Students and parents in the Methow Valley School District will find new staff, or familiar faces in new roles, when the school year begins.
Sara Mounsey, who has been teaching at the Independent Learning Center (ILC) since 2011, will continue to teach there but also becomes the school’s principal. Before this year, the Liberty Bell High School principal acted as the administrative leader for the ILC.
Mounsey has been part of a leadership team at the ILC that includes adviser Kim Odell and mentorship coordinator Kelleigh McMillan.
“The ILC as it exists today is a reflection of Sara’s vision. She has inspired all of us to make the vision a reality. I can’t imagine a better person to serve as the ILC’s principal,” Odell said in a school district press release.
Mounsey’s vision has been so successful that the school has a waiting list for the first time in her experience — a turn of events that she said is a blessing and a curse.
“It’s a blessing because it is an example of the way that our school has changed, where people are making a conscious decision to pick an educational system that fits for them,” Mounsey said in an interview.
“It’s also a curse because we hate to be saying ‘no’ to anybody who wishes to enroll.”
With Mounsey as principal, the school will be more directly engaged in policy discussions at the district’s leadership level. One discussion that may arise, Mounsey said, would be the feasibility of expanding the ILC, given its popularity.
Katie Hover moves from second-grade teacher to literacy support specialist with an added dimension. The job title now includes dyslexia coordinator.
Hover and others are developing a program to help students in the earliest grades learn how to read and write.
“Working in partnership with our teaching staff, my role will focus on ensuring the success of all students in their development as readers and writers, including those who are struggling with literacy-based learning challenges and displaying dyslexic tendencies,” Hover said in an email.
Putting more effort into ensuring that all students are reading and writing at grade level is a matter of equity, Hover said.
“We’ve heard the stories. Not just in the Methow Valley, but in other places as well,” Hover said in an email. “Families … have invested thousands of dollars to provide their struggling children with the supports needed to be successful while others are unable to do so. This is a clear reflection of our district’s commitment to ensuring the success of every student.”
The school district is adding a third-grade teacher this year. Tirzah Quigley brings the total number of third-grade teachers at Methow Valley Elementary School to three.
Quigley has spent the past eight years in the district working as REACH coordinator and literacy support specialist. The REACH program provides teacher support to parents who lead their children’s education.
Julie Haskins brings more than 20 years of teaching experience to her new job as kindergarten teacher at Methow Valley Elementary. Haskins replaces Joan Stulka, who retired at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Haskins, who worked most recently in the Port Angeles School District, joins a kindergarten-teaching team that includes Libby Foley and Maggie Wicken.
Ray Sanders fills the vacancy left by Hover to become the elementary school’s newest second-grade teacher. Sanders taught kindergarten last year in Brewster.
Sanders has been a Methow Valley resident for the past nine years. His wife, Dani Reynaud, is executive director of Little Star Montessori School.
Now that he’s closer professionally to his family and community, Sanders said in a press release that he expects to return to coaching youth in a variety of sports.
Beth Anderson was hired as the new college and career adviser, a position that was expanded this year to be nearly full time. Anderson replaces Erika Spellman.
The college and career adviser position was expanded in response to advice from graduating seniors, Superintendent Tom Venable said at the July 24 school board meeting.
“They have shared with me that this is a critical support,” Venable said, “especially to those who are first-generation college students, as well as to those who are not intending — at least initially — to attend a four-year university but are interested in attending a technical school.”
The expanded college and career adviser position is supported by a donation from the Methow Valley Public School Funding Alliance, Venable said.
Other new hires or job-title changes in the school district for the upcoming year:
• The two schools both have new principals: Crosby Carpenter at Liberty Bell and Paul Gutzler at the elementary school. Carpenter, previously the principal of the Chelan School of Innovation, replaced Deborah DeKalb. Gutzler, formerly assistant principal at Mount Baker High School in Deming, replaced Bob Winters.
• Dan Hanks, the new special education coordinator and school psychologist, founded a college-transition support program in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
• Katharine Bill, the district’s family and community engagement coordinator, adds REACH coordinator to her job title.
• Eveline Wathen, world language teacher, will offer more instruction in the high school, going from part time to full time.
• Adriana Vanbianchi, the new school nurse, worked most recently at the Methow Valley Clinic in Winthrop. She will be in the schools three days a week.
• Charles Myers, a 2011 Liberty Bell graduate, joins the custodial-maintenance staff.
• Jeremiah Wicken joins the ILC staff as an adviser who will focus on teaching math and science.
• Katherine Bautista is the new executive secretary to Venable.
• Leanna Jensen is the new secretary to the director of operations, supporting Bud Hover.