Port Townsend school administrators describe new programs, gear for coming term
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Administrators, School Board members, teachers and other community members gathered for a celebratory lunch in the Blue Heron Middle School cafeteria, with about 150 people enjoying a meal of locally grown salmon, chard and potatoes prepared by chef Arran Stark, executive chef of Jefferson Healthcare hospital.
“I’m very hopeful for this year,” said Blue Heron Principal Diane Lashinsky.
“We’ve hired some good, new teachers and have started a new improvement plan that we are wrapping our minds around, and it will give us a much more coherent context to accomplish what we need to do.”
A year ago, the Port Townsend School District’s administrative team was brand-new, with three of the four top jobs filled with new faces.
As the school year begins Tuesday, the three — Superintendent David Engle, Lashinsky and Grant Street Elementary School Principal Mary Sepler — intend to make their “sophomore” year count.
The fourth member of the team is Port Townsend High School Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, who has held that position for 13 years.
The district is adopting a new process, the Teacher Principal Evaluation Program.
The new evaluation is a more thorough way to judge instructional efficacy, administrators said.
Sepler described the process: “Each school will have cycles where the principals will be in the classroom observing instruction and providing immediate feedback.”
The new process is one of the three “plates in the air” this school year, Engle said.
A second driving force is a technology upgrade that will provide equipment that will last for at least the next four years.
On Tuesday, 66 teachers received loans of new Hewlett-Packard laptops that can be networked to the school system and used in remote locations.
Engle said the district “got a really good deal” on the computers, which cost about $600 each for a total cost of about $40,000.
“We wanted to get computers that would last at least four years so we don’t have to start the same process in a year or two,” Engle said.
The new computers, which use the Windows 7 operating system, will replace Apple Macs that date from the time before Apple began using Intel chips in 2006.
The change in operating system will bring with it a learning curve increase, Engle said, but will make the teachers more connected and efficient.
This is coupled with an upgrade of the email system.
Engle’s third priority is establishing a maritime curriculum, presenting subjects in the context of the sea.
Engle visualizes an instructional program in which a majority of classes have an aquatic connection.
While it may take years to establish the program, some classes could start this year.
In the near future, district officials plan to cement partnerships with the Northwest Maritime Center and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in everything from developing curriculums to determining details of insurance coverage for students who go out on the water.
There is never enough time to get everything done, Lashinsky said.
“We want to help every kid now, and sometimes, that gets hard.”
The Port Townsend School District has about 1,200 students in three schools and operates on a $13 million annual budget.
This was augmented by an additional $600,000 payment to the district from the state in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision that mandates support of education.
“It enabled us to bring back some programs we cut along with some staff, including getting a new athletic director,” Engle said.
This created another benefit. The athletic director, Scott R. Wilson, will take the responsibility for athletics away from Ehrhardt and Vice Principal Patrick Kane and allow them to concentrate on academics, Ehrhardt said.
“We need to build more of an atmosphere of sustainability for our athletic programs, but that is more of a long-term goal than something we will accomplish this year,” Engle said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: August 27. 2013 6:12PM