School district seeks guidance for programs
Got ideas to improve education?
The district is forming a Budget Development Task Force. To join, fill out an application at methow.org, call the school district office at 996-9205, or email Superintendent Tom Venable at email@example.com. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 13.
The task force will include teachers, administrators, other school staff, students, parents and community members. The group will meet in February and March and ultimately make a recommendation to the superintendent.
Provide input online for “Priorities for Progress” at methow.org, email Superintendent Tom Venable at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop off ideas at the school district office. The deadline is Feb. 21.
Consistent themes are emerging from the school district’s quest for the ideal educational opportunities for all students — including outdoor education, opportunities in the trades and agriculture, more internships, art education in all grades, and longer class periods for electives.
School administrators have been asking teachers, staff, students and the community to share their boundless visions for initiatives that would improve educational opportunities for all students.
A unique addition to the recurring themes came from students at the Independent Learning Center (ILC), who want to harness the vibrant energy of athletics and the drama of World Wrestling Entertainment, ILC Principal Sara Mounsey told participants at the school district’s Dream Big event last week. In the coming weeks, they’ll ask students at other schools for their ideas.
Led by Mounsey and the other two principals — Crosby Carpenter from Liberty Bell High School and Paul Gutzler from Methow Valley Elementary — Dream Big was designed as “an organic process for people to share ideas,” Gutzler said. The event drew 50 people, including a dozen school staffers.
“Think about what an education for our students in the valley could look like,” Carpenter said. “Think outside the box.”
Everyone at Dream Big took five minutes to jot down ideas on sticky notes. Participants then coalesced around the seven areas that drew the most interest and formed small groups to brainstorm and devise a plan to implement their goals. They distilled their plans into 60-second “elevator pitches.”
Although they were encouraged to let their imaginations run wild, the groups were also asked for a realistic assessment of any hurdles.
The needs of middle-school students got substantial attention from school staff and community members. It can be hard for these students to transition from the elementary school to seventh grade in the high school, they said. “This is the only group without a unique program,” said one participant. “We need a special space, staff, and program that addresses both the academic and social needs of this currently underserved group at a critical developmental time.”
Another group looked at ways to enhance education in construction, welding, automotive and culinary trades to help students find meaning in education and to provide hands-on learning. They envision a facility where students can build indoors year-round, more exposure to career opportunities in school and after graduation, and corresponding high-tech instruction.
There was wide support for outdoor education. One group wants agricultural education that includes animal husbandry. They envision a garden where growing and harvesting their own food is” just part of who students are.”
Outdoor education would also help students who struggle to concentrate in the traditional classroom. “We want to train kids outdoors all the time and keep them with the earth,” said one group. “Being good doesn’t mean sitting still all day or keeping quiet.”
Another group wants to broaden the district’s internship program to attract both more students and more community members with diverse expertise. These relationships would create crucial intergenerational benefits, they said.
Visual and performance arts should be an integral part of all students’ education starting in kindergarten, said another group. That foundation would enable students to specialize in art in high school, they said.
Having longer periods for electives would encourage students to explore an area of interest, one group said.
While some common topics have been rising to the top, the full array of ideas is far-reaching. People suggested nursing, American sign language, a student store, afternoon clubs, an indoor pool, a therapy-animal program, and class evaluations without grades.
The district is using the Dream Big process to allocate the 10% of its budget that’s discretionary — to determine what it should spend money on and what programs can be eliminated. The district gets 100 to 120 ideas every year for new or expanded programs and just four suggestions for cuts, Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable said.
The district wants input from everyone. They’ll collect all these ideas as “priorities for progress” and ask for feedback on the entire list. Ultimately the options will be narrowed and money allocated in the budget to make the programs a reality.
“These ideas don’t end as sticky notes — it’s just the beginning,” Carpenter said.