By Marcy Stamper
Technology and reading top the list as educational priorities the Methow Valley School District gears up for the new school year.
The district has hired Liberty Bell High School grad Jessica Smith-Rouse as technology integration specialist to incorporate the latest technology in all subjects. For many classes that means providing computers and software. But the push to bring technology up to date will also encompass specialized equipment used in construction, photography and in culinary arts, said Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.
Smith-Rouse, who spent eight years teaching in Omak, will work closely with teachers and students to make technology a regular part of instruction at all schools in the district.
Learning to use technology “is no different than a student’s development as a reader or in math,” said Venable. “The technology itself is not the goal — the goal is to develop readers, writers and mathematicians who can think critically and solve problems.”
Smith-Rouse will address specific needs of teachers and classes, complementing the work of Drew Simmons, who takes on an expanded role as the director of teaching and learning/technology and categorical programming.
Simmons is charged with creating a curriculum for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that incorporates technology and computer science, said Venable. As part of this effort, the district will evaluate research on the appropriate level of technology for its youngest students.
The district is also buying 120 laptops — adding to the 300 purchased in recent years — which moves it closer to the goal of having a computer for every student. Students will be able to check out the laptops for home use.
The beefed-up program will also include adaptive technologies for students who need specialized accommodations.
Smith-Rouse’s position and the computer purchase are funded by the $2.2-million technology levy approved by voters in 2016.
New science teacher
Liberty Bell welcomes Genny Rice as a new science teacher. Rice, who has taught sea kayaking and mountaineering at the Northwest Outward Bound School in Mazama for the past eight years, replaces Melody Beavon, who retired after 16 years with the district.
Rice, who has degrees in music and biology, specializes in outdoor education. She was a field-science instructor for NatureBridge, where she led outdoor classrooms in Olympic and Yosemite national parks, and was an educational naturalist in the Puget Sound area.
The district is still recruiting a reading enrichment coordinator to work with elementary students, primarily in after-school activity clubs and child care program so students won’t miss other classes during the regular school day, said Venable. The reading specialist will be hired through the Washington Reading Corps, a division of AmeriCorps.
Just a few weeks after the new term begins, the district will host two teams from the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization, who will evaluate the district’s progress in meeting IB guidelines. After two years as a candidate school for the primary years (kindergarten through sixth grade) and middle years (seventh through 10th grade), the district applied for formal authorization this past spring.
The IB program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of subjects. For example, teachers organize lesson plans around a central idea, using topics like science, music and phys ed to show how the subject recurs in different fields.
The teams will assess each program in two separate two-day visits. “The intent is to describe what they see and the next steps, not to say ‘You’ve made it,’” said Venable, who said that even if the school receives formal authorization, teachers will continue to develop new IB units and refine existing ones.
The decision on authorization is expected next spring.
The district got delivery of three new school buses this week. Added to two buses bought last year, that brings new vehicles in the 13-bus fleet to five. The district plans to purchase three more buses next fall, so that 80 percent of the 10 main routes will be served by a new bus, according to Bud Hover, the district’s director of operations and capital projects.
Three older buses are still on hand for emergencies. The oldest buses have already been sold as surplus, said Hover.
Purchase of new buses is supported by a $800,000 voter-approved levy.
Former bus driver Bill Bailey has stepped into the job of mechanic, replacing Rand Martin, who retired earlier this year. Robert James has been hired as a bus driver.
Key school dates:
First day of school
Tuesday, Sept. 5
Methow Valley Elementary
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., starting Aug. 21: Register, update information, pay for lunches
More information: 996-2186
Jr.–Sr. High School
Wednesday – Thursday, Aug. 23 – 24: Register (new and returning students), update information, pay lunch and activity fees
More information: 996-2215