White River school board honors custodial workers

“A phenomenal job” kept coming across White River School District leaders’ lips when the board honored more than 25 custodial and maintenance staff members with Apple of Distinction Awards at its Sept. 23 meeting and study session.

The group was honored not just for its day-in and day-out work, but for the countless hours and abundance of energy it exhibited during the district’s major summer move.

“They worked hard during the summer, and I underscore the word hard,” said Keith Banks, the districts human resources director.

Superintendent Tom Lockyer said never in his nearly 40 years in education has he seen so much change in a couple of months.

From the time school was out in June until teachers returned in August, Collins Alternative Programs shut its doors and moved to the White River Middle School campus across town. White River Middle School teachers and staff joined the staff across town at Glacier Middle School and Wickersham School of Discovery closed its doors and teachers and programs moved into Wilkeson Elementary School.

Facilities and Transportation Services Director Rick LaBoyne said it was a great feat that involved 5,000 boxes, exchanges of keys and codes, countless hours of loading and unloading and a few unexpected surprises – all in the soaring heat of the summer.

“You guys did an amazing job,” he said to those who were in attendance to accept their awards. “I never doubted it wouldn’t get done, because they exuded a level of excitement and professional about their jobs.”

In other business, the board:

• rehearsed its presentation for the Washington State School Directors Association conference in November. Board members have been invited to speak about their work in the area of Professional Learning Communities.

The board, along with district leaders, will be presenting “Leading to Collaboration: A Systemic Approach,” which was featured at its conference in June that drew more than 200 teachers and administrators from more than 30 school districts across three states. November’s presentation will be directed to help school boards understand their role in developing PLCs.

Since developing PLCs and concentrating its efforts on student-centered learning, the White River School District has been earning praise from across the country. Not known a few years ago for its academic prowess, the district has made gains in test scores and post-graduation success.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Lockyer said. “I’ve been at this 38 years and this has been the most amazing journey I’ve been on.”

The school board’s role is providing time and resources, but also setting expectations and holding the staff accountable.

Quoting Assistant Superintendent Janel Keating, board member John McArtor said, “It’s not about teaching. It’s about learning.”

The board OK’d late-start Mondays to provide teachers time to collaborate together on student work and focus on improving learning. The district controls that period and has tied expectations to it.

Rather than study PLCs to death, Lockyer said, the district laid the groundwork and then implemented the program in 2007-08 with the motto, “get started and get better.”

The WSSDA conference draws school board members and leaders from across the state together to share ideas and discuss issues facing districts. This year’s conference is slated for Nov. 18-21 in Seattle.

• approve out-of-state travel for Director of Student Support Services Hugh Flint to attend the Positive Behavioral Support Conference in Chicago in October.

• hired child care assistant Kim Campbell and supervision educational assistant Kimberlee Wiersma.

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