School Board report: College Place Middle students present lessons learned about leadership

2018-19 student advisors (from the left): Edlawte Sentayehu, Sarah Robbins, Dylan Mustach, Bani Bedi, Sofia Tang, Leilah Abdalla, Marianne Nacanaynay, Fanuel Abraha, Faith Boulom, Jonathan Kwong and Chase Waugler. (Not pictured: Meghan Park)

Students from College Place Middle School’s inaugural leadership class came before the Edmonds School District Board of Directors Tuesday to present what they learned this year from the Character Strong Curriculum.

The Character Strong Curriculum promotes leadership development by teaching students commitment, patience, humility, selflessness, kindness, respect, honesty and forgiveness, said Jennifer Haugen, who taught the class. Haugen, who also teaches English and social studies, said the curriculum promotes social and emotional learning that is critical to child development.

“This curriculum has really given them a chance to reflect on themselves and how they interact with their peers,” she said.

Seven students presented to the school board specific characteristics they learned from the curriculum during the year and gave examples of how they have applied them to their life.

Waleiskalees Velasco said the curriculum teaches middle school students how to be empathetic leaders who can put themselves in someone else’s position.

“This skill that we can learn in middle school can really help us in the long run,” she said.

Waleiskalees Velasco presents to the Edmonds School Board of Directors what she learned from the Character Strong Curriculum.

The Character Strong Curriculum also teaches eighth graders how to successfully transition from middle school to high school, said student Ava Frunk.

“The social emotional learning class helps teenagers establish and maintain their relationships while making responsible decisions inside and outside school,” she said.

In other business, the board of directors approved by a unanimous vote the purchase of 10 new school buses for the district, with Board Director Gary Noble absent. The purchase will include six, new 30-passenger the district intended to previously replace but kept due an increase in student enrollment. The purchase will also include four, 41-passenger buses that are equipped for wheelchairs. The net fiscal impact of the purchase is $1,065,315.88 and will be covered by the transportation vehicle fund.

Washington state depreciates school buses over an eight-year or 13-year lifecycle depending on the type of bus. The six 30-passenger buses completed depreciation during the 2015-26 school year. The cost for maintaining the older buses is rising due to the older-style emissions systems, and the school board agreed it would be more fiscally responsible to replace the buses, although they will still keep them for other uses. The inclusion of the four 41-passenger buses is to accommodate growth in the district, district officials said.

Citing concerns from associated student body (ASB) groups about bus accessibility, Board President Dana White asked if buses being replaced could be sold to student groups.

Lydia Sellei, district executive director of business and finance, replied that it is uncommon for the district to sell buses to ASB groups once the buses reach depreciation, but the groups could still use them.

Board Director Carin Chase said each year the district purchases new buses, the question arises as to whether the buses would be manufactured to accommodate the installation of seatbelts should a new law require them.

“Not necessarily; the manufacturer is building to current Washington state law,” Sellei replied.

The meeting also included comments from Meadowdale High School students who spoke on behalf drama teacher Katie Powell Mitchell, who is one of the 25 teachers laid off due to district-wide budget cuts. Students came before the board of directors to appeal the decision to cut a teacher they said has gone to great lengths to help them.

Victoria Forgenson, a Meadowdale High School senior, said that before Mitchell came to the high school, the drama program was not what it is today.

“I’ve never met an educator as kind, passionate and dedicated to the craft as Ms. Powell Mitchell,” she said.

The board of directors also acknowledged the 12 student advisors who sat in on school board meetings during the 2018-19 school year. The advisors provide the board of directors and superintendent with student-level feedback, while giving students the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes in their school district.

“Student voice is a critical element to everything that we do,” said Superintendent Kris McDuffy.

Applications to become a student advisor in the 2019-20 school year can be found on the district’s website here.

— Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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