Jan. 31, 2019
In this issue:
Effective Communicators create compelling pieces
Board hears report on efforts to measure student growth
Student meal debt rising; full meals served to all
News briefs
Spotlight on Transportation
Middle schools host Future Ready Day
Coming up in Bear Country
What's for lunch?

Sophie Smith, left, and Ally McLoughlin stand in the green room at the high school, where they and others conduct interviews and create videos. The two are using their journalism and video production skills to share the story of a fellow student, John Reeves.

Effective Communicators create compelling pieces
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 Effective Communicator, which can be seen in many Tahoma classrooms year-round.

Students in Doug Lapp’s fifth-grade class at Tahoma Elementary School have been hard at work crafting persuasive letters, designed to convince colleges and universities to send them a pennant or some swag to share with their peers. It’s a fun activity that encourages the students to research schools, while also honing their writing skills, Lapp explains.

“It’s been really encouraging for the students who aren’t always the most confident writers,” said Lapp, who has been using this exercise for about seven years. “I’ve had years where it isn’t the best writer who is the most successful one.”

The students not only learn how to write in a way that will encourage or motivate the recipient, but also how to use letterhead properly, how to sign their name, how to fold the letter neatly and how to address an envelope. Lapp encourages them to select a college, trade school or university that they have a personal connection with, if possible, such as a family member who previously attended. The students are asked to pick out-of-state schools, and to try to branch out to write schools that Lapp’s previous classes haven’t already contacted.

In general, the students ask for a banner or pennant for themselves and one for the classroom, which now has walls peppered with pennants, banners and posters from around the country. They customize their additional requests based on their interests -- T-shirts, sports gear or stuffed animals, to name a few. Responses from the schools range from email replies to form letters, handwritten notes and, in a few cases, packages stuffed with necklaces, sunglasses, and other branded gear. One university did some research to find a photograph of a student’s grandfather, who ran on their track team years ago, and mailed a copy of the photograph to Maple Valley. Some students receive a response quickly, while others are still hoping to hear back.

“It kind of teaches a little bit of patience, as well,” Lapp said.

The students frequently pick a school that a relative attended, but a few narrow their search by the programs offered, such as one girl last year who only considered universities with strong architecture programs.

Dominic D., who chose to contact the University of Oregon, said it was a somewhat difficult assignment and that he spent time focusing on how to construct his letter.
“They might not send anything back if you don’t have the right grammar and everything,” Dominic added.

Kira A. said she liked the assignment. “I was excited to see if I got anything (back). It was interesting to see if you were communicative enough or if you explained well enough what you were hoping for,” she added.

Tahoma High School
Two seniors at Tahoma High School are putting their Effective Communicator skills to the test in a journalism project highlighting the story of fellow student John Reeves, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in 2015 and recently had the opportunity to take a Make-A-Wish trip to the British company Pinewood Studios, where recent Star Wars films have been made. When we spoke with Sophie Smith and Ally McLoughlin earlier this month, they were getting ready to conduct an on-camera interview with Reeves and his mother, Leigha.

Smith and McLoughlin are staff members on the student newspaper and also members of the video production classes taught by Rick Haag, who gave them the idea for the news piece. 

“It’s an honor to be asked to do it, because it’s a heavy topic,” McLoughlin said.

The two said they’re glad for the opportunity to tell Reeves’ story, noting that they anticipated the biggest challenges to be telling the story in an understandable, engaging way and also helping to raise awareness of the importance of regular doctor’s visits.

Asked about McLoughlin and Smith, journalism teacher Cavin Eggleston said, “I’m always impressed with their ability to tell a story in a way different than I had anticipated it being told, and in doing so, making it better than we anticipated.”

Leigha Reeves said John’s cancer was detected as part of his annual exam. By that evening, John was checked in at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, where doctors determined his white cell count was at 578,000. “The doctor we got as our oncologist said he had never seen it so high in a child,” Leigha said, noting that John was not sick, lethargic or otherwise symptomatic besides what seemed to be normal teenage tiredness. About 98 percent of his bone marrow had leukemia cells. Doctors started John on a targeted suppression medication, and at his last checkup in December, the test showed the leukemia was at 0 percent. Reeves said that their family’s faith sustained them throughout John’s diagnosis and treatment, and that she’s grateful for the chance to tell the story now in case it can help others.

Discussing the communication skills they have learned in journalism and video production classes, Smith and McLoughlin said they’ve honed their abilities for working within the constraints of deadlines, making pieces that appeal to the majority of the student body while also being understandable for all grade levels, improving at teamwork and refining their interviewing techniques. Both students said they are interested in pursuing media studies after high school. Their hope for this piece is that it will bring light to a subject that isn’t typically addressed in a school setting.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s a great guy, and (I’m hoping) for people to understand what he’s going through,” Smith said.
These members of Doug Lapp's class have already heard back from their selected schools, some of which sent letters, pennants, glasses, moustaches and other items.
Some of Lapp's students are still working on polishing their persuasive letters, or are waiting to hear back from the university that they chose to contact.
Board hears report on efforts to measure student growth
Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Dawn Wakeley speaks at a prior meeting.

From that first day of kindergarten to the final walk across the stage to collect a high school diploma, Tahoma School District students build knowledge and skills that are designed to help them prepare for the rest of their lives. Along that education path, teachers are constantly evaluating students’ progress to ensure they meet learning goals designed to move them to the next level, while also instilling an appreciation and love of learning.
Finding the best way to evaluate student progress is a challenge faced by generations of teachers. In Tahoma, work is underway to identify how best to use existing data to help students, teachers and parents understand where students are on their learning journey.
In a recent report to the Tahoma School Board, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Dawn Wakeley described the district’s ongoing effort to measure student achievement, through a variety of assessments, and student growth over time – such as across learning units or the school year. The need for evaluating both growth and achievement speaks to the district’s commitment to ensuring each student is treated as an individual whose progress is best measured by using a variety of tools instead of a single measurement.
“We want to take advantage of understanding what’s happening with both growth and achievement along the way,” Wakeley said. “That’s the place where we make things happen for kids.”
Tahoma currently is using four different measures to understand student growth. Two of the measures, Student Growth Percentiles and Gain Scores, use the state Smarter Balanced Assessments. Student Growth Percentiles are useful to indicate how a student performed in comparison to other students. Gain scores indicate students’ progress toward meeting standard. But that is only part of what Tahoma teachers want to know. Two other measures are used to provide a more complete picture of each student. 
Tahoma is beginning to use a measure called “growth rate” to look at each student’s performance in core content, such as math, by using both state assessments and district testing. In addition, Tahoma uses actual student work compared to learning progressions to gain more understanding of where each student is at and their next steps.
By using data that already exists, Tahoma teachers can get the kind of information they need to help students progress within the district’s Future Ready learning structure.
“We don’t need more tests,” Wakeley said. “We want to take advantage of the data points we have. Then we want to ask ourselves a very important question: Are those different measures telling the same story or a different story of how a student is doing? If they are not all telling the same story, then we want to really look more closely at what’s happening for a student.”
Wakeley said the evaluation methods that Tahoma is using hold great promise but are still evolving. Parents can look forward to new ways that the school system will share progress students are making in both growth and achievement.
“There are limitations on every measure of growth, which is why we want to have multiple measures to give us a better understanding of each student,” she said. “Kids aren’t one-dimensional, so our measures shouldn’t be one-dimensional or only one method.”

Student meal debt rising; full meals served to all
Beginning this year, the Nutrition Services Department is serving regular meals to all students regardless of their cafeteria account balances, in accordance with House Bill 2610. In prior years, when a student’s meal account was beyond the debt limit, they were served a cheese sandwich. That is a welcome change and has eliminated the need for donations to ensure every student who wants one can receive a school meal. 

The school district still must collect payment, however, and is dealing with an increase in student-meal debt. About 10.8 percent of Tahoma students owe money for meals, and that figure is on the rise. As a whole, the total debt in district meal accounts is at $8,002.50 this week. When an account is negative, parents are contacted via email and voice messages with requests to pay their child’s balances via check or cash payments.

District officials are now considering using debt collection services, and are exploring different service providers. Any families that are in need of free or reduced meal services and have not previously applied for that benefit are encouraged to do so at any time. For information about free or reduced-price meals and applications, click here: http://bit.ly/TSDfreeAndReducedMeals 

Parents may access their child’s cafeteria account online through Skyward Family Access. To look up meal transactions and balances, click here. If you need assistance logging in to Skyward, contact your child’s school registrar. Parents and guardians may pay for their child’s meals by check or cash in the cafeterias or at the food services office; or, online via https://wa-tahoma.intouchreceipting.com/

The total debt represents 899 students' accounts.

If you have any questions, call 425-413-3450 or email foodservicehelp@tahomasd.us Information is also available here: https://www.tahomasd.us/departments/nutrition_services 

Community, students invited to State of the Union viewing
Tahoma High School's We the People team will host a livestream viewing of the State of the Union address at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in the performing arts center at THS (doors open at 5:30).

Students and community members are invited to attend this free viewing.

"This is a nonpartisan event hosted by We the People students, who will model civil discourse as we bring together our community," said Gretchen Wulfing, who advises Tahoma's WTP team.

Please note: Food and drink are not allowed in the PAC.

Tahoma scholarship application window opens Tuesday
The Tahoma Community Partner Scholarship application will go live at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. All applications are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 29. The application program is set on an automatic timer and is exact for Pacific Standard Time. Absolutely no late applications will be processed. To access the application, click here: http://scholarships.tahomahigh.com
The application process will show which sections have been completed and what still needs to be done. Organizers with the THS PTA offer the following advice: Letters of recommendation frequently don’t reach the intended recipient in this process due to spam filters, so look to make sure that you receive a check mark next to that requirement before the due date.

The PTA’s suggested timeline for applicants is: Feb. 8, finish all basic application information; Feb. 15, complete all essays required and send out recommendation requests; March 1, follow up on recommendation requests; March 8, verify requests were returned or continue to follow up on requests; March 15, recheck all progress and finalize any incomplete items; March 22, make sure everything is complete and submit applications.
Any questions may be directed to Stacy Pleskoff via email at thsptascholarships@gmail.com, with “Scholarship Question” in the subject line.

Faculty concert set for Feb. 8
The annual Tahoma Music Faculty Concert in memory of Mary Lou Harting is an opportunity for students, parents, staff and the public to check out the amazing talents of the Tahoma School District's music teachers. Members of our music staff will sing and play instruments as solo or ensemble performers. Students particularly enjoy seeing their own teachers perform.

“We applaud the dedicated teachers who share their gifts and professionalism with our fortunate students in classrooms every day,” said Mary Jane Glaser, president of the Maple Valley Creative Arts Council. The council helps organize the concert each year.

The concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in the Tahoma High School Performing Arts Center. Admission is a suggested $5 donation or $10 for families. All donations will be collected for the Mary Lou Harting Scholarship fund, to be awarded to two graduating Tahoma High School senior music students. As many students, staff and parents remember, Mary Lou Harting was a beloved Tahoma School District music teacher. Her last assignment was at Rock Creek Elementary School. 

“Operation Disinfect” underway at all buildings
District custodial staff are working on “Operation Disinfect,” to put a special emphasis on cleaning all student desks, door knobs, staircase railings, and other highly used surfaces. This work will take place over several weeks in an effort to remove germs.

The custodial teams conduct this effort each year at about this time.

New softball coach will head THS Bears 
Rob McMartin, the new head coach of the Tahoma High School fastpitch team, says he sees exciting times on the horizon for the program.

“I am both humbled and honored to be afforded this opportunity to lead this program into its continued success and commitment to excellence,” said McMartin, who has been coaching for more than 20 years – first in youth football and baseball, and more recently in club softball.

“When this opportunity came about, I saw an opportunity to continue doing what I am passionate about without the rigor of year-round club ball,” he said, noting he felt it was a chance to support young athletes in the community and also become part of a program he has watched for years. One of his daughters previously played on the team.

“Tahoma over the years has been a fun and competitive program to watch, and I wanted to be able to utilize my skills to continue the success of the program,” McMartin said.

Coaching is enjoyable because of the chance it offers to help develop young athletes’ skills, and to challenge them to achieve beyond what they think they can accomplish. “I enjoy using the sport as a vehicle to help teach athletes life lessons that go beyond the sport of softball; things like leadership, working as a team, dealing with challenges and adversity, and working through conflict,” he added.

For the schedule or to learn more about the program, click here: http://www.bearsfastpitch.com/

Tahoma Teacher Job Fair scheduled for Feb. 13
The Tahoma School District will host a Teacher Job Fair from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Tahoma High School. 

The district is seeking excellent K-12 teachers, counselors, special education teachers, BIS, OT/PT, and psychologists.

If you’re certificated in one of those areas and interested in working for Tahoma, please join us to meet administrators from each of our schools, and drop off your resume!

Learn more about us at www.tahomasd.us or by calling 425-413-3400.

Families of MS & THS students: High School & Beyond Night
Middle and high school families are invited to attend our annual "High School & Beyond Night" event from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, at Tahoma High School.

The event will include a principal’s welcome, career and college fair, and a variety of 30-minute seminars.

To read about the topics of the seminars and for more information about the fair, click here:

Dunn visits THS to donate van
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn visited Tahoma High School last week to donate a van to the SAILS (Successful Academic and Independent Living Skills) Program.

"We've got these vans that are paid for by taxpayer money and a certain point it becomes more expensive to maintain them than to replace them," Dunn said, noting that the county donates vans to organizations that have a need and appreciate them.

Heidi Melcher, who teaches in the SAILS program, thanked Dunn for the donation.
In the photo, from left: Maple Valley Mayor and Tahoma Operations Supervisor Sean P. Kelly, Dunn, four students from the SAILS program, Melcher, teacher Therese Miller and THS Assistant Principal Kara Runge.

Tickets on sale now for father-daughter ball
The Tahoma High School PTA is now selling tickets to the annual father-daughter ball, which will be from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at Tahoma High School. The theme is “Love you to the moon and back,” and the event includes dancing, a photograph, keepsake and light snacks.

For those who pre-register, tickets are $40 for one parent/guardian with one daughter, and $15 for each additional daughter. The cost at the door will be $50 for one parent/guardian with one daughter, and $15 for each additional daughter.

To pre-register, visit https://thsptafdb.brownpapertickets.com or mail checks to THS PTA, P.O. Box 74, Maple Valley, WA, 98038. Proceeds from the ball benefit the THS PTA Scholarship Fund.

Banner turnout for "Math is Amazing!" event
The Tahoma High School Math Team hosted the school district’s ninth annual “Math is Amazing!" championships on January 19th. Students in grades 4 through 8 from all math levels participated in the tournament.

This year contained the largest turnout ever, with more than 90 students participating and more than 40 volunteers helping the competition run smoothly.

“I am so proud of the high school math team who set up this event, and National Honor Society (NHS) who assisted in the activities for this exciting and fun event," said Malinda Shirley, math team adviser. "It is a wondrous moment when the many hours of preparation culminate in a fun-filled academic event in which students of many ages can participate!” 

Math team President Laena Tieng said, “As a senior, it was nice to see students so excited to learn about math! It was an amazing time getting to teach them so many new things.” 

Team treasurer Emily Clark added, “I was really happy about the increase in numbers of competitors we had this year. I’m really excited for this positive trend to continue as more and more students become interested in math.”

Seventh grade competitor and overall winner Rohan Boinpally exclaimed, “I really enjoy coming to the competition and have come for the past 4 years! My favorite part is working with my friends for the team test.” 
Spotlight on Transportation
Transportation passes surprise inspection with 100 percent
Earlier this week, inspectors from the Washington State Patrol arrived at the Tahoma Transportation Department for a surprise inspection. The WSP completes one random inspection at every school district each year, examining 25 percent of the fleet (22 buses in Tahoma's case) and also conducts a more lengthy inspection of the full fleet each summer.

This week, inspectors examined all systems on those 22 vehicles, and determined that each of them were in 100 percent compliance. Getting a perfect score on a random inspection is rare and something for the mechanics to take pride in, said Tom Misfeldt, Director of Operations.

Superintendent Tony Giurado also complimented the department on the inspection report, saying that it's particularly notable in light of Transportation being short-staffed.

Superintendent visits Transportation Department
Superintendent Tony Giurado, center, listens to an inspector with the Washington State Patrol, which happened to show up at the Tahoma Transportation Department yesterday for the district's surprise inspection. Giurado was already scheduled to visit Transportation, where he met with dispatchers/schedulers, drivers and mechanics. He also had the opportunity to ride with a driver on her high school, middle school and elementary school routes.

Giurado said that the visit helped him better understand the complexities of safely transporting Tahoma students to and from school each day. "That's done in a way to ensure safety but also in a way that our bus drivers reach out and make connections with kids and build relationships. There are many moving parts -- having a bus fleet that is safe and ready to go, able to meet the demands of changing weather conditions; and also scheduling challenges."

"I have a deeper appreciation for what that entails," Giurado continued. "There's a lot more than a bus just showing up to pick up a student. We (Tahoma staff) are all educators. We all change lives, through building relationships and providing educational opportunities for our kids. It takes this whole team."

Giurado, center right, had the chance to ride along with driver Kerry Walstad on her elementary, middle and high school routes yesterday.

Middle schools host Future Ready Day
On Jan. 18, Middle school students at Maple View and Summit Trail participated in Future Ready Day, which offered them the chance to hear from a variety of professionals representing many careers.

Thank you to each volunteer who presented to Tahoma students!
Musician Russell Leonce sang to and chatted with Maple View students about the many ways they could be part of the music industry.
King County Sheriff's Deputy David Graf let Summit Trail seventh-grader Talal K. try on his vest and helmet, and also explained some of the features such as the night vision goggles to the students.

FRIDAY, Feb. 1
Cedar River Elementary Science Fair, 6:30-8, CRES

Glacier Park PTA Father Daughter Tea Party, 6:30-8:30 p.m., GPES

"Almost, Maine," presented by THS Drama Club, 7 p.m., PAC

"Almost, Maine," presented by THS Drama Club, 2 & 7 p.m., PAC

School Board Work-Study Session about current student board representatives; and, executive session to screen applications for vacant board position. 6 p.m., Central Services Center

Community, school viewing of State of the Union address hosted by We the People, 5:45 p.m.until end of speech, Tahoma High School PAC

Tentative School Board Work-Study Session if needed to continue evaluating applications for vacant board position, 6 p.m., Central Services Center

Glacier Park Elementary Celebration of Learning, 5:30 p.m. (dinner in gym at 5 p.m. for $6 for those who RSVP); GPES

FRIDAY, Feb. 8
Annual Mary Lou Harting Memorial Concert, 7 p.m., Tahoma High School PAC

TUESDAY, Feb. 12
School Board Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Central Services Center

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