA supplemental contract, which is not covered by the state.

Teachers say that their salary and supplemental contract are certainly not the only reasons they want to work in the district -- but that it is a factor. 

Asked why he works for Tahoma, Rock Creek teacher David Aaby, who is also president of the Tahoma Education Association, said “I think a huge part of it is the community of Tahoma. The families and the community are so supportive of the teachers. As a teacher, I feel that.”

“For teachers, when they’re looking for a place to work, they want to feel valued,” Aaby said. “I think our community does a great job of that, but part of that is also our salary. … In Tahoma, it’s the best of both worlds. You have a very supportive community, but we’re also compensating our teachers competitively when you look at surrounding districts.”

The state-funding changes from the McCleary lawsuit have helped, but levy dollars are still vital to the big picture, and help pay for all the things that the state does not consider basic education, Aaby said.

Kendall Boland is a 2015 Tahoma High School graduate and a new teacher at Tahoma Elementary, where she teaches first grade. Boland said there are many reasons she wanted to return to the district she attended growing up, but that the top factor for her is her fellow teachers.

“When I was at Tahoma, I was exposed to fabulous teachers -- my own teachers,” Boland said. “My first grade teacher was Patty Kiffer. She made such a big impact on me that I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since first grade.”

Before returning to teach in Tahoma, she had the opportunity to work in a Title I school in Oregon, which helped solidify her desire to seek a job with TSD.

“The staff support, the community support and the principal support are amazing,” Boland said. “I think a big reason I love Tahoma is there are so many opportunities for all our kids, and here in Tahoma we really do all care for all our kids. I have a few kids in RAP, and it’s not just me caring for those kids. It’s the RAP teachers, the speech teachers and all the other staff who support the kids. I think it makes our district really unique.”

With four months at Tahoma Elementary under her belt, she says she feels she made the right choice. Boland teaches in a (renovated) classroom that she sat in as a student in sixth grade, and Kiffer is now her instructional coach.

“I’m glad I’m back. This is where I’m meant to be, and where I can make a huge impact.”

Parents, community members hear about levies
Community members and parents last week attended three sessions of “Engage Tahoma: What do local levies fund?” The groups heard about what school funding looks like in the wake of the McCleary lawsuit and resulting changes to education funding.

“The intent of the laws was to try to provide equity across the state,” Interim Superintendent Mike Maryanski said. “I believe they worked backward: Here’s the amount of money we have. With this money, what can we fund?” 

School districts did get more money after that lawsuit, but the total amount of state funding is still not equal to the cost to run the Tahoma School District -- nor other districts across Washington.

“That’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now,” Maryanski said, referring to the Tahoma School Board’s decision to place two school funding measures on the Feb. 11 ballot. 

The measures include a four-year replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which would cost homeowners $2 per $1,000 assessed value. That amount is 50 cents more per $1,000 than the current rate of $1.50. The existing EP&O levy will expire in 2020. 

Shadow Lake Principal Mike Hanson, who spoke at the three sessions along with Maryanski, Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud and several School Board members, talked about how the 2018 levy failure affected the hiring process. Anytime someone considers the question “Who is Tahoma,” the answer should include attracting, hiring and retaining quality teachers and staff, Hanson said. To read more about how levy dollars affect teachers, see related article above. 

The EP&O levy would include new positions, such as additional mental health support. We’ll share more about that proposal soon. It also would pay for mandated items that have no funding attached from the state or federal government, such as inclusion practices and dyslexia screening. The state does not provide dollars for classified training and support (such as paraeducators who help struggling students learn to read); or classified staff substitutes. Additionally, substitute teachers are underfunded by the state.

The second proposal on the ballot is a four-year Technology Levy, which would cost 47 cents per $1,000 in the first year, 48 cents in the second year, 44 cents in the third year and 40 cents in the final year. Tahoma has been without a technology levy since 2018, and has been using general fund and reserve dollars to pay for some maintenance but no replacement technology. The new levy would help fund the 2020-2024 Tahoma Technology Plan, which was developed by volunteer students, staff members, parents and community members.

If the technology proposal were a new car, Hanson said, “We’re not seeking the fancy car. What we’re looking for is the Chevy, something reliable that we can count on.” He described what it’s like for a teacher to ask their 26 students to begin a project on the district’s Chromebooks, then discover that six of the computers won’t boot up or can’t access the resource needed. Learning grinds to a halt in those situations, which are not uncommon.

Maryanski emphasized that Tahoma students deserve the opportunity to experience the types of technology that are utilized in the jobs, colleges, military and other post high school paths they may choose. For example, students in the Tahoma High School robotics program have the chance to learn how to use a CNC router and the Haas machining system, which are used in industry.

King County Elections will mail ballots to voters next week. To find out whether you are registered to vote, click here.

We the People wins first in Washington state
Congratulations to the Tahoma High School We the People team, which placed first in the state competition last weekend. They will represent Washington state at the national level in Washington D.C. later this school year.
Update: Housing Committee continues work on 10-year plan
Subcommittee considers how to ease crowding at TES, CRES
A subcommittee looking at how to relieve crowding at three elementary schools is moving closer to adopting a recommendation to present to the School Board. The committee reported its progress to the full Citizens Housing Advisory Committee Wednesday. Committee facilitator Annette Whittlesey said the group’s focus has shifted to Tahoma and Cedar River elementary schools, after learning that Lake Wilderness Elementary’s enrollment concerns are being addressed by adding two portable classroom buildings for next school year. Portables also are proposed at Rock Creek and Glacier Park elementary schools.

In its most recent meeting on Jan. 8, the attendance area subcommittee began looking at ways to shift some of Tahoma Elementary School’s students to other elementary schools. Tahoma Elementary has reached its enrollment capacity and has no more room for additional portable classrooms. The committee also is discussing potential ways to handle rising enrollment at Cedar River Elementary. New portable classrooms are scheduled to be added to the school in time to begin the 2021-2022 school year. After discussion, committee members said not making changes at Cedar River until the new portables are installed might be the best answer.

The committee will continue its work later this month and plans to seek input from the public before making a recommendation to the School Board. 
Members of the full committee are working on a 10-year plan to house students in Tahoma.

“Our end goal is really pretty simple: To decide how to house students in this growing and award-winning school district,” said Jerry Gaston, principal at Tahoma Elementary School and co-facilitator of the committee. 

Due to the complex nature of all the demographic data, projections, enrollment counts and other facts committee members have been examining, they decided to visit some schools. During the site visits, committee members looked at what different spaces at schools are currently being used for, as well as hearing about what they were originally designed for -- as an example, at Cedar River Elementary School, they saw the stage, which is currently being used as an art classroom, and the commons/lunchroom, where some of the Future Ready Foundations classes are taught. They looked at access to restrooms, gyms, lunchrooms and common spaces during passing time. At each site, staff noted that storage is an issue; using Cedar River as an example again, the RAP program has books that many teachers need to access, but nowhere convenient to store them, so they are organized in file cabinets in a hallway. Overcrowding also causes problems in common spaces such as playgrounds, gyms and lunchrooms at many buildings, the committee noted.

They are considering whether spaces could be used creatively, such as whether kindergarten classrooms districtwide could be used for students in grades 1-5 and kindergartners housed together in one building. 

A second subcommittee is meeting on Jan. 27 to help develop the criteria that the group as a whole will use to evaluate potential proposals in order to determine what they will recommend to the School Board at the end of their process. 
"Mamma Mia" opens next weekend at THS
Photo courtesy of Daedre Perez
Victoria Evans, center, plays Sophie in "Mamma Mia." At left are Morgan Bailey, who plays Lisa, and at right, Ellie Rector as Ali.

Got the winter blues? Take an (affordable) trip to an island off the coast of Greece with Tahoma High School Drama’s production of “Mamma Mia,” which opens Jan. 24. Featuring a cast of thespians who have strong vocal, dramatic and dance skills, the musical is high energy, colorful and enchanting.

“We selected this show because it served as a nice contrast to the heaviness of our last musical, ‘Les Mis,’ and our upcoming spring musical, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’” director Melissa Bean said. “It is really just such a fun show.” The mother-daughter moments between Donna and Sophie, the interactions of Donna and her Dynamos and the opportunity to include more strong female leads made this script appeal to Bean, she said.

“I’m also thrilled about the dancing in this show! We have a new choreographer, Mackenzie Malhotra, and she has been a wonderful addition to our program. She has such high expectations and the kids have really risen to the occasion,” Bean said. “If you love the movie or the songs of ABBA, you will love this production!”

From the opening scenes of Sophie mailing off letters to three men who may be her father to the beachful of young men dancing in flippers to the wedding at the end, Tahoma’s take on this Broadway show is excellent.

“As Melissa said, this is a great contrast to our spring show,” Musical Director Ken Riggs said. “It’s mostly light and fun music, but still very well written.”

One of his favorite numbers is “S.O.S.,” but he said all the songs sound good, and that it has been fun to watch the students grow in skill throughout rehearsals. 

“This is a fun and entertaining show,” Riggs said. “Audience members will leave with a ‘smile on their face and a song in their heart.’”

Several of the students shared their take on “Mamma Mia.”

Freshman Ellie Rector, who plays one of Sophie’s friends: “I really wanted to be part of the Tahoma drama program because I had only heard great things about it.” Rector’s favorite moment in the production is “Honey, Honey,” because she loves interacting with her scene partners, she said.

Sophomore Cooper Perez, who is the understudy for Sam, said he loves “Under Attack,” which features nightmare creatures. “It’s a great show -- very lively and has a lot of energy,” Perez added.

The energy is evident backstage, where students in the ensemble dance as they sing during rehearsal.

Sophomore Victoria Evans plays Sophie. “I love this show,” Evans said, noting that the theatre program has become a second family to her. The role of Sophie has been wonderful and also challenging, she said. Getting the opportunity to show emotional depth and explore the relationship with her onstage mom, Donna, played by Maddi Fickel, has been amazing. The most difficult aspect is making “Sophie” her own, Evans noted.

Junior Sam Miller, who plays Harry, said the dancing in the musical is “really cool.” “I love the way they took the songs from ABBA and transformed them straight to the stage,” Miller said. In his estimation, the best serious song is “S.O.S.,” and the best funny song is “Does Your Mother Know?”

Sophomore Lucia Selby is a sound tech who was also helping to build sets backstage earlier this week. Last year during ‘Les Mis,’ she enjoyed helping to build the massive buildings for the set out of foam. Selby said she likes to participate in the productions because of staff members like Bean and teacher Paul Remfer. “It’s great life experience. You get to use things like this,” she said, gesturing to a staple gun. “It also looks great on a college application!”

The show runs about two hours plus intermission. Due to subject matter, Bean said she would encourage parents to research the stage version of the familiar story before deciding whether to bring their children to the production. 

Donna and her Dynamos perform "Super Troupers" during rehearsal.
THS student recognized as elite athlete
Tahoma High School’s Chey Jones is Gatorade Washington Volleyball Player of the Year. Jones, a senior outside hitter, also was named Class 4A Player of the Year by the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association in December. She helped lead the Bears to the state volleyball championship this season.

According to a news release, the Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes the nation’s most elite high school athletes for athletic excellence, academic achievement, and exemplary character.

Bears football player accepted to U.S. Air Force Academy
Tahoma High School senior football player Sam Petersen has received a Principal Nomination to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and to play football for the Falcons. Petersen received a personal phone call from Congresswoman Kim Schrier, who told Petersen that he is her top nominee to attend the academy and is guaranteed admission.

Spotlight on Future Ready Day
Parent Melissa Garvin spoke with students about her job as a registered nurse.

Students at Summit Trail and Maple View middle schools spent their Friday absorbing information that could help shape their future.

About 100 people, representing a wide sampling of careers and experiences, met with students as part of Future Ready Day. Students rotated through four presentations from people who volunteered to share insights about careers and how Tahoma School District’s Future Ready skills are helping prepare students to make good choices.

At Summit Trail Middle School, the day began with an all-school assembly as students heard from retired Seattle Seahawks place-kicker Norm Johnson, who explained how he had to “figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up” after he retired from football and was looking for his next career. He encouraged students to be flexible, ask lots of questions, and bring a variety of skills and abilities to their work. “Be prepared to change and adapt,” he said. 

Students at both middle schools chose areas of interest and then were assigned a schedule that guided them to guest presenters in four sessions. The presenters came from business, military, education, law enforcement, the arts, medicine, law, software development, and other professions.
King County Sheriff's Deputy J.D. Williams, a bomb disposal technician, talked about his job, demonstrated a robot and dressed a volunteer student in protective gear that would be used while his team is deactivating a device.

IDEA Project in need of volunteers
The IDEA Project introduces students to the idea of differences and what it’s like to have different abilities. Visiting Cedar River Elementary next week, the IDEA Project needs volunteers to help out

Volunteer tasks are easy to learn, and can be viewed here. Each volunteer must be cleared through the district volunteer clearance. 

For more information on the IDEA Project, click here: https://theideaproject.org/

Tahoma to host Teacher Job Fair Feb. 5
The Tahoma School District will host a Teacher Job Fair from 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2020 in the Learning Commons at Tahoma High School.

We are hiring kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, counselors, Special Education teachers, Behavioral Intervention Specialists, occupational/physical therapists, and psychologists. At the event, you'll have the opportunity to meet our principals, drop off your resume and ask any questions you may have about working for Tahoma.

To learn more about our district or the job fair, visit our Human Resources page or call 425-413-3406.

Please use the east entrance to THS (off Maple Valley Highway near Les Schwab).

THS students invited to learn about Tahoma Track & Field 
Any students in grades 9-12 who are interested in turning out for Tahoma High School Track & Field is asked to attend a meeting during Power Hour B on Tuesday, Jan. 21, in the performing arts center. If you can’t attend the meeting, stop coach Jeff Brady’s room (328) for information.

Details about the season can also be found on the team website at https://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/School.aspx?SchoolID=525 Those who are interested are also invited to sign up for emails using the communication form on the website.

THS PTA Scholarship Application opens soon
The Tahoma Community Partner Scholarship application portal will be open to students at 3 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3. All applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20. The application program is set on an automatic timer and is exact for Pacific Standard Time. Absolutely no late applications will be processed.
Applications can be accessed at http://scholarships.tahomapta.com

The application process will show which sections have been completed and what still needs to be done. Due to letters of recommendation getting spammed or sent to other folders in some email inboxes, we strongly suggest that students keep a close eye on whether the letters have been submitted. Applicants will not be able to see the letter itself, but will receive a check mark next to the progress of recommendation in the profile.

The PTA suggests a timeline of: 
  • February 7: Finish all basic profile application information and send out recommendation requests
  • February 14: Begin all required essays
  • February 28: Follow up on recommendation requests and finish all essays
  • March 6: Verify requests were returned, recheck all progress and finalize any incomplete items 
  • March 13: Make all final follow-up calls
  • March 20: If not already submitted, make sure everything is complete and submit applications by 5 p.m. 

All questions may be directed to Stacy Pleskoff via email at thsptascholarships@gmail.com, with “Scholarship Question” in the subject line.
Tuesday snow day to be made up on Jan. 27
Conditions throughout the district can vary widely. For example, the above photo was taken in the Hobart area Thursday morning, while many parts of Tahoma had little to no new snow.

Fresh snow on top of ice created slick road conditions this week in the parts of the school district, leading to one day of no school and two late start days. The two-hour late starts provided time for road crews to plow and sand main routes, while school district staff cleared parking lots and sidewalks.

The built-in snow make-up day on Jan. 27 will be a school day to make up for the missed day. It will be a gold day at Maple View, Summit Trail and Tahoma High School.

Any additional days missed will need to be made up.

Over the course of this week, several parents and community members asked how the district makes its decisions on inclement weather days.
In general, staff and administrators begin discussing plans for checking on all school sites and roads in the district as soon as forecasts indicate major weather events. 
Transportation staff members begin driving the roads of the district and checking on buildings and facilities at about 3 a.m., depending on conditions. Those staff members update other administrators, and begin discussing options, based on what the safest decision would be along with what the implications are for programs such as Extended Enrichment and other activities scheduled for that day. Other factors considered are whether the necessary staff members can make it safely to work. While some staff live within the boundaries of the Tahoma School District, many others live in surrounding communities. If the required number of bus drivers cannot get to work, for example, the district would not be able to operate bus routes.
On a normal day, buses begin rolling for the earliest routes at 6 a.m., and the EEP programs open at each elementary site at 6 a.m. This means that ideally, the district has to notify staff and families of a two-hour delay or closure via text, phone and email between 5 and 6. It’s hard to hit a sweet spot, because any earlier is too early for some families, and any later is too late for those who are already en route. Our area frequently experiences a sudden dip in temperatures between 6 and 8 a.m., which complicates matters.
The district stretches from the intersection of Maple Valley Highway and 154th Place Southeast at the northwest corner and as far northeast as portions of Rattlesnake Mountain and to Taylor Mountain. To the southeast, it extends out beyond the Kanaskat Palmer area and Sugarloaf Mountain; and the southwest corner of the district includes parts of Lake Sawyer. A map can be viewed here. Trouble areas include but are not limited to: Arcadia, Hobart, Maple Valley Heights, Berry Patch, parts of Daybreak, Wilson Hill, Ravensdale and Lake Retreat. The worst-affected areas vary by storm and type of weather.
Additionally, the district now has three trucks that are able to spread sand on slippery spots, such as hills and bridges as needed. We also have great partnerships with King County, the city of Maple Valley, city of Covington, city of Black Diamond and Washington State Department of Transportation; they are responsive to requests from district personnel. Last night and this morning, district trucks and vehicles from other agencies covered multiple areas that ensured district buses had good traction.
After assessing all the factors during the early morning hours, Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud, Director of Operations Tom Misfeldt and Supervisor of Operations Sean P. Kelly make a recommendation to Interim Superintendent Mike Maryanski, who makes the final decision. The School Board is kept in the loop as well. Once a decision is reached, Communications staff notify FlashAlert, which informs news media, and post to the website, Facebook and Twitter while also sending phone, email and text alerts to parents and staff members.

MONDAY, Jan. 20
NO SCHOOL, districtwide, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

MONDAY, Jan. 27
Regular school day, to make up for Tuesday's snow day

TUESDAY, Jan. 28
Tahoma School Board meeting, 6:30 p.m., Central Services Center

MONDAY, Feb. 3
King County Elections deadline to register to vote or to update registration online or by mail for the Feb. 11, 2020 election.

TUESDAY, Feb. 11
Election Day

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: wcastlem@tahomasd.us
Tahoma School District | 425-413-3400 | Visit our website
25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Rd. S.E., Maple Valley, WA 98038