May 28, 2008

Allen Miller's debut, featuring... Avanti High School

I attended the first couple hours of last night's Board meeting, just to see how Allen Miller's first date with destiny went. Justice Gerry Alexander began the proceedings by swearing in the newest member of the Board, describing him as a "fine, upstanding, and public-spirited citizen... I know you'll find him a hard worker and an excellent person to deal with."

Miller, at least as long as I was there, had to sit and listen, mostly, as staff and students from Avanti High School shared data, art, projects, and testimonials about the value of alternative education. Most engaging were the snippet from The Importance of Being Earnest and the stair-climbing robots.

"Originally, we were a stereotypical alternative school," said Principal Michael Velasquez. He noted that Joy Walton, through her efforts at designing a performance-based curriculum, "turned this program into something unique." A study commissioned by OSPI places Avanti in the top ten alternative programs in the state.

Other meeting highlights included several community comments in favor of protecting activities and sports from the budget ax. Jennifer Forster, representing the South Sound Reading Foundation, noted that the group distributed 5,000 books to OSD students last year.

Also, Linda Lamb of the State Board of Education came to discuss the evolving math standards, including the upcoming 3rd-year requirement. It could be adopted as early as July of this year. However, it creates one problem and exposes another: insufficient math teachers, and insufficient preparation at the middle and elementary level. Says Lamb, "[Students] don't all enter, as freshmen, prepared, and they don't all achieve at the same stage... We need good teachers, and ways of keeping kids at the rigor we need." And, importantly, "We are also recommending that the legislature fund what we recommend." In her estimation, levies won't be the answer, if an extra year's going to be a basic education requirement.

Last, I note an interesting geographic shift: now Frank Wilson has a different seat. From left-to-right: Carolyn Barclift, Miller, Bob Shirley, Wilson, and Russ Lehman.

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