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White River teachers hope to LIFT students out of obesity

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

White River Middle School physical education teachers Teresa Ross and Mary Robbins believe obesity presents the United States with one of its greatest health challenges in years.

"Obesity," Ross told the White River School Board at its regular meeting March 10. "it looks like will take over smoking as the leading cause of preventable death."

Ross and Robbins, along with other White River middle school physical education teachers, say they've found a way to LIFT their students to a healthier lifestyle. They pitched their plan to purchase state-of-the-art equipment through a program called Leadership In Fitness Training (LIFT) America program to the board.

The LIFT program is part of the National School Fitness Foundation, a public, nonprofit organization founded to fight current trends in childhood obesity and inactivity. LIFT provides equipment, high-tech computerized assessment kiosks, training and certification.

The middle school P.E. teachers are asking the board to give the district the nod to purchase $225,000 worth of strength, cardiovascular and assessment equipment for the middle schools through the program.

If approved, the district would enter a three-year lease for the equipment. According to Robbins, the program would work like this: both White River and Glacier middle schools would receive equipment; teachers would assess student progress on a regular basis and send data to the National School Fitness Foundation; in exchange for the data, the company will essentially wave the monthly payment for the equipment.

Currently there are approximately 450 schools in 18 states participating in the program with results that show an increase in student strength and aerobic activity and a decrease in body fat.

Staff members visited programs at Bellevue's Chinook and Snoqualmie middle schools to see for themselves.

"This will put White River on the forefront of lifelong health and that's where P.E. is headed," Robbins said.

The group will return to the board at a later date looking for approval.

In other business, the board:

€ reviewed data from the University of Washington and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction on White River graduate post-high school success.

"It's hard to get information on how successful our graduates are," said Assistant Superintendent Roger Marlow, who presented the reports.

Marlow said the most positive results came from the University of Washington, which released information on incoming freshman based on the past five years.

White River scored especially well on what the UW calls its Freshman Admission Review (FAR). FAR grading factors are used to compensate for differences in school grading practices. For example, White River students entered the UW with an average grade-point of 3.5 and averaged 2.96 at the end of the first year. The top third of schools, those with the smallest difference between their high school and university GPA, receive four points. White River earned four points.

For comparison, Enumclaw High students entered with a 3.73 gpa and finished with a 2.98, earning a FAR of two. Sumner High students came in at 3.74 gpa and out at 2.90, also for a two.

Marlow continued, through OSPI, the district got permission to track its high school graduates from 1997 through the past five years. Among the 137 students who agreed to be part of the study, OSPI found the largest majority of students went straight from high school into the work force. A significant number of students also went to a two-year college and worked at the same time.

Marlow warned the board to be careful not to make too much out of the OSPI numbers because of the limited information.

€ was informed by White River School District executive director of business services Susan Smith Leland - as she went over the 2002-03 financial report - that White River has the highest percentage of expenditure for teaching and teaching support in Pierce County. And White River has the lowest percentage of expenditure for administration in Pierce County among districts its size.

"I think that says a lot about White River and about where we put our money - in the classroom," Leland said.

Together, teaching and teaching support make up more than 70 percent of the district's expenditures in the general fund.

With an enrollment that has steadily climbed since 1989, White River has also seen its budget grow, although through the years it has been increasingly difficult for the district to hit the board's targets.

The district saw an increase of about $360,000 in levy monies and another increase of about $690,000 in state general purpose funds. This district also received $123,430 in I-728 money and about $94,435 in state special purpose funds.

At the same time, the district saw an increase in expenditures in certificated salaries of $1.26 million and an increase in classified salaries of $400,000. Benefits also increased by $58,650. There was a slight decrease in non-employee related costs of $357,026.

€ approved change orders for: the high school, $45,841; central kitchen, $46,665; White River Middle School, $25,500; and the annex remodel, $21,390. The board also approved a call for bid for the Mountain Meadow Elementary School site project.

€ acknowledged March 23-26 for elementary spring conferences and April 1 for high school spring conferences.

€ set 6 p.m. March 24 in the district board room for its next board study session. The topic is counseling.

€ announced April 12 through 16 for spring break.

€ set its next regular meeting for 6 p.m. April 14 in the district board room.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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