Nov. 21, 2019
In this issue:

Transition students, local businesses work together
Housing Committee to visit schools, observe challenges
Tahoma girls wrestling ready to take the mat for inaugural season
Bear Tracks: THS grad helps lead college machine shop
Thank you to Board Directors Pierson, Glaser
Sports: cross country, volleyball, swim
District kudos
Spotlight on THS: Students enjoy Super Smash Bros. tourney
News briefs
Coming up in Bear Country
What's for lunch?

Transition students, local businesses work together
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 Conscientious Worker .
Wednesday morning, a team of four students from the Tahoma Student Transition Program arrived at Safeway to report for work. The 18- to 21-year-old students paired up and tackled a large shopping basket full of “go-backs,” or items that customers decided they didn’t want at the registers. 

On any given day, other groups of students from the program work or volunteer at Grocery Outlet, the Greater Maple Valley Community Center, the FFA farm at Maple View Middle School, Johnson’s, Walgreens, Elk Run Farm, and the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. One student also has a paid job with Trillium, and two have internships with Skills Inc.

At Safeway, Hanna White and Isaiah Shorter have been working together for some time and have a fun, cooperative rapport. Although Shorter knows where most items are, the two take turns leading the way and letting White lead the way through the store. 

While in the dairy section, White holds up the next item, a box of granola bars. 

“Hanna, do you know which aisle?” Shorter asks. 

“Aisle 5! I got it right here,” White replies, tapping the side of her head.

On occasion, an item stumps them both, but they don’t give up. Instead, they walk to a new aisle and begin searching for the correct placement.

The definition of Conscientious Worker states “Students are trustworthy, dependable and effectively interact with others to get work done. Students take responsibility for results and demonstrate a strong work ethic.” Those qualities are a great description of what the Transition students are working toward and displaying on the job at Safeway.

Job coach and paraeducator Beverly Attix drives the group to Safeway and other job sites, and talks with them about maintaining a professional voice level, parking carts to one side of the aisle so that customers can pass by easily, how to “face” or arrange products neatly on the shelves and other tips.

“I absolutely think this program is awesome,” Attix said. “These kids come out at the end of the three years ready to work.”

As she, Shorter and White turn the corner of another aisle, they find a cart that has been left abandoned for more than an hour since their arrival. The team decides to add it to their tasks for the morning, and return the items in the cart to their proper locations throughout the store.

In general, the Transition program helps students learn job skills, social skills and life skills such as cooking, shopping, cleaning and budgeting. They talk about things such as recycling, loading a dishwasher properly, doing their own laundry, healthy eating and more. On some days, the group takes outings to restaurants and practices how to order properly, and how to tip. During many afternoons, students work on projects at training tables, such as sorting and bagging items, bundling silverware, folding T-shirts, hanging tools or, on one recent afternoon, creating tiny crafted turkeys that will sit on the table during a Thanksgiving meal the students are learning how to plan, cook and eat together.

“The Transition team of: Special Education teachers, para-educators (job coaches and one-to-one para-educators), Behavior Technician, Speech Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physical Therapist work cooperatively to develop conscientious workers who can demonstrate a strong work ethic,” said Laurie Olson-Pennington, the lead instructor, who is in her first year with Tahoma. She has been a special education teacher for 35 years and worked in similar programs in Tacoma and Enumclaw. “Students have the opportunity to learn job skills in real life work settings, develop leisure skills in community settings and learn activities of daily living in an apartment-like setting.”
Shorter, who is in his second year in the program, gestured at his fellow students, teachers and classroom, and said, “This is a great place!”

In the photo above, White and Shorter give each other a fist bump after re-shelving an item a customer decided not to purchase, during their job site visit at Safeway.
Housing Committee to visit schools, observe challenges
Seeing each school in person, in particular to observe the most highly used common areas during transitions, is at the top of the “to-do” list for members of the Citizens Housing Advisory Committee. Those members who want to visit school buildings will have the opportunity to do so over the next several weeks, before the full committee reconvenes in January to continue its work.

The committee includes students, parent volunteers from each part of the district, and staff members. Tahoma Elementary Principal Jerry Gaston and Human Resources Director Mark Koch are facilitating the group, which has been asked to come up with options for the School Board about how best to meet student needs for classroom and support spaces during the next 10 years.

“We’re taking a step back and looking at all the possibilities,” Gaston said during the committee’s most recent meeting on Tuesday.

“Thank you again for your contributions to this community, for your dedication and time,” Gaston said to the committee members. “We hope you can sense the value we’re placing on the questions you have and finding the answers.”

Committee members have asked for and received additional information on student headcount; where students live (represented on a heat-map style, by grade level); capacities at each elementary; portables and more.

Koch said that during the time between the committee’s meetings, staff members examined how to best give the volunteers a better look at the answers to their questions.

“What’s the best way for you to see it, live it, understand it? What are the best ways to mitigate some of the problems that the schools are experiencing?” he asked. The idea for the building visits sprang from those conversations. Staff members hope the tours will give committee volunteers a better idea of what it looks like when buildings are in full swing; and also to see what good things are happening and what challenges occur.

Committee members expressed interest in seeing 

  • Any spaces that aren’t being used
  • Rooms or spaces that are not being used as they were intended
  • District-level programs such as the preschool at Lake Wilderness or the Transition Program at the high school
  • Elementary specialist spaces such as music, libraries (which now house Future Ready Foundations classes), art, STEM and PE. 
  • Traffic patterns

They would like to hear about creative solutions to space problems that have been used in years past, as well as what principals’ thoughts are on their ideal number of students and best use of spaces. Additionally, they want to see what the building schedule looks like and hear about how small group spaces are used by speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists, vision specialists and mental health specialists.

In table groups, the committee members began brainstorming how they might assess or grade potential long-term solutions in order to prioritize what they present to the School Board. Ideas so far include how well it meets the criteria the School Board provided, how it might affect equity and equality; longevity, cost, quality of the students’ experience, whether it would impact or maintain culture and climate.

The next full committee meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15 in the board room at the Central Services Center. A few representatives will also give a progress report to the board at their Nov. 26 meeting.

To read about the prior housing committee work, click here.

A subcommittee with similar representation is working on shorter term solutions, particularly how to solve enrollment challenges at Tahoma Elementary and Lake Wilderness Elementary. They met two weeks ago and began work on a rubric that they’ll use to assess potential strategies. 

The group reviewed enrollment numbers and projected growth at each elementary school. Information about available classrooms, including existing and proposed portable classrooms, was provided to the group. There was also information about construction of new homes in the school district and where development is occurring or being planned. The subcommittee will meet again on Dec. 12.
Tahoma girls wrestling ready to take the mat for inaugural season
Girls wrestling coach Tim Kitchen stands in the auxiliary gym, where the wrestling teams (and other groups) practice.
When the whistle blows to mark the first wrestling match of the season, a new team will be representing Tahoma High School’s wrestling program. For the first time, this year’s THS Bears wrestlers will include both a boys team and a girls team.

Girls coach Tim Kitchen started wrestling in kindergarten, and has been wrestling or coaching wrestling ever since.

“Tahoma has such a rich tradition in wrestling,” said Kitchen, who recently returned to teach in special education at the high school after a couple of years away from the district while he coached in White River. He used to coach fastpitch softball, and also coached middle school football at Maple View this year. “(Tahoma) has a coaching staff with a lot of camaraderie. It’s really a family.”

The Tahoma School Board last June approved the official addition of girls wrestling to the sports offered at the high school.

“We’re excited for the opportunity our female athletes will have to compete in the sport of wrestling,” Athletic Director Tony Davis said. “We’re fortunate to have an experienced coach in Tim Kitchen … he has already gotten our students excited about the opportunity to make history by being a part of Tahoma High School’s first-ever girls wrestling team.”

Between 20 and 25 girls have said that they would like to be part of the team, Kitchen said, which is more than double what he and Davis estimated when they sat down to decide how many uniforms to order. “It’s been a pleasant surprise,” he said. “We may be doubling our order for uniforms and headgear.”

Kitchen attributes some of that interest to the fact that the sport is growing in general, with added interest at the college level and other opportunities to participate at the local and regional level. The interest level may also be high here because of the strong feeder program and boys high school teams. For example, one student had planned to serve as the boys team’s manager -- until she found out that she could wrestle on the girls team.

“It’s just such a neat sport,” Kitchen said. “I can’t think of any sport like it that builds character in the same way. It’s one on one -- me against you -- and all my friends and family are going to watch.”

The program will also offer girls the chance to learn about nutrition, weight training and other components that will help them grow as athletes. “They get a lot out of it,” he added.

Girls wrestling will be a no-cut sport, and it’s not too late for any interested students to turn out. They need to have their pink card and get 12 practices in, and then they will be able to compete.

Some of the other teams in the league have girls wrestling contingents, but none have numbers in the 20-25 athlete range. As a result, coaches will match opponents by weight class when possible and the girls will compete in Round Robin style events. In some situations, the girls team members may have the opportunity to compete against boys, if both athletes are comfortable with it, Kitchen said.

The Bears first meet will be the Lady Jag Kickoff on Dec. 7 at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup. Their schedule will be posted by late Friday. To check it out and find a meet to cheer them on at, click here.

“We’re excited,” he said. “This (team) is something that there’s been a desire for in the community.”

Bear Tracks: THS grad helps lead college machine shop
Editor’s note: “Bear Tracks” is an occasional, ongoing series that shares a glimpse of where Tahoma alumni go after graduation. Have an idea? Email us here .
Photo courtesy of Matthew Culp
In the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering shop, also called the Capstone Lab, at Montana State University, Matthew Culp serves as the supervising teacher's assistant in his first year at the institution.

Matthew Culp says he has tried to live by this quote, which is often attributed to Mark Twain: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.”

“Tahoma really enabled me to do that -- to take the classes that I needed and wanted, and to also be teaching, be learning and be getting AP credit all at the same time,” said Culp, who graduated from Tahoma High School in June and is now attending Montana State University in Bozeman. “A lot of the districts don’t have the opportunities that we do.”

Although he is in his first year of college, Culp entered with enough credits to qualify him as a sophomore, which meant he had the chance to register sooner and is taking mostly classes in his declared major, mechanical engineering. He said he chose MSU for its engineering program, its mountainous terrain and the affordability offered via the WUE (Western Undergraduate Exchange) Agreement. And, Culp was able to walk into the machine shop at MSU, describe his experience, and land a position as the supervising teacher’s assistant of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering shop, also called the Capstone Lab.

He attributes much of his success to his involvement in robotics for seven seasons, including Lego robotics in middle school, two seasons in a league that has since disbanded and three years with Bear Metal. 

“I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. (Robotics) builds the skills that are hard to teach in the classroom. Soft skills: How do you work with people? How do you work in a group?” Culp said. “I wouldn’t have the scholarships and jobs that I do if it wasn’t for robotics.”

Over the summer, he had the opportunity to intern for Exotic Metals Forming Company in Kent, which specializes in aerospace sheet metal. Culp was an intern in the weld shop. The company makes tip and nozzle components, as well as trailing cones for engines and other parts. The chance for the internship came about because he was working on a project at the high school one evening while an apprenticeship event was happening. A recruiter from Renton Technical College who helps connect students with internships stopped by and talked with Culp, and three days later, Exotic Metals offered him a summer position.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities opened up to me,” Culp said, expressing his appreciation for not only his time in the robotics programs but also the welding class he took at THS and his time as a Vocational Lead with teacher Darren Collins. Vocational leads are students who have considerable skill in an area such as manufacturing, floral design or video production. In Collins’ classroom, Culp helped teach a smaller group of students about manufacturing, while Collins worked with the larger portion of the class.

“It’s hard to learn to run a machine with 20 people in the room. It’s a lot easier with five or six people,” he said. “That helped me learn how I was going to teach, and that has helped me here at the university.”

While helping teach some of the advanced robotics students as a Vocational Lead, Culp honed his skills on the CNC router and the Haas machining system.

"Matthew joined the robotics team his sophomore year and immediately showed interest and talent in fabrication," THS teacher and Bear Metal adviser Darren Collins said.

"Our team has several CNC machines that require quite a bit of training to run properly. After showing great success his first year on the team we chose him to be our fabrication lead for his junior and senior year," Collins said. "To prepare to take on this leadership role, Matthew spent his summer researching and learning new techniques to save us time and improve various techniques that we were using. He helped develop a host of new standards of manufacturing within our team."

His time at Exotic Metals helped him build his welding talents. The hours logged in both areas meant that Culp amassed a significant body of knowledge and expertise.

“I put thousands of hours -- probably tens of thousands of hours in. … I have the machining skills of a senior in a four-year program, and the same with welding. I can make basically anything I want,” he said. Working as the lead in the machine shop in Bozeman, Culp helps other students, primarily juniors and seniors, determine the process they’ll use to manufacture parts for their capstone project, and helps them set up their machines.

Asked about his favorite memories from Tahoma, Culp mentioned the times that Bear Metal won the division championships in 2017 and 2019; class projects such as building small cars in physics that run off electricity gathered from metal on either side of the track; and a project in advanced robotics that called for his group to design, build within a budget and make deliverable an electric cart that runs off of batteries used in other robotics projects.

Speaking of the time he has invested to build up so many skills, he said, “I chose to do it, and that was my choice, but there was a lot of investment from the school, also. The vocational lead program gave me a lot of the skills I have today. There was so much opportunity, and that’s something I really appreciated.”
Thank you to Board Directors Pierson, Glaser
The School Board at the groundbreaking for the new Tahoma High School in 2015, from left: Didem Pierson, Tim Adam, Tami Henkel, Mary Jane Glaser and Bill Clausmeyer.
The Nov. 26 School Board meeting will mark the end of an era for the Tahoma School Board, as two longtime board members will attend their last meeting as directors. Collectively, School Board President Didem Pierson and Board Director Mary Jane Glaser have served Tahoma students and staff for nearly 40 years.

Glaser was appointed to the board in July of 1998, then elected in November of 1999. Pierson was elected to the board in November of 2003. Both decided not to run for reelection.

In their combined years on the board, Glaser and Pierson have served in many capacities and on countless committees, including representing the board with the Teaching and Learning Department, reviewing course proposals, sitting on the Safety Committee, attending PTA Round Table meetings, working with the district-level PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) team, Special Education, Career and Technical Education, the Tahoma Schools Foundation and more.

The two have touched every building and department in the district over those years in one way or another. They have been part of numerous initiatives that shaped curriculum, student safety, rights and responsibilities and community engagement. 

“They have both contributed so much to Tahoma students and our system,” said Interim Superintendent Mike Maryanski, who worked with both Pierson and Glaser from the time they each joined the board until his retirement in 2014. “Between the two of them, they’ve been board president for 12 years since 2000. They take with them the leadership experience that they gained over those 12 years. We will miss that in our school system.”

“Their commitment has extended far beyond what the expectation is for a board member in connecting with departments, staff members and students in our school system,” Maryanski continued. “On a personal note, I take pride in knowing that I have contributed to their growth as leaders in our school system, and look forward to a continued relationship beyond their tenure as board members. I thank them for their support in my role over the years.”

Sue VanRuff, retired executive director of the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, said Glaser and Pierson deserve the community’s thanks for their leadership and commitment to students.

“Mary Jane was relentless in her pursuit of making Tahoma among the top districts in the state, for guiding the district in helping to make Tahoma students Future Ready, and by making the new high school in the city of Maple Valley a reality,” Van Ruff said. “Where did Didem find all that time and energy while tending to her own active family? She was always so energized! Didem was truly a positive force and champion of this district.”

Fellow board member Tami Henkel has served with Pierson and Glaser for many years.

"Mary Jane has over and over demonstrated her commitment to our district. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mary Jane and be a part of the accomplishments that have taken place during our time together. I will miss the collaboration and vast experience she brings to our work," Henkel said.

"Didem's dedication and passion for Tahoma has been inspirational to me. Over the years, we have served on many, many committees together and I appreciate her insight, perspectives and contributions to our district's success. I thank Didem for helping me to be a better servant to our community," she added.

Also on Tuesday, the two new School Board members will be sworn in. Voters elected Pete Miller to replace Pierson, and Malia Hollowell to take Glaser’s seat. We’ll share more about Miller and Hollowell in an upcoming issue of the newsletter. The board will select a new president and vice president on Tuesday.

We asked Glaser to share her thoughts about her time on the board.

"In the past, education was defined as the three Rs: ‘Readin', Ritin' and ‘Rithmetic.’ My three Rs are: Responsibility; Reflection and Relationships. My goal these past 21-plus years has been to perform the duties of a school director with diligence and civility. Reflection is the practice of employing checks and balances with the accountability necessary for an effective board director,” Glaser said. “Relationships are key to building trusting teams of like-minded, thoughtful people who are united in the shared vision of a Tahoma School District where all adults focus on creating a learning environment centered around each and every student, every day.

“It is those relationships that were the greatest gifts and which I will miss the most as I leave my board service,” she said. “Thank you to all my supporters who gave me the greatest honor of serving the Tahoma School District,” she continued. “I congratulate the new members of the school board and wish them much success as they begin their service to the students, staff, parents and community. To my current colleagues on the board and all Tahoma employees, thank you for making a difference and building the outstanding Tahoma School District."

Pierson shared these recollections about her 16 years on the board:

“When I first ran for election, I wanted to contribute to my community and make an impact on the lives of others. I was honored to be elected into the position and I took the responsibility very seriously. I put my heart and soul into this work. Every year when I attended graduation and had the opportunity to shake the hands of the graduates and hand them their diplomas, I knew that I had a part -- as small as it may be -- in their educational journey,” Pierson said. “What I realized very quickly is that our school system is comprised of individuals with deep commitment and care for our students. Our system values collaboration and relationships. I am blessed to have been a part of this school district. I have great appreciation for the opportunity that was given to me by my community.”
Pierson reads "A Bad Case of Stripes" to a class of Lake Wilderness Elementary students in the old building, on Read Across America Day about five years ago.
Glaser with choir teacher Ken Riggs, in about 2004, when she was awarded "Friend of Music for the Green River Region" by the Washington Music Educators Association.
Cross country teams place 2nd, 3rd at state
Tahoma High School’s boys and girls cross country teams traveled to Pasco Nov. 9 for the 4A Washington State Championship meet. They came home two trophies heavier, after running their way to second place and third place, respectively.

“We had an incredible state meet,” Coach Jeff Brady said. “Our second-place boys finish and third-place girls finish was the best combined finish for Tahoma cross country. It really showed how hard everyone worked throughout the season. As coaches, we were really proud of how hard they ran.” 
The cross country teams were undefeated this season; both the boys and the girls teams had 7 wins and 0 losses. Both the girls and boys teams placed second in the North Puget Sound League district meet.
The NPSL Cascade Division all-league girls honors included, for first team: Faith Martinez, Theresa Barnhart, Anika Nau, Lulu Brady, Sara Sanders, Sage Aguilar and Savanna Acosta. The NPSL Cascade Division all-league boys honors included Ethan Martin, Brian Martinez, Matthew Bruneel, Cameron Stuard and Alex Kiefer. Second team honors included Jack Clarke and Dominic Manzo.
Ethan Martin and Faith Martinez were also named male and female NPSL Cascade Division Athletes of the Year.

Swim & dive team takes sixth in state
The Bears girls swim and dive team brought home sixth place last weekend from the 4A state championship meet in Federal Way.

“Congratulations to the Tahoma girls swim and dive team for an outstanding season,” Coach Dave Wright said. “The season accomplishments include four school records, a relay achieving All-American Consideration status and three seniors earning All-American Academic honors.”

The team’s 200 medley relay including sophomore Hannah Weissman, sophomore Hailey Sears, freshman Sloane Wichelmann and junior Kendra Gibson took second place overall at state with the sixth-best time in 4A state meet history. Their time of 1:46.21 was a school record and earned an All-American Consideration time; All-American relays will be announced in June.

Other state results in the top 10 included: 
  • 200 IM, freshman Makenna Portmann, 9th place
  • 50 free, Sears, 9th place
  • 100 free, Weissman, 3rd place at state and new school record
  • 500 free, freshman Makenna Portmann, 10th place
  • 200 free relay of Sears, Gibson, Wichelmann and Portmann, sixth place at state
  • 100 back, Weissman, ninth place
  • 100 breast, Sears, sixth place at state and new school record
  • 400 free relay of Weissman, Gibson, senior Emiri Nishizawa, and Portmann, fifth place

The team was undefeated in dual meets for the third season in a row and won the NPSL Championship for the third season in a row. Seven girls earned All-League status: Amelia Blakely (Swim), Gibson (Swim), Nishizawa (Swim), Sears (Swim), Weissman (Swim), Katie Welsh (Dive), Wichelmann (Swim). Weissman was also named League MVP.

Volleyball heads to state championship
The THS Bears at the district tournament, where they placed third.
The high school gave the volleyball team a sendoff to the state tournament Thursday morning.
“We qualified for state this past weekend after finishing third in our district tournament. While we suffered our first loss, we finished the weekend 3-1, and played well,” co-coach Sara Russell said. “We had some good learning experiences from our matches, and are more ready than ever to head to state and have a strong finish to our season!”

The Bears are 19-1 overall and 7-0 in league play. 

Russell and co-coach Maria Bahlenhorst were named coaches of the year in the NPSL Cascade Division, and senior Chey Jones was named MVP. All-league honors include: senior Brooke Cassidy, first team; junior Rachel Davis, first team, senior McKenna Peters, first team; senior Kennedy Kibby, second team; senior Sydney Thompson, second team; senior Maddie Burdulis, honorable mention; sophomore Zoe Fauli, honorable mention; sophomore Delaney Speer, honorable mention; and senior Kaia Garcia, honorable mention.
DECA focuses on community service projects
Tahoma High School DECA is in the midst of four community service activities, including a toy drive and a sandwich sales promotion that are underway now.

The sandwich drive is being done in collaboration with the Maple Valley Jersey Mike’s restaurant. Sandwich sales profits are being donated by DECA to Footprints of Fight, an organization dedicated to providing services for families and patients of pediatric cancer in Washington state. Inspiration for the sandwich drive came after DECA adviser John Devlin learned that a former DECA student has cancer. DECA students created a card with supportive messages and sent it to the former student.

The toy drive is DECA’s annual project that contributes to Shop With a Cop, which provides toys to children in need. The toy drive’s goal is to collect at least 250 toys and $200.

DECA members have completed two community service projects this year: the annual Halloween Carnival and a food drive. The carnival, hosted by the Future Business Leaders of America, is held at the high school and DECA members were in charge of the cakewalk. Members were asked to bring in baked items, candy and set up the music for the walk. This event, organized by advisers Lori Patrick and Cristine Azizeh, brought together FBLA, DECA, the Future Farmers of America, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and the Future Health Care Professionals club. This community service activity provides a friendly and safe environment for kids. The event was a success. 

Tahoma DECA members also participated in the Interact Club’s food drive, whose goal was to have all members bring in food items to be donated to the Maple Valley Food Bank. More than 90 percent of the members donated, and the Interact Club collected more than 2,000 pounds of food.  

Soccer coach, players honored in NPSL Cascade
Tahoma High School girls soccer coach Alyssa Hurt was named coach of the year for the North Puget Sound League Cascade Division. Athlete Bridget Nolan was named defensive player of the year.

All-league honors for the team included first team, Arianna Brothers and Campbell Neste; second team Britten Ikeomu; and honorable mention Madelyn Brothers and Megan Schreck.

Letters of intent signed by soccer players
Four THS soccer players recently signed letters of intent to play for teams after high school. From left are Elizabeth Basile, Campbell Neste, Madalyn Brothers and Emily Darcy.
Spotlight on THS: Students enjoy Super Smash Bros. tourney
From left are Ryan Petty, who placed third, Jonah Wiggins, who placed first, and Luke Watkinson, who placed second in the student-organized Super Smash Brothers Tournament.
In the Tahoma High School performing arts center on several recent mornings, some surprising stars took center stage: Joker and Pokemon Trainer. Technically, the characters from Super Smash Brothers weren’t on the stage, but rather above it, on the big screen. Throughout the PAC, “ooohs,” “aaahs” and applause rang out as students cheered on their friends in the final battles of a three-day video game tournament organized by the leadership students.

“Come on, Donald! You can do this,” one student called out during a match. A few others brought signs to encourage their friends, leadership teacher Kristen VanHoomissen said. 

“I have this contingent of kids that play outside my room,” VanHoomissen said. “I thought it would be cool if we could play it on the big screen.”

The 44-game tournament was played solely during Power Hour. Students who wanted to play signed up and brought their own controllers. Leadership students created a tournament bracket, and the battles began. By the final day of the competition, 11 players remained for the double-elimination games.

A group of students who play Super Smash Brothers regularly helped the leadership student team come up with parameters for the games. The tournament received so much interest that the sign-ups quickly filled the available slots. VanHoomissen said they’re planning another tournament for January.

In addition to creating the tournament bracket and managing the signups, leadership students found monitors and Nintendo Switch consoles to use for three playoff stations, posters to advertise the competition and medals for the top three finishers.

“It’s so cool,” VanHoomissen said. “It’s one of those things that has made me smile every day this week. Every type of kid has come in to play or watch.”

Students gave each other a fist bump, hug or wishes for good luck before each head-to-head battle began. Others walked around together, looked at paper copies of the brackets or sat in auditorium seats to watch the action and cheer.

Senior Donald Mahr, who uses the character Marth Falco, said he has been playing the game for two or three years, and that he was glad the school was hosting the tournament. “I think it’s cool that our school is appreciating that people really like this game.”

Junior Luke Watkinson, who plays the character Pokemon Trainer -- which can switch between Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard -- said “I was incredibly excited seeing probably my favorite game to play with other people” in a tournament at school.

Sophomore Jonah Wiggins agreed. “It was really great -- it kind of came as a surprise when Vanhoomissen announced it.” Wiggins plays the character Joker, because “he’s fast, tricky and has a lot of combos.”

Senior Riley Oswald acted as the tournament announcer, helping the excitement build as the final round approached.

“It’s an absolute dogfight here at station 1” Oswald called over the microphone. Sudden applause nearly drowned him out. “We have a winner -- we have a winner!”

He announced that the last two standing were Watkinson and Wiggins, who would face off in the championship round. They took their places at the main station, where their game would be projected onto the big screen. The action began.

“This is nuts, man!” Oswald exclaimed. “Luke is looking for revenge here in the championship round. He faced Jonah earlier in the tournament and came up short.”

The battle was intense, and Wiggins won in the end, earning him first place in the first-ever Tahoma High School Super Smash Brothers Tournament. He took his place on the stage, standing with second place winner Watkinson and third place winner freshman Ryan Petty. Each of the three received a medal emblazoned with the Super Smash Brothers emblem.

The bell rang, marking the end of Power Hour. The contestants and audience members filed out of the PAC and back to class, talking animatedly about the tournament.
Leadership students award the top three contestants with their medals after the tournament.

Reminder: Full day Friday for grades 6-12
This Friday, Nov. 22, is a full day of school for our middle and high school students. Maple View, Summit Trail and Tahoma High School will release at their usual Monday through Thursday dismissal times.

School-year calendars (by grade level) are available here.

Now pre-registering kindergartners for fall 2020
Pre-registration for students who will attend kindergarten in the 2020-2021 school year is underway. To pre-register your child, complete the online form available here:

We will mail a registration packet directly to your home in early January. The pre-registration window will remain open through Tuesday, January 7, 2020. Pre-registered families will receive our monthly Tahoma Kindergarten Learning Connections newsletter delivered via email.

Families are asked to bring their completed registration packets to their elementary school between January 28-31, 2020, to finalize their child's registration. Families will receive a free copy of the Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines book.

Not sure which elementary building your child will attend? Click here to enter your address in our online map: Or, for assistance, call the Transportation Department at 425-413-3220.

For more information about kindergarten, click here:

Workshops available to help parents teach young children
Parents of children ages 2-5 (not yet in kindergarten) are invited to register for the READY! for Kindergarten workshops, which help prepare children for school success.

The program teaches parents how to help their children learn through play, using methods such as “counting all day” (tickling in patterns, counting buttons or the number of people ahead of you in line at the grocery store) and other specific ideas, materials and toys.

Workshops are scheduled at Lake Wilderness Elementary for three dates (parents attend all three dates), from 6-7:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, March 4 and April 1; and are organized by age range for parents of children ages 2-3; 3-4 and 4-5. Childcare is available.

The cost of the workshops is $150. Scholarships are available, and are provided by Maple Valley Rotary.

To register for the READY! for Kindergarten parent workshops, please click here:

Materials that parents take home include a binder of age-appropriate learning targets, resources and materials/toys such as special puzzles and games to help parents teach their children through play-based activities.

For additional information on the district website, click here:

If you do not have children in the 2-5 age range but know someone in the Tahoma School District who does and who may be interested, please share this information with them.

Toy drive underway at Tahoma buildings
Each Tahoma school is participating in the annual Maple Valley Food Bank & Emergency Services holiday gift drive. For details, check your school’s newsletter, as the details vary slightly by building.

In general, students, staff members and families interested in participating are asked to bring new, unwrapped toys or gift cards to school before Dec. 6, when the donations will be collected. Clients of the food bank are able to select toys, books, games and gift cards to give to their children for the holidays during an event in December.

Seeking volunteers for middle school Future Ready Day events
Dynamic presenters are needed for the middle schools’ Future Ready Day events from a variety of professions, including science, technology, math, art, design and engineering, the military, health sciences, business management and the trades. 

“We are excited to announce plans for this school year’s Future Ready Day at the middle school level, scheduled for Jan. 17, 2020,” said Loretta Baker, Summit Trail Future Ready Librarian. “For those familiar with this day, it is an opportunity for students to hear from a variety of people from diverse career paths and gain a better understanding of the skills and aptitudes needed to be successful in high school and beyond.”
On Future Ready Day all students in grades 6-8 (Maple View Middle School and Summit Trail Middle School), will participate in lessons and presentations to help them learn more about careers and planning for the future. Students will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers working in different career pathways. Speakers will be asked to share the story of how they ended up in the job they are doing, as well as give students a sense of what a typical work day involves, the skills needed to be successful and where and how to find more information about each career. Students will also work with their classroom teachers to complete a Future Ready passport and reflect on what they have learned and can do now to best position themselves for the future.
If you would be willing to work with our students and are available on Jan. 17 please contact:

Nominations open for Highly Capable program
The nomination period is open for students currently enrolled in grades kindergarten,1, 3, and 4 to be identified as highly capable. Nominations will be accepted from Nov. 4 through Dec. 2. The nomination forms are available in both English and Spanish.

All second-grade students will be screened/tested for possible highly capable services in their home schools in December 2019. Therefore, there is no nomination process for second grade students. 

To locate more information about the highly capable programs available in the Tahoma School District and nomination forms, please visit our website

FRIDAY, Nov. 22
Full-day Friday for middle school and high school students

MONDAY, Nov. 25
Half-day release for middle schools and high school (in addition to elementary schools) Nov. 25-27

TUESDAY, Nov. 26
School Board meeting, 6 p.m., Central Services Center

NO SCHOOL, districtwide, in observance of Thanksgiving, Nov. 28-29

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