Letters to the Editor

Wickersham boosters rally to defense of their school District has good teachers in all schools

Recent letters to the editor from School of Discovery parents, concerned about the possible closing of the school, have reflected how much this school is loved and valued.

I have had the privilege of working for the White River School District for the past 17 years, both as a teacher at Elk Ridge Elementary and most recently as an instructional coach. In my current position I have had the opportunity to work side by side with staff and administrators in all five of White River’s elementary schools. While I have not served as an instructor at School of Discovery, I am well acquainted with the school and my colleagues who work there. It is indeed a special place and it’s easy to understand why parents and students of the school are concerned about losing it.

That said, perhaps it will be of some comfort for parents to know that School of Discovery does not exist in isolation. I am proud to be a part of a school district that values shared goals and collaboration. The School of Discovery staff members meet regularly with their colleagues from the four other elementary schools in the district to discuss their practice and to support each other in seeing that all of our district students have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

All five of our district elementary schools staff highly qualified, caring teachers. The majority of these teachers are high-achievers who hold master’s degrees, work ridiculously long hours and collect things like empty egg cartons, all because they care so deeply about seeing their students experience success.

Speaking of success, while we are proud of School of Discovery WASL scores, they are actually comparable in many areas to scores in our other W.R. elementary schools. Depending on the grade level and the subject, there are schools with both higher and lower overall scores than the scores of SOD students. Students at all of our elementary schools are experiencing success on the WASL. The community of collaboration in the district promotes greater uniformity amongst schools with the goal of success for all students.

In conclusion, closing School of Discovery would be a great loss. Clearly, it is a beloved school. However, should the SOD staff be integrated into our other schools, they would continue to work as a part of the larger team of WRSD professionals of which they are already a part. The staff and PTA of each existing school would welcome with open arms the dedicated parents of the SOD students. And, finally, the SOD children would be loved and cared for by dedicated teachers who, like their current teachers, are eager to help all children become lifelong learners who hold positive memories of their elementary school experience.

Becky Hathaway

White River math/instructional coach

All impacted by decision

on schools

There have been many rumors circulating about the upcoming White River School District budget cuts. The most discussed and rumored about have been the closure of Wickersham School of Discovery and the relocation of Collins Alternative School to the Wickersham campus.

First I would like to thank Mr. Lockyer (W.R. superintendent) and Denise Vogel (W.R. school board president) for attending the WSOD meeting specifically called to address our concerns. To a packed room Mr. Lockyer delivered his canned budget speech. Despite the heartfelt testimonies of parents, staff, previous students and concerned community members he didn’t address the issue at hand, the closing of WSOD. He refused. He chastised us like children, stating that “he wouldn’t choose one school over the other.” I raised my hand to state that this wasn’t what we were asking for, we only wanted to bring light to what Wickersham is; needless to say he didn’t acknowledge me. This was a disappointing statement made by the one person who truly needed to understand our school. He turned WSOD’s pride at being a truly exceptional learning community/family into an issue of vanity. He didn’t address the ideas presented for keeping WSOD open; one can only assume that he didn’t value our ideas for any amount of consideration. Furthermore, he went on to say that (as far as curriculum) that the “other WR schools were getting there.” I have to say that WSOD is “there.”

We know that Mr. Lockyer has been less than forthcoming with the facts and this has made the rumor mill flourish. We as parents, taxpayers and citizens of Buckley (every student will be affected by his decisions/recommendations) have the right to know what is happening. On Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. at Glacier Middle School Mr. Lockyear is making his official budget recommendations to the school board. This is a public meeting and although it has been made clear that we won’t have the opportunity to ask questions or comment on his recommendations I believe that we should all hear for ourselves what he has to say; with the facts we can move forward as a community to protect all of our schools.

Stephanie O’Mary

Bonney Lake

Wickersham won over homeschooler

I am a homeschooler who rather reluctantly made a decision to enroll my youngest child in kindergarten at a public school. My plan after her kindergarten year was to homeschool her as I do her older brother. I chose Wickersham School of Discovery, which bills itself as a “choice” school, and held my breath.

Initially, I didn’t give too much thought to budget cuts and the possible closure of WSOD. My plans were set and I looked forward to homeschooling both children next year. However, I reluctantly but honestly admit to a change of heart since seeing the excitement on my daughter’s face as she tells me about her day in Mrs. Jewell’s kindergarten class.

This is a tough one. My convictions vs. my daughter’s happiness in a (gasp!) school setting. Don’t get me wrong. I will never be a willing convert to an institutional type of schooling. But I see a bright spot in WSOD that sparks some lingering public school optimism. Perhaps this school is just different enough, an alternative to homeschooling that I wasn’t looking for…but may be willing to consider.

A defining example: WSOD requests that I volunteer, welcomes me, encourages me to volunteer. Their willingness to allow me to be involved and the level of that involvement sets them apart from the other elementary schools in the district.

Previous to WSOD, my parental involvement was limited to a few token tasks on the periphery of the classroom environment. Here, parents are allowed much more of a hands-on working relationship in the classroom, the lunchroom, the art room, the playground. That’s what I was missing in my son’s public school education and that’s what has made a difference in my attitude toward my daughter’s public school education.

Me – willing to give public education another shot because WSOD is not afraid to open their school, their classrooms to parents. I’ve seen firsthand as they interact with my child and maybe yours, too. I like what I see. Enriching and nurturing my child are as important to me as their education and all are an integral part of this school. WSOD encourages parents to partner with them in the education of their children. Wow, what a concept. And parents are waiting in line to experience this same opportunity for their own children. I’m not aware of waiting lines at the other White River School District elementary schools.

Are the decision-makers listening? This is the school that has dared to step away from its cookie-cutter public school counterparts resulting in higher WASL scores and a waiting list for enrollment. This is the elementary school set for closure?

Mr. Superintendent, Mrs. Deputy Superintendent and Mrs. Secretary to the Superintendent: Give me WSOD or mail me two “Intent to Homeschool” forms, please.

Jennifer Breault

Buckley

Supports the ‘close-knit’ community

My name is Tara Yates and I have twin boys that are in 4th grade at Wickersham school of Discovery in Mrs. Bookter’s and Mrs. Brooks’ class. My children have always been shy children and have flourished so much with the close-knit family atmosphere of WSOD. The teachers treat each child’s needs individually and that as a parent I value.

First, I need to state that I apologize for being naive to all of the budget details you are up against which is why I have questions and a desire for you to address and comment on my concerns.

My first concern or misconception is the fact that I don’t see our school as a “high cost” school to run. We share a principal, we have no full time nurse, and we have no physical education and no library just to name a few basics. Being a school of choice means that we either pay for full time kindergarten or each family is required to commit to 5 hours a month of volunteer time. We clearly not only meet these requirements but exceed all other schools in the district for volunteer hours year after year. All of these hours certainly must equate to salary pay for additional teachers. We do so because we love our school and the environment it creates. It also teaches our children pride in what they do and putting effort into things that are important to you…..a great lessoned learned.

Knowing the funding challenges we face the PTA and board members at WSOD make very conscious decisions every time we decided the school wants or needs something from district funds. One way to supplement this is with a very dedicated PTA. I have never seen a group of men and women more dedicated to do what ever it takes to have our school be successful. Our PTA membership is higher than every other school in the district not only with membership but actual involvement. In fact the stage itself that Mr. Lockyer sat on last night at our meeting was built and painted by volunteer fathers from our school on a Saturday afternoon. And the overhead screen above his head for movies was a white sheet we used for years without complaint until our PTA raised the funds to finally purchase a real movie screen. (Not asking for budget funds for it) These things make us proud of our work and teach our children the same lessons, which are an important part of their growth and who they will become. Our PTA searches for and implements every fundraising and school funding program available. Some of them are the Wal-Mart recycling bag programs, box tops for education, soup labels, recycling old cell phones, and even the Safeway club card program just to name a few. I know that these are not new programs, but what I do know is that we use each program to the fullest and get the most out of every one of them for our benefit. We do this because we want to ensure our teachers and students having what they need without depending on the district funds. A side note for me personally on this is that I am an out of district parent that is in the Deringer district and trust me if I wanted to go there I would spend very little time and effort into having to raise the funds for my children and educators to have what they need. This is not a complaint that I have to do so it is only to show you that I would rather put all of my extra time energy and resources into doing these

programs to ensure my children attend what I see and believe to be the very best school in our area.

Another note is it is my understanding that our students have higher reading levels and test scores across the board with other White River schools. To have these results without a funded library speaks for itself. Our library was formed, filled with donated books and ran weekly by dedicated parents that know how important reading is to a child’s education. I do not think you would find this effort and dedication anywhere else. Reading is proven to be one of the most essential parts of a child’s education and even without funding we are making sure our children have access to this.

I have one last statement that I feel is very important and needs to be recognized. Out of all of western Washington our principal was nominated, voted for and won second place (first in our book) in the state for the “Best of Western Washington” contest. She knows each child as an individual and greets us at our cars almost every day. That is rare. As much as we didn’t want to share our time with her and the Wilkeson School this year we did so knowing that Wilkeson is truly blessed to have her.

This brings me to one question…Has our school proven to be about an amazing education and great fundamental values?…..I think I speak for myself and many others when I answer Yes. Would your answer be the same?

I have many more emotional thoughts and just one that I want to share. When our Lighthouse program was moved it was very saddening to so many of us parents and students. One thing that took place because of this move is that we started a pen pal program to the children that had to move away. We take walks when we can all the way across town to go and visit those children to show them not only that we miss them but that we care about them. They will always be Woozies! This level of compassion being taught at WSOD to our children is like no other and makes us all very proud. Learning is not all about reading and writing but about caring, respect, compassion and pride. You can walk down our hallways each day and see examples of these traits.

I will close by asking you to please take my comments and concerns to heart since that is where they come from and for you to address the confusion that many of us have as to why closing WSOD would be a positive choice for our community, families and, most important, our children.

Tara Yates

Lake Tapps

School’s style works well for all students

As residents in this state and country we are all very aware of the financial issues faced by all including the state government and the public education system.

My two youngest children currently attend Wickersham Elementary in the White River School District. Our school district, like many, is facing really tough decisions in order to balance the budget. I do want our district to be fiscally responsible and as a business owner and homeowner I know that fiscal responsibility is imperative.

As a parent with two young children still in school I am gravely concerned that our school district is considering closure of the best elementary school I have ever known of. I have a total of three children who are each very diverse from one another.

My oldest just turned 18 this summer and is currently attending Edmonds Community College. She has always been an exceptionally bright and social kid. She has a late summer birthday and began a full-time kindergarten program just after her fifth birthday. Even though it was great for her academically she was not challenged to her full potential and as a result she ended up unfocused and disruptive to others. These types of situations have followed her each year of school. I strongly believe had she been taught to work independently and at a pace that was challenging she would have been less disruptive to others, felt better about herself and could have developed better study and work habits at a younger age that would then translate to better success in all areas of her life.

My second child is 10 years old and currently attends Wickersham Elementary. Since she was very little she has loved books and animals. She has been a very shy kid. Wickersham is her third school. She started with kindergarten at Foothills Elementary. We moved within the district and tried to keep her there on waiver to stay with her friends. Our waiver was denied with only the weekend to prepare her for such a big change. Her second school for third grade was at Wilkeson Elementary; she had a very nice teacher in a very traditional setting. She does very well in all areas academically, but has not wanted anyone to notice. As a result she wouldn’t speak up ask questions or share her thoughts. During the two-plus years now at Wickersham she has been taught and allowed to work at a pace that challenges her and as a result works well independently and has developed confidence in her interests and abilities and is very willing to demonstrate and share her abilities with those around her. She is excited to learn different and challenging things and is asking questions that she then takes the initiative to try and answer. I believe she would not be developing near where she is without the awesome opportunity and nurturing environment we found at Wickersham.

My youngest is 8 years old and to the outsider he appears to be an unfocused busy boy. Once you get to know him a bit you start to see that he is a very sensitive and self-conscious young guy. He is very smart but doesn’t learn well in a traditional setting. He began with kindergarten at Wilkeson Elementary. It was a miserable experience and in kindergarten he hated going to school. He seldom would even take off his coat, he wouldn’t even share with his teacher the things he knew and did at home regularly. Things like this were really difficult for our family as they were 100 percent opposite of his experience in preschool. We were ready to homeschool the younger kids when a friend who is a teacher spoke so highly of the educational opportunities at Wickersham Elementary. We decided to give public education one more try. I am glad to say that our decision was successful. At Wickersham my son receives nurturing, understanding and acceptance from his teachers and the students alike. He is still a bit self-conscious but only a small fraction of what it was. He has the opportunity to feel accomplished by working at a progressive individual level where he gains knowledge and confidence.

The style of education provided at Wickersham works. I believe it works for all kids and all learning styles. The program that Wickersham offers should be a model for success in all public schools. Wickersham and its volunteers do more with less than any school I have ever known and the test results show the difference community and caring can make for the future of all our children.

Darcy Morris

Buckley

Maybe district could save elsewhere

If what we are being told about the financial crisis at the White River School District is true, can someone tell me why the lights on the White River High School football field automatically come on every night – 365 days a year? Could a teacher’s job or maybe even Wickersham School of Discovery be saved if they were only turned on when needed ?

Sheli O’Connor

Concerned White River School District parent

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