New administrative jobs for elementary principal, facilities operations
By Marcy Stamper
Elementary school students will learn to speak Spanish and have regular music classes, while junior high and high school students can select more work in science, engineering and design as the Methow Valley School District expands and reorganizes its programs.
The district has budgeted $260,000 for new staff, according to Superintendent Tom Venable.
Four long-term teachers are retiring; the district is hiring a dozen teachers and support staff; and there will be some internal shuffling as current teachers move to new jobs.
Students will now learn Spanish starting in kindergarten, part of the district’s transition to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Brynne Edwards, currently the district’s bilingual coordinator and Cub Club coordinator, will teach Spanish at the elementary school. Edwards taught Spanish for 12 years at Mt. Baker High School in Bellingham and has lived and taught in Mexico. She has a 3-year-old daughter.
Starting in seventh grade, students will be able to choose between Spanish and Chinese.
Also at Methow Valley Elementary School, the district is replacing three retiring teachers — second-grade teacher Kathy Williams, third-grade teacher Cathy Oliver and fourth-grade teacher Linda Reese.
New hire Jonathan Stratman, a teacher with 15 years of experience and a background in experiential learning and special education, is coming from Gold Bar, a rural school district on the west side of the Cascades, to teach second grade. Stratman also has experience as a soccer coach.
Rachel Stratman, Jonathan’s wife, will teach third grade. Rachel Stratman has taught for 14 years in the Sultan School District, where she emphasized current events and the arts. Jonathan and Rachel Stratman have two children.
Catie Barber, whose most recent teaching job was at an international school in Warsaw, Poland, will teach fifth grade. In addition to her work in Poland, Barber has taught in Thailand, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Dubai. Her U.S. teaching experience includes fourth and fifth grade in California, where she also served as a technology coach. She has a son in second grade.
At Liberty Bell High School, the district has hired Trent Whatley as the new instructor for the Careers in Construction Academy. Whatley brings experience in residential construction and remodeling, as a certified drafter; and as an auto mechanic, welder and electrician. This is his first teaching job.
Whatley replaces Bob Wilson, who is retiring. He will take over welding from Barry Stromberger, who is also retiring. Whatley has three children — in kindergarten, seventh grade and college — and coaches youth soccer and baseball.
Hana Baker is joining the district to work with home-schooled students in the REACH program. Baker has 10 years of elementary teaching experience in public, private and charter schools. She and her husband, Liberty Bell science teacher Tyler Slostad, have two children.
Staff switches and reorganization
Tirzah Quigley, who has been the district’s REACH program coordinator, will work as an elementary reading specialist next year.
Mark Johnson, who has been teaching band and orchestra at the high school, will move to the elementary school, where he will teach music for all grades and conduct band for fifth and sixth graders.
The district has hired Matt Armbrust to teach junior high and high school band and chorus, a part-time position. Armbrust has conducted a youth string orchestra and worked in an after-school program at Little Star Montessori, where he will direct art and music education next year.
The district will be strengthening its program in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). The district is recruiting for a position at Liberty Bell that will include instruction in computer programming, engineering, design and robotics, said Venable.
The district has hired Chase Rost as its new activities director. Rost, the former activities director in the Bickleton School District near Goldendale, will oversee athletics and extracurricular activities. That post has been filled by Hunter Maltais, the district’s transportation supervisor, for the past two years.
The job of transportation supervisor is being eliminated and will be combined with two other supervisory jobs under the new position of director of operations and capital projects. The director of operations will oversee transportation needs, custodial and maintenance departments, and food services for the whole district, according to Venable. The director of operations will also oversee facilities upgrades funded by voter-approved levies.
The special education department will see several changes. Long-time elementary school special ed teacher Laura Schrager is moving to the high school, while Adrian Chavey will switch to the elementary level, joining Jennifer Simmons. Simmons has finished her first year at the school, after replacing Kim Young, who resigned earlier this year after an extended leave, said Venable.
Interim elementary principal Anne Andersen will be the district’s director of teaching and learning, which combines the role of IB coordinator with support for literacy at the elementary school and development of a highly capable learner program at Liberty Bell. Bob Winters has already been hired as the new elementary principal.
The district is looking for a mental health counselor for the entire district, a position that will be funded through a grant obtained by Okanogan County Behavioral Healthcare. It is also seeking a school counselor at the elementary level.
The district will also be hiring a new secretary for Methow Valley Elementary to provide support primarily for the REACH program, special education and other instructional programs.
Paying for new staff
While many of the jobs are replacements for current staff, the changes add up to a $260,000 increase in salary and benefits, said Venable. The district anticipates additional funding from the state, although nothing is certain since legislators have yet to agree on a budget, he said.
“Unfortunately, we can’t wait for the state — they’re halfway through their second special session. If we wait, we’d be posting positions too late,” said Venable. Based on proposed budgets in the state House and Senate and enrollment projections, the district feels confident making these investments, he said.
In addition, the district will be eliminating class-supply fees at all grade levels.
Community School adds programs
The Methow Valley Community School is expanding its offerings next year. The school will be adding kindergarten and a program for home-schooled students.
The home-school program will offer opportunities for students to come to the school on a daily or weekly basis for added support in academics, to participate in writing and arts projects, or for outdoor education and field trips, said Crystal Bacon, the executive director.In addition to recruiting a kindergarten teacher, the school will hire a replacement for teacher Tara Cancio-Bello.