Nov. 7, 2019
In this issue:

Interim Superintendent: Focus on opportunities for students
School Board selects interim superintendent in 5-0 vote
Graduates share stories of anxiety, hope, perseverance
Anxiety exists for all people; learning to manage it is key, expert says
Judge signs off on first-ever THS student traffic court
Moody's upgrades district's financial rating
Housing committee studies, discusses demographic data
Painter Iris Scott shares her secret: hard work
Students attend variety of sessions, field trips for Future Ready Day
Veterans honored throughout the district
THS fall athletes charge into post-season play
District kudos
News briefs
Coming up in Bear Country
What's for lunch?

Interim Superintendent: Focus on opportunities for students
Welcome back! Two words I could use to welcome you back to another edition of Tahoma Matters. Two words that I also heard from many in the system when I visited schools and departments on my return.

Though I didn’t anticipate that I would hear them in this context, I do feel welcome, and am excited to have the opportunity to support the system’s journey. Though much has changed, our purpose remains the same: meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of Tahoma’s young people to ensure success in post-high-school learning and work.

Through the normal changes that come with a new school year we have also experienced a change in system leadership. During this time the board, district, and building leadership have been able to make difficult decisions and transition to an interim superintendent without disruption to our school programs. It is time to now resume the journey with a focus on providing experiences for young people to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for their future success.

I am honored that the School Board has provided me with the opportunity to support this journey, and I look forward to collaborating with our community in this effort. Our prior success has been built on shared purpose, a foundation of collaboration, and collective success. These will continue to be the foundation as we move forward.

You're invited to stop by before the School Board meeting from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Central Services Center to talk with Interim Superintendent Mike Maryanski. He can also be reached via email at or by phone at 425-413-3400.
School Board selects interim superintendent in 5-0 vote
'No hiccup' in student learning, teachers, principals say
Teachers and principals say that student learning was not affected as a result of leadership changes in the Tahoma School District last month.

Meeting in special session Oct. 29, the Tahoma School Board voted unanimously to hire retired Tahoma Superintendent Mike Maryanski to serve as interim superintendent through June 30, 2020. He began on Nov. 1 and will work 123 days; he will be paid $157,450. He receives no vacation or paid holidays. The board’s decision also returned acting superintendent Lori Cloud to her position as Assistant Superintendent and Director of Finance and Operations. 

The School Board decided to seek a retired superintendent to guide the district on an interim basis when none of the district’s current administrators expressed interest in the position, which opened as a result of former Superintendent Tony Giurado’s resignation on Sept. 30. 

Board President Didem Pierson said the candidate criteria the board agreed upon led them to reach out to Maryanski. Board members interviewed him during an executive session Oct. 28.

“It’s important for us that the person that came in at this point is someone that knows our system, works within our system and understands our culture and values what we value,” Pierson said. “And so Mike’s name emerged.”

Board Director Val Paganelli said she does not yet know Maryanski well, but came away from the meeting with a clear understanding of his commitment to Tahoma.
“What I walked away with is yes, he is someone who deeply cares about the system,” she said. “He deeply cares about the students in the system and the supports around those students.”

Board Director Tami Henkel said she looks forward to working with Maryanski again as the board begins a transition when two new directors are elected Nov. 5.

 “He built many of the structures our school district is built on and I think he will get us back on track,” she said.

Shawn Seeley, who teaches fourth grade at Tahoma Elementary School and who represents the Tahoma Education Association at meetings of the PTA/PTO Roundtable, referenced the superintendent transition during the most recent Roundtable meeting on Oct. 17.

“In light of all that has been happening, everything is going well,” Seeley said. There has been “no hiccup in learning,” he added.

Maple View Middle School Principal Andy McGrath agreed.

After the School Board shared the news of Giurado’s resignation, McGrath said he and other principals reassured their staff members that the transition would not affect the day-to-day focus.

“The things that are priorities for our students and staff aren’t going to change,” he said. “Our work is our work: Planning units that are important (for students to learn) … There was never any concern that students weren’t getting the education they signed up for.”

The School Board will conduct a formal search for a permanent superintendent during the current school year.

Maryanski’s education career began in 1970 as an elementary school teacher in Tahoma. He later moved into administrative roles in Tahoma and became deputy superintendent in 1989. He was appointed superintendent by the School Board in 1994. During Maryanski’s time as superintendent, Tahoma made significant academic improvements as it grew from a rural school district of seven schools and fewer than 5,000 students through the passage of two bond measures and substantial growth. The district now has nine schools and more than 8,600 students. Maryanski retired at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year.

He has deep roots in this area. Maryanski grew up in Auburn and attended Auburn High School. He graduated from Central Washington University and obtained his master’s degree from the University of Washington.

Maryanski’s community involvement is extensive. He was honored in October by the City of Maple Valley for his service to the community when the city formally dedicated the “Papa Bear” statue in the roundabout at Tahoma High School. “Papa Bear” is Maryanski’s nickname, reflective of his years of dedication to the students in the Tahoma School District.

His community service includes membership in Rotary International, the Greater Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, and Maple Valley Communities That Care. In 2004, he was inducted as a member of the Association of Washington Generals in recognition of his contributions to the community. 
Graduates share stories of anxiety, hope, perseverance
Editor's note: Last month, we shared an article about what Tahoma High School teachers, administrators and staff have done to increase their knowledge around mental health and anxiety. Their first area of focus within the mental health realm has been tools to help students manage anxiety. This week, all students at the high school saw the documentary "Angst," and the Tahoma Schools Foundation paid for a community showing last night. In the coming months, we will continue to share the work that students and staff in the district are doing to increase awareness and start conversations.

When Annalise Parnello attended Tahoma schools, she experienced anxiety that came in waves. It started, she thinks, in sixth grade when her mom was sick. Other factors such as self esteem, school work, activities and relationships also affected her, Annalise recalls.

Seventh and eighth grades were OK; in ninth grade she became involved with a boy who had been a good friend. Tenth grade was hard.

“I was self-harming a lot,” said Annalise. She struggled so much that she tried to take her own life. A friend she met online convinced her that she needed to tell her parents about her anxiety, and told her that mental health professionals could help. Annalise decided to tell her mom, Ankie Stroes, and dad, Dana Parnello, what she was facing.

“I’m so lucky that I had parents who met me where I was. They said, ‘We don’t get this, but this is where she is,’” Annalise recalls.

The 2015 graduate and her parents shared their story with the staff of Tahoma High School this summer during an inservice training. Administrators heard from teachers and also from students last year that they wished staff members had more training to help students facing mental health challenges, including anxiety. To read the most recent article about efforts at THS, which will be ongoing, click here. We asked Annalise and her parents if they would consider sharing what they learned during Annalise’s teen years with parents and community members, and they agreed.

Dana remembers the time of Annalise’s diagnosis with clinical anxiety differently. 

“I not only didn’t get it. I was outspoken. … I didn’t support it,” said Dana, who is Maple Valley’s deputy mayor and was instrumental in bringing a seminar on mental health first aid to Maple Valley last year. He worries that parents of other students facing anxiety will feel the same way.

Asked what was helpful and what exacerbated her anxiety, the family had several suggestions. For fellow students: If you notice someone who may be struggling, say something. Ask how they are, say hello or invite them to do something with you. Be willing to repeat the offers -- it helps them feel seen and noticed. Do something small, but genuine. The same advice can work for staff as well, they said. 

During her years at THS, Annalise said, some staff and students did try to reach out.

“One of the most helpful things to me that still stands out was Mrs. Hess. She didn’t know exactly how to help me, but she saw that I needed help,” she said. Other staff members told her she was awesome, but at the time, she couldn’t accept their words.

Annalise was an excellent student, and was also involved in dance and swim. She excelled, and didn’t display many of the “warning signs” that are typical of anxiety or other mental health challenges. 

“I was convinced that I could handle this myself. … But, it’s really hard to get help if you don’t ask for it,” Annalise said. The anxiety progressed, and she developed an eating disorder. When she told her coach, it was hard for the coach to believe because she was such a strong athlete. “Being in a high-performing community, it’s even easier to be lost sometimes,” said Annalise, who is now attending the University of Washington.

It’s important for students, parents, teachers and community members to remember a few things, the family said. Try not to assume that anybody is or isn’t “something” because of what you’ve heard previously. Feel comfortable in asking for help or for accomodations. Know that you can learn healthy coping tools, and that it does get better.

Second THS graduate shares her struggle with anxiety

Kari Lutcavich, who graduated from THS in 2010, reached out to the district after the prior article to talk about her experience with anxiety. While Lutcavich received a different diagnosis than Annalise Parnello, she had similar messages to share about the importance of family support, professional help and finding balance in her life.

Lutcavich felt similar pressure related to grades, academic success, self-confidence and feeling as though she didn’t fit in with any friend group. She talked with the counselors at the high school, and also with her mom.

The stress caused her to have frequent meltdowns and to feel depressed, and she and her mom worked together to talk about her emotions and feelings. Then, they went to see a doctor, who diagnosed her with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and prescribed birth control to help regulate her hormones. 

“Looking back now, I think it wasn’t the root of the problem, but definitely contributed to it,” Lutcavich said. She went to see a mental health counselor in private practice, and also realized that exercise was very important to her mental health.

“Getting the support that you need is so important -- do you need medical attention, counseling; (or) is it an adjustment academically with your teachers or managing extracurriculars? … I would encourage students today to keep going and not give up, and realize that you will overcome it. You will learn to manage your anxiety,” said Lutcavich, who still lives in Maple Valley and is now an academic adviser at Pierce College. It’s also important to realize that it’s a lifelong learning process, she said. 

“I still have times where I think I’m struggling with anxiety,” she said. “I recognize my triggers and know that I am easily overwhelmed. I try to set limits before I get to a point where I’m overwhelmed.”
Anxiety exists for all people; learning to manage it is key, expert says
Anxiety exists in every human, for a reason, said Dr. Amy Ford, a licensed clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist with a focus in assessment who is also the CEO of Dayspring Behavioral Health in Issaquah.

“Anxiety exists for a purpose,” Ford said. A little bit of anxiety helps us stay alert, complete work and finish tasks.” For example, an athlete feels some anxiety before the beginning of a competition. “All that is totally normal, and actually typical because it helps get the body ready. The trouble is some brains will practice avoiding anxiety or the things that cause us to feel that way and make it feel bigger than it should. That’s when we get into the clinical realm.”

Working with a counselor can help those with clinical anxiety know how to approach the issue rather than avoid it.

“Anxiety always builds like a mountain. The key is for kids to get through the height of it and know that they overcame the thing that they overcame, then learn to do it again. That’s management of anxiety,” Ford said. 

Parents, staff and community members can help students by normalizing it and letting them know that we all deal with it, she added. “Just because you feel anxiety doesn’t mean that something is wrong. It’s just a signal that we’re alive and we have something that we’re getting ready to do.”

Emotions and feelings are a signal to us that we need to make a change, and we should recognize that we don’t have to allow that feeling to impact our actions, Ford said. Analyze that feeling and ask yourself whether it’s helpful in the moment. Then, think to yourself: “I have choices. I can seek out help. I can get more active. I can ask my mom or dad to take me to the doctor to get me plugged in with what I need to do.”

Anxiety and other common mental health issues such as depression, anger, social isolation and ADHD have a common thread of connectedness, she said.

“I think the common theme we see among students in therapy is that they feel alone. They think everybody has it all together and that they (themselves) don’t. That’s just the biggest lie. A lot of kids struggle with these feelings,” Ford said.

Asked what advice she would offer students, parents and community members, she suggested several possibilities:
  • Students should try different activities, clubs or sports to find something they enjoy and a group that helps them feel connected. Clubs, sports and activities can help tweens and teens build skills to manage anxiety.
  • Turn off individual screens (phone or computer) two hours before bedtime. “It’s proven to decrease mood. There’s not research yet about ADHD, but definitely about depression. Why do we want to be more depressed?” Replace individual screentime with something positive: play a game of cards together, read together or watch something on TV together and discuss it.
  • Consider reading the book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” by Angela Duckworth.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Connections
Crisis Text Line
Text “HEAL” to 741741

Suicide prevention information from King County

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):

Judge signs off on first-ever THS student traffic court
Last week, a classroom at Tahoma High School transformed into a court -- the Tahoma Student Traffic Court, to be precise. Although the court is not yet in session, it’s now an official option for Tahoma High School students who receive traffic infractions and are referred by the Maple Valley Municipal Court. 

“It’s an opportunity for students to take responsibility for their own mistakes,” said Officer Carl Bonnell, the Student Resource Officer at THS. Maple Valley Police Chief D.J. Nesel, THS Principal Terry Duty and Supervisor of Operations Sean P. Kelly approached Bonnell and asked whether a student traffic court could be created.

There are a number of requirements regulating who can be referred to the student traffic court. They state that the infraction committed cannot be one that involved a collision, negligent driving or a “no insurance” violation. In addition, the person being referred to the youth court must:

  • Attend Tahoma High School.
  • Be 16 or 17 years of age.
  • Agree that the cited infraction was committed.
  • Choose to attend the student court of their own will. (Otherwise, students cited may opt to follow the usual path through the municipal court system).
  • Agree to complete whatever conditions the student court determines; the student has 180 days to complete the conditions.

In most cases, the conditions will include community service hours and/or education; however, the student court may also impose consequences such as requiring an apology letter, an essay or participation in future youth court proceedings. In return for complying with the conditions imposed, the infraction does not go on the student’s record, Bonnell said.

Student traffic courts are allowed by law under the Revised Code of Washington 3.72, said Maple Valley Judge Stephen Rochon, who signed the papers creating the court last week.

Rochon talked with students who have volunteered to serve on the court, explaining the law that governs the youth court and giving them advice. “You have to be neutral, detached, objective,” he said. 

Even before the court was officially created, the students were hard at work, getting organized, creating forms and determining how their process will work. They plan to use a panel of five court members to conduct hearings, which will allow any member of the panel to recuse themselves if they happen to know the student whose case the court is considering that day. 

Maple Valley Prosecutor Tricia (Grove) Johnson also spoke with the students last week, and advised them to create a sanctions chart in order to create consistency in conditions imposed.

“That way, when people walk out of here, they feel they’ve been treated fairly,” Johnson said, noting that documenting sanctions imposed can also help avoid bias.

“You become a very fair court; the students will trust you, and more people will opt in,” she said. “You have been given an incredible responsibility.”

Teacher Robin Hall will be the “adult supervisor” of the student court, and oversees the students. The group members have been researching other student court’s practices and systems while working to create their own, Hall said.

“We have this great group of kids that are really excited,” she added.

Sophomore Mathieu Chabaud said he decided to join the student court after seeing a video announcement about the opportunity -- and, he added that it’s not too late to get involved. He wants other students to know that if they elect to have their infraction heard in the youth court that they’ll likely receive community service time and avoid having their car insurance rates increase. 

“I hope it will allow them to see the benefit of the judicial system, and that they might learn to avoid the situation that brought them before us.”

For more information, click here:
Moody's upgrades district's financial rating
For many years, Tahoma School District students have been among the top performers in the state. Now, the district’s financial rating also is among the best of Washington’s 295 school districts.

Moody’s Investors Service, an international company that provides credit ratings, research, and risk analysis, recently evaluated the school district’s financial standing and upgraded its credit rating from Aa3 to Aa2. The rating of Aa2 means that financial obligations, such as construction bonds, are “judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk,” according to Moody’s website. The change reflects Tahoma’s “strengthened financial profile,” according to a news release from Moody’s.

Ryan Swanson, senior vice president for Public Finance Investment Banking at Piper Jaffray & Co. in Seattle, said the new rating should result in lower interest borrowing rates for the school district and its taxpayers in the future. Swanson said the new rating puts Tahoma above the national average and among a handful of school districts in Washington that are rated Aa2 or better.

“It’s a third-party indication of the strong fiscal responsibility evidenced by the board and district administration. That’s how I think of it,” he said. ““The district is in the top 10 percent of school districts in the state in this regard.”

In a credit opinion report issued by Moody’s Investors Service, Tahoma’s fiscal management is described this way: “Overall, prudent management is a strength for the district, which we expect to contribute to continued stability. The district budgets conservatively and exercises strong expense control as reflected in its healthy operating history.”
Housing committee studies, discusses demographic data
Tahoma parents, students, staff and community members serving on the Citizens Housing Advisory Committee gathered on Oct. 30 for their second meeting to study how best to meet student needs for classroom and support spaces during the next 10 years.

The committee will come up with options for the School Board to consider so that students will have the facilities they need in coming years. Facilitating the committee are Tahoma Elementary School Principal Jerry Gaston and Human Resources Director Mark Koch.

Gaston opened the meeting by thanking each person serving on the committee, then addressed the group’s purpose: “What we’re trying to do is to figure out how to house students in the Tahoma School District in the next 10 years. What a great problem to have: People want to be a part of this system.”

Between the two meetings, committee members delved into some background reading and research, including a demographer’s report, current enrollment figures, information about portable classrooms and more. The demographer’s report was assembled by William Kendrick, who predicts continued enrollment growth, but at a pace that is slower than in previous years.

Sharing what they noticed or found interesting about the demographer’s report, committee members discussed:

  • So far, the number of students coming from the new apartment units in Maple Valley are higher than expected compared to previous apartment counts and projections. 
  • There was a jump in enrollment the same year the new Tahoma High School opened. Growth forecasted at the high school level in the coming years looks more dramatic than other levels.
  • Tahoma has the highest ratio of public school students per house of any district in King County.
  • Although general community conversations about growth tend to focus on new construction homes, the district has quite a few existing homes owned by older, retired homeowners who may be looking to sell to larger families in coming years.
  • How reliable are the predictions (compared forecasted numbers with actual numbers for this school year, for example).
  • Waivers, as well as enforcement.
  • A request for a “heat map” style of data, representing where students currently live in the district.

The committee is making lists of questions for staff to research, and also tracking things they “wonder” about, such as changes in city zoning.

To read about the first meeting of the committee, including the parameters and considerations they are being asked to use throughout the process, click here. The group also came up with a code of cooperation to use during their meetings, and determined that if a vote is needed at any point in their process, they will use an 80 percent threshold.

In addition to the committee’s work on a long-range plan, a subcommittee will examine how to accommodate enrollment growth at Lake Wilderness and Tahoma Elementary schools, which are nearing capacity and need adjustments for next school year. Committee members wanted to reassure parents and community members that the process is not a full boundary review. The subcommittee will meet from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Central Services Center. 
Painter Iris Scott shares her secret: hard work
Effusive, colorful, vibrant. Those words describe not only the paintings of renowned artist Iris Scott, but also Scott herself. 

The Tahoma High School graduate from the class of 2002 was the keynote speaker for freshmen and sophomores last week for Future Ready Day. Scott encouraged the students to find something they love to do, such as her passion for painting, and then devote lots of time to practicing that one thing.

"Pour the hours in. That's when the magic can happen," she said. “I am here to talk about a very serious career. I am a professional -- fingerpainter! … I’m going to tell you a story about how I made $1 million fingerpainting.”

Scott mixed tales of her year spent living abroad -- when she developed her famous technique of fingerpainting with oils -- with funny lines to keep the students’ attention. She emphasized several times that she isn’t simply gifted at painting; rather, she worked hard and practiced relentlessly.

“I spend all day painting. It’s easy to spend all day painting,” Scott said. “It’s not talent. It’s not a gift. This is what 10,000 hours of practice can do. … Art is learned. Skills are learned.”

She recommended the book “Outliers,” by Malcolm Gladwell, who similarly calls for those who want to succeed to “pour the hours in.” Growing up in Maple Valley, Scott stayed busy with schoolwork, soccer, tennis and other activities, and although she took painting classes, she never felt she had enough time to paint.

“I really wanted to dive into it,” Scott said, bemoaning the fact that YouTube hadn’t yet been invented so that she could have had instant access to videos about painting. Instead, she checked out every applicable “how to” book at the Maple Valley Library. 

After being prompted by her high school art teacher, Suzanne Gardner, about pursuing a degree in art, Scott enrolled at Washington State University as an art major. She said many of the classes were focused on theory rather than on the act of making art. She felt as though she wasn’t and couldn’t be a “serious” artist if she didn’t have deep meaning behind her works. After four years, Scott said she graduated from WSU with a degree and considerable debt, so she headed back to Maple Valley and got a job in Bellevue to pay off that debt. 

“Three years later, I was debt-free, and I even had $4,000 left over. I thought, ‘What can I do with this?’ So, I Googled it,” she recalled. After learning that Taiwan had a low cost of living, she packed a bag, booked a flight and announced to her parents that she was leaving the country.

Thanks to a local she made friends with, Scott said she found an apartment with incredible views of the ocean that only cost $100 in rent per month. This announcement drew an audible reaction from the students. 

“Taiwan was amazing. It was probably the single-most transformative experience of my life. Please go abroad. At least consider it. It allows you to reinvent yourself,” she said, describing the monkeys, the heat, the incredible food and the memories that she made. It also was where Scott rededicated herself to art.

“It was the first time in my life I had time to paint seven days a week. I painted everything in Taiwan,” she said. At about that time, Facebook was becoming more widely used, and Scott eventually decided to share her art on social media. She sold a painting for $50 plus shipping, and incrementally increased the prices to $65, then $70.

“I was shocked because I had just turned myself into a full-time artist, thanks to that low cost of living in Taiwan,” Scott told the students. Somewhere along the way, because she disliked going down the hallway to the communal sink to wash her brushes because of the cockroaches and spiders, she tried finishing a painting with her fingers. 

“This happy little accident was about to change my life,” she said. That first fingerpainting sold for $100. Her style began to change and became more impressionistic. She increased her prices until they reached $500 per piece, and sank the money back into her materials. That year, she painted about 100 pieces. When her time in Taiwan was over, she moved back home, where the cost of living adjustment was an unpleasant shock.

Eventually, Scott moved to New York, where she met hundreds of people in all parts of the arts, from directors and filmmakers to entrepreneurs. She opened galleries in three states, and had the chance to create larger works and expand into performance art.

Along the way, social media helped her but it was also harmful, creating doubt and a distraction from her work. Scott told the students that she made a conscious decision to turn away from Instagram, unfollowing 3,000 accounts in one night. 

“Social media is a blast, but be careful of it,” Scott cautioned. “I was an addict. … It’s only going to become more and more distracting.” She encouraged students to only use social media if they can be disciplined enough to “use it for good.” 

Displaying a picture of her painting, “Arctos,” which hangs next to the grand staircase in the high school, Scott said that she hopes the students will remember her talk when they walk past the mighty bear, and that the painting will help them remember to work hard on that one thing they are passionate about. “She’s so focused.”

Scott visits SLES, TES to enjoy student art

The afternoon before, Scott visited her former elementary school, Shadow Lake and also Tahoma Elementary to check out student art inspired by her works. Pausing in front of a wall of student paintings created in the vein of her “Shaking Dogs” series, Scott exclaimed, “Why are these so good? What is happening? … I want a photo with these right now!”

Young artists at Shadow Lake had also drawn inspiration from her pieces featuring koi and from her painting, “Tiger Fire,” a print of which hangs in the main office at SLES. “These are precious and beautiful,” Scott said, poring over more student pieces and talking with Shadow Lake STEM/art teacher Liz White. 

“The kids are just going to be so excited that you were here,” White said. 

“Do we get to meet some of the kids today?” Scott replied.

“Yes! Do you want to meet some? Let’s go see a class!”

Entering a nearby first grade class, White introduced Scott, and explained to the students that she created the original paintings that inspired their koi pieces.

Excited, one student called out to Scott: “Did you see the rainbow fish? That one was mine!”
Students attend variety of sessions, field trips for Future Ready Day
Future Ready Day last Friday included a wide variety of activities for students. Juniors went on field trips to help them explore and develop postsecondary plans. Choices included ANEW pre-apprenticeship program in Kent, several community and technical colleges, DigiPen, the National College Fair at the Seattle Convention Center and more.

Seniors were encouraged to schedule their job shadow for Nov. 1, or could take the ASVAB, participate in community service, work on college applications or essays, or attend an event such as Careers in the Automotive Industry.

Freshmen and sophomores heard from keynote speaker Iris Scott, and attended a selection of seminars such as Professional Sports Management, Motorsports, Diving with Sharks, Careers in Chemistry, Entrepreneurship 101, Nursing, Graphic Design, Elementary Education, Real Estate, Opportunities in the Military and more.

Students who attended Betty Gibbins' talk about "Biotechnology for Non-scientists" practice making a model of DNA out of licorice, toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. Gibbins talked about how biotechnology has impacted the world, DNA, cells and cancer biology.
In the session "The Business of Beauty," Erin Reibman talked with the students about her career path to owning her own salon, Level Headed Hair Design. Reibman discussed the benefits of trade schools, how to build a business and the skills needed for good customer service.
Veterans honored throughout the district
Eighth grade students from Maple View Middle School work to place flags on graves at Tahoma National Cemetery in observance of Veterans Day. All Maple View eighth graders had the opportunity to go to the cemetery during their U.S. History class to help place flags. Students from Tahoma High School also assisted.
Maple View student Olivia V. pauses for a photo of her great grandfather, Rudy Chermack, age 97, who is a veteran of World War II. Chermack was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and served on a B-17 Flying Fortress. "To me, he is my true hero," Olivia said during the school's Veterans Day assembly. The school gave Chermack a standing ovation.
The MVMS assembly was planned and led by leadership students. They honored veterans who attended, shared a slideshow from Tahoma National Cemetery, highlighted staff members who have served and surprised Principal Andy McGrath by honoring his father, Army Sgt. Carl D. McGrath, who is buried at Tahoma National.
Students from Rock Creek Elementary show the placemats that they made for the Veterans Day luncheon at the Maple Valley Community Center. Three third grade classes participated in the project to thank veterans, including Kim Fitzpatrick, Leslie Hostetter and Shawna Wagner's students.
THS fall athletes charge into post-season play
Tahoma High School’s fall sports teams have wrapped up their regular season competition, and some teams are competing at the district and state level. Here are highlights from the teams, and from some of the coaches:

Cross Country
The cross country teams were undefeated this season; both the boys and the girls teams had 7 wins and 0 losses.

Coach Jeff Brady shared two highlights from this season of competition. The first was having a significant number of runners earn PRs (Personal Records) and SR (Season Records) at the last meet of the season. The second was winning all four races -- boys and girls junior varsity, and boys and girls varsity -- at the North Puget Sound League meet.

Last weekend, both the girls and boys teams placed second in the district meet, and this weekend the teams travel to Pasco to race for the state championship. Asked what the team focused on to prepare for state, Brady said, “Doing the little things! The race is going to be super competitive and everyone needs to be prepared.”

The Bears football team had a season record of 5 wins and 4 losses this year, and will head to the district playoffs this Friday at Lake Stevens. 

Coach Tony Davis said that a highlight for the team was their homecoming win against Todd Beamer, which they won 24-14.

Headed into this week’s game, Davis said the coaches and players have been focused on their core principles: family, effort and concentration, and “all about the ball.”

Boys golf

The boys golf team had an undefeated season this year, going 11-0 in the North Puget Sound League. Members of the Bears golf team finished second at Gold Mountain in Bremerton at the district tournament, and qualified a total of eight varsity and JV players for the Spring state qualifier in May 2020. 
The three top 10 finishers included senior Colby Watkins, who came in 5th with a two-day score of 148 including an eagle; junior Luke Sherrell, who came in 6th with a two-day score of 152; and junior Morgan Taylor, who tied for 7th with a two-day total of 156.

Watkins and Sherrell were selected for first team NPSL honors. Chosen for second team NPSL honors were Taylor, junior Liam Reis and junior Marvin Tommervik.
Girls golf 
The Tahoma girls golf team had a 5-5 season, and finished 9th last week at Gold Mountain in Bremerton at the districts. They qualified five varsity players for the Spring state qualifier.

Second team NPSL honors were awarded to senior Anjeliese Hampton and junior Kendal Lyons.

Girls soccer
Tahoma girls soccer went 12-1-1 in league play to finish first in the North Puget Sound League.

“This was exciting because it gave us back-to-back league titles,” Coach Alyssa Hurt said. “This year has been a fun year, and we have been focusing on celebrating the success of our teammates on and off the field.”

The Bears play at 5:30 p.m. today at French Field in a winner-to-state game. 

Girls swim and dive
The girls swim and dive team won its third-straight Cascade Division Championship, as well as its third-consecutive North Puget Sound League title this year, Coach Dave Wright said. The team went on to compete at districts, where the Bears placed second.

The district meet “was a very fast meet and we finished in second place behind Curtis. Here’s an example of how fast the meet was: We broke two meet records (200 medley relay and 200 free relay) but finished second behind Curtis in both. Curtis also broke the meet record in the 400 free relay. Two of those records were set in 2002,” Wright said. 

Three athletes set new school records: Hannah Weissman (100 free); Hailey Sears (100 breast); and the
200 free relay team of: Weissman, Sears, Kendra Gibson and Makenna Portmann. The Bears have multiple state qualifiers, including Emiri Nishizawa (200 free); Makenna Portmann, Sloane Wichelmann, Amelia Blakely (200 IM); Hailey Sears (50 free and 100 breast); Ally Adams (diving); Sloane Wichelmann (100 fly); Hannah Weissman (100 free); Makenna Portmann (500 free); Hannah Weissman (100 back).
All three relays will be swimming at the state meet.

The Bears will head to the state championships on Nov. 15 and 16.

Boys tennis
The Tahoma Bears boys tennis team had an overall record of 6 wins and 10 losses this season.


The Bears volleyball team has been having a banner year, winning the Linda Sheridan Volleyball Tournament in Spokane for the second year running, attending the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, and winning the Cascade Division title with a record of 14-0 in preseason and league play.

“Another thing that is kind of cool, is that we are currently ranked first in Washington for 4A volleyball. We are undefeated in Washington state with our only losses being on our trip to Arizona,” Coach Sara Russell said, noting that the team’s overall record is 26-2.

The Bears will compete in the league tournament this Saturday at Kentwood High School. “We will play for seeding for the district tournament, and hopefully the NPSL title,” Russell said. “Right now, it is all about focusing on the next match. As we enter post-season, the game that happens next is always the most important as it determines seeding, and eventually leads to loser-out play.”

The state tournament is Nov. 22 and 23. 
Band students accepted into Western International Honor Band
Back row: Madison Collins, Gabriel Weisenburger, Eliza Brooks, Calista Mucke, Matthew Schreiner. Middle Row: Julia Stan, Skylar Churches, Cara Lisy, Nicole Stan. Front row: Alyssa Callahan, Maya Cheam, Claire Cunningham, Jasmine Tran.
Thirteen Tahoma High School students were recently accepted into the Western International Honor Band. The students were selected out of nearly 1,000 musicians from around the world to participate in one of four bands. They will work with conductors and composers from three different countries and perform live with the Boston Brass Quintet. The honor band event weekend will take place in November, the weekend before Thanksgiving.

In addition, one of our musicians, Maya Cheam, this year just returned from a trip to Australia. Her audition from last year was selected to represent the United States in an exchange as she participated in the Australian National Honour Ensemble.
Bears accepted into All-State Choir, All-State Band

In addition to the 13 THS band students who will perform as part of the Western International Honor Band, 13 music students were selected for the All-State Choir and All-State Band. More than 2,000 students auditioned for the groups, teacher Ken Riggs said. 

Choir students selected include: Hannah Knauss, Cooper Perez, Bailey Rupert, Josie Mae Sanders, Abigail Seely, Sage Small, Hannah Unruh and Emma Meldrum.

Band students selected include: Eliza Brooks, Claire Cunningham, Cole McKittrick, Julia Stan and Nicole Stan.

New School Board members elected
Voters in the Tahoma School District this week elected two new School Board members. 

Results updated Wednesday afternoon showed Pete Miller and Malia Hollowell ahead in votes. They will take the seats of School Board President Didem Pierson and Board Member Mary Jane Glaser, respectively, who each decided not to run for reelection.

Also voted in on Tuesday was Katrina Montgomery, who the current board appointed in March to fill the vacancy left when board member Bill Clausmeyer resigned for personal reasons.

We’ll share more about Miller and Hollowell when they are sworn in, later this month.

Reminder: early release for conferences soon
Elementary and middle school parent teacher conferences are approaching, and students at all grade levels will have adjusted release times. Although high school conferences took place on Nov. 5 and 6, high school students also have early release for a few days.

Maple View’s student-led conferences are on Nov. 20 and 21. Summit Trail’s student-led conferences are on Nov. 19 and 20.

Conference release time information includes:

  • Cedar River, Rock Creek and Tahoma Elementary release at the half-day time of 1:10 p.m. on Nov. 20-27
  • Glacier Park, Lake Wilderness and Shadow Lake release at the half-day time of 12:40 on Nov. 20-27.
  • Maple View and Summit Trail middle schools have student-led conferences after school from 4-7 p.m. Maple View’s conferences are Nov. 20 and 21; Summit Trail’s are Nov. 19 and 20. Both schools will release at the half-day time of 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 25-27.
  • High School conferences were held earlier this week after school. Students will release at the half-day time of 11:10 a.m. on Nov. 25-27.

Districtwide, there is no school on Nov. 28-29 in observance of Thanksgiving.

Special Olympics basketball begins this month
The Tahoma School District Special Olympics Basketball season will begin on Monday Nov. 25, 2019 and run through March 1, 2020. Practices will be on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Glacier Park Elementary School. Skills athletes will practice from 5:30-6:30, juniors from 6:30-7:30, and seniors from 7:30-8:30 p.m. 

All interested athletes should attend the meet and greet practice at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 25 in the gym at GPES.

The program is open to Tahoma students between the ages of 8 and 21 with intellectual disabilities. New athletes must have an application for participation form completed and signed by their physician in order to participate. Once complete, forms are effective for three years.
For an application or any questions, contact program coordinator Karen Smejkal at or 425-413-3716.

“This is a great opportunity for skill building, socializing, after school activities and making new friends,” Smejkal said.

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

MONDAY, Nov. 11
NO SCHOOL, districtwide, in observance of Veterans Day

TUESDAY, Nov. 19
Student-led conferences at Summit Trail

Half-day release for elementary school students, Nov. 20-27

Student-led conferences at Maple View and Summit Trail

Student-led conferences at Maple View

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

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