School superintendent adds up the state of Enumclaw education

Superintendent Mike Nelson delivered his annual State of Education address Thursday evening, continuing a tradition first started when he took the Enumclaw School District reins six years ago.

In a Top 10 fashion, Nelson addressed a crowd of about 150 that had gathered in the high school commons for soup, salad and an update on what’s new with the district that serves slightly more than 4,000 students in Enumclaw and Black Diamond.

Among the highlights from the past year, Nelson said, are the following.


District launches into the world of Facebook

While making a pitch for more “friends” – the district is at 468 and counting – Nelson social media is just one more way to spread information. Unlike the official website,, the district’s Facebook page provides “little bits of information,” he added.

Facebook also allows for light-hearted fare, Nelson added. For example, a photo taken earlier this month on the Sunrise Elementary School grounds of an eagle and a crow — which appeared to be discussing the rainy weather — “created a phenomenon on our Facebook page,” he said. Comments on the photo came from all over the United States.


Enumclaw High athletes shine

“We want (students) to participate at the highest possible level,” Nelson said, after rattling off an impressive list of sporting accomplishments. For example, 2012 saw EHS capture state championships in gymnastics and boys wrestling, while the girls wrestling squad was honored as the academic state champion. The fall of 2012 had EHS winning five league titles; Hornet athletes added two more in the winter of 2012 and another two during the spring season.

8 — Arts programs across the spectrum

Drastic budget cuts in recent years have caused schools to curtail their artistic offerings, Nelson said, focusing on one or two areas while ignoring others.

“During that time our arts programs have flourished,” he said. “They are incredible.”

Enumclaw has been able to satisfy student needs for everything from choral and band programs to drama and the visual arts. It’s not just at the high school, Nelson added, pointing to the Magic Strings program at the elementary level.

7 — Pair of schools earn special recognition

During 2012, Sunrise Elementary was honored as a Title One Reward School and Black Diamond Elementary was noted as a School of Distinction.

“The amazing thing is, you don’t apply for those awards,” Nelson said. “They are based on students achievement and growth over time.”

6 — McCleary decision makes life easier

“The best news I received in 2012,” the superintendent said, came when members of the state Supreme Court upheld a verdict that the Legislature has not adequately funded public education. In the McCleary vs. State of Washington decision, the court agreed that state lawmakers have not met their “paramount duty” — that is, to amply fund education above all else.

For school districts across the state, Nelson said, the McCleary decision brought a sign of relief. The Legislature now has marching orders to keep education as its No. 1 priority.

5 and 4 – Curriculum enhancements and academic performance

For these, Nelson handed the microphone to Terry Parker, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. Parker spoke of efforts to make academic offerings more rigorous. Results are encouraging, as assessments for 2012 showed the district posting its highest scores ever in third grade reading and math, fourth grade writing, fifth grade math and eighth grade reading and science.

3 — Technology makes a world of difference

The district has gotten up to speed with technology, Nelson said, both for teachers and students. Among the offerings are document cameras, laptop carts and Promethean boards — the interactive “smart boards” that are changing the way some lessons are being delivered.

2 — Campaigning for kindness and compassion

Following the state’s lead, but upping the ante significantly, the school district was instrumental in spreading warmth throughout the community.

“It’s not tied to learning, but it’s directly tied to each of our kids,” Nelson said.

The integrated campaign included Rachel’s Challenge, which culminated with a community celebration at Pete’s Pool. Additionally, there’s a Link Crew, which has older high schoolers taking freshmen under their wing and showing them the way; schoolwide drives to collect food, clothing and toys for those in need; and, most recently, a high school assembly and outreach to victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

1 — Developing STEM initiatives

Landing in the No. 1 spot was the ongoing emphasis on STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Enumclaw is not alone when it comes to focusing on the four areas that are seen as crucial for future success, as STEM has become a movement across the nation.

The most visible element during 2012 was the STEM Expo, which saw the high school commons filled with local companies talking to students about the need for workers skilled in the STEM disciplines.


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