Sequim School Board hears improvement plan

SEQUIM — The latest plan for improvements at Sequim High School aims to help students earn credits toward graduation.

Special Assignment Principal Vince Riccobene and Vice Principal Kristi Queen urged Sequim School Board directors at their meeting last Monday to consider providing more methods of alternative access to earning credits for students who have fallen behind in attaining the state-mandated 24 graduation requirements.

They said it is especially important to act because the Sequim Options School (SOS) — a credit retrieval program available to students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades who are behind in credits required for graduation — is limited in how many seniors it can help each year.

“We also need to have those options earlier,” Riccobene said. “We have students who fall behind as freshmen, so SOS is too late as a senior. Summer school isn’t enough in the meantime.”

Riccobene mentioned that the Sequim School District is the only one in the Olympic Educational Service District 114 — a regional group of school districts assigned by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties — that does not offer an online education component to its curriculum or an Open Doors program to give students more options for earning credits.

Board members got an opportunity to see what Sequim High leaders focused on last year and what they are planning to focus on in the 2019-20 academic year during the administrators’ annual school improvement plan presentation.

Improving the “special services delivery” to help students with various disabilities earn credits at a higher rate — and thus increase their graduation rate and improve access to grade-level materials for them — are areas Riccobene said the district supports.

With SHS Principal Shawn Langston recovering from knee replacement surgery, Queen and Riccobene led the presentation.

Other business

• Proposed updates to a district policy on gender inclusiveness sparked discussion among board members.

The update would reflect state laws and new OSPI policies, district staff said.

Board President Brian Kuh said he was concerned about the policy’s impact on teachers. He wanted more time to examine and potentially rewrite the policy update to make sure it “doesn’t exceed the legal mandate.”

Other board members present — Heather Short was excused — disagreed, however, saying that the policy was in line with the law.

Board Vice President Brandino Gibson said that, with help from legal sources, his own workplace recently made similar changes regarding gender inclusiveness, and that the school policy update as presented was in line with what his workplace had put together.

In the end, Kuh’s request for a delay in the adoption of the policy was declined; he was the lone dissenting vote in the adoption of the policy.

• Board director Jim Stoffer noted the resignation of David Lyke from the Sequim School District’s McKinney-Vento Program, a federally-mandated program designed to help homeless students.

Stofer said replacing Lyke should be a priority given the importance of the program.

He also noted the limitations of the position being just 20 hours a week, and said that while the Washington State School Directors’ Association is working on finding a way to fund additional resources for McKinney-Vento, the district needs to find its own path to additional funding as well.

• Interim superintendent Rob Clark informed the school board that the school district has received a tort claim from a former student who was injured at a Sequim school in 2017.

The district’s legal team and insurance company are examining the claim right now and he said that he will update the board as updates are available, including if the claim becomes a lawsuit.

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Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at cdowley@sequimgazette.com.

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