Edmonds School Board welcomes new directors, hears support for proposed reading curriculum

Re-elected Edmonds School Board Directors (left to right) Carin Chase and Gary Noble with new Director Nancy Katims and Superintendent Kris McDuffy.

During its last meeting of 2019, the Edmonds School Board Tuesday night said its final farewell to Board President Diana White and welcomed the newly elected and re-elected board members.

At the board’s Dec. 10 business meeting, White stepped down from her Position 5 seat after announcing in February that she would not be seeking re-election. Instead, she ran for Position 6 on the Edmonds City Council, losing to former School Board member Susan Paine. During the board’s Nov. 26 meeting, district officials and staff thanked White for her eight years of service on the board.

Newcomer Nancy Katims joined re-elected board members Carin Chase and Gary Noble as they took their oaths of office and were sworn in by Superintendent Kris McDuffy.

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously voted to elect board vice president Deborah Kilgore as board president. Noble was unanimously voted as vice president and Chase was elected as the board’s legislative representative.

During the meeting’s public comment period, multiple teachers turned out to speak in favor of the proposed Units of Study for Reading curriculum. The curriculum has been the subject of scrutiny after some teachers who piloted the program at the start of the 2019-20 school year said it did not meet the needs of all of the district’s students.

On Nov. 12, the board held its first reading for the proposed curriculum, which teaches students to read through classroom workshops. The curriculum is part of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project co-founded in 1981 by educator Lucy Calkins. At the start of the 2019-20 school year, the curriculum was piloted in classrooms across the district, with teachers using workshops to teach reading.

Sara Skibba, a Brier Elementary second-grade teacher, told the board during the Dec 10 meeting that she supports the curriculum. She said she used it when she taught in the Marysville School District and she favors the curriculum’s workshop teaching style. She also pointed out that Edmonds students’ reading skills are lagging behind those of students in some other districts.

“This is a cause of alarm and urgency and we need to do something,” she said.

Brier Elementary second-grade teacher Jonathan Watkins, who piloted the curriculum in his classroom this year, said the curriculum is the best decision that can be made to help students not only learn to read, but enjoy doing so. While admitting that implementing a new curriculum can sometimes be difficult for teachers, Watkins said Units of Study helped make students excited about reading.

“This curriculum is written in a way that captures engagement of eager, ready-to-learn readers,” he said. “Each of my students have made growth in reading and I can tell they feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in themselves as readers.”

Pushback from some parents, teachers and students regarding Units of Study for Reading led district officials to table the curriculum to be discussed at a work session on Jan. 7, 2020.

–Story and photo by Cody Sexton

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