Post Picks: GER Courses at UWM

Everyone has to take general education requirements (GERs) in college. They’re tedious, we know. But us at the Fringe have a few picks of our favorite GERs to keep you enjoying UWM every step of the way.

Dance 122: African Dance and Diaspora Technique I
Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Arts

Courtesy of:

It sounds ridiculous but it’s not. UWM is one of the few schools in the nation that offer and African Dance track program. Kill two birds with one stone with this class. Not only does it satisfy two GERs, but it also satisfies your work out for the days of class. African dance is fun, intensive, sweaty, and loud. UWM has live drummers that play each class for the dancers which adds even another dimension of authenticity to the class. In addition, the instructors are very talented and funny.

There are two short essays that are graded throughout the semester, in addition to a mandatory outside-of-class dance performance.(I went to see a one-man interpretive dance show and I will probably never see anything like it ever again.) But aside from that, the only other grade component is participation. Since choreography is involved, going to class every day is recommended.

Women are required to wear what is called a “lapa“, or a dancing skirt. You can buy a traditional lapa from the department or use a colorful scarf from home. Everyone dances barefoot.

The dancing is not hard, but it requires a lot of effort. There’s plenty of jumping, squatting, and swinging arms, so make use of the warm ups at the beginning of each class. Like many GER classes, if you try and put in effort, you will have no problem getting an A.

At the end of the semester, the dance department puts on showcases for their classes. If you want to, you can show off what you learned in African dance at the showcase. Or, you can go to watch more advanced classes perform what they learned.

African dance is definitely one of my favorite classes taken here so far.

My honorable mentions: Honors 200: Dirty Realism

Mary Jo Contino

Honors 200: Nostalgic Fictions: The Odyssey and its Cinematic Afterlife
[Honors College students only]
Satisfies: Humanities, OWCB (honors requirement)

Homer, The Odyssey.   Ulysses (Odysseus) killing the Suitors of his wife Penelope on the island of IthacaFor those just starting out in UW-Milwaukee’s Honors College, I cannot recommend Honors 200: Nostalgic Fictions: The Odyssey and its Cinematic Afterlife enough. Typically held during the spring semester, this course is completely focused on reading Homer’s The Odyssey and studying its many modern interpretations and variations.

The Odyssey is a timeless tale if there ever was one, and this class allows students to slowly and carefully break down the beautifully complicated epic. Perhaps the most intriguing moments arise when students realize just how relevant each of these characters’ stories remains today. Odysseus, Telemachus, Penelope, and others are surprisingly relatable when they face their otherworldly challenges. Personally, I found myself connecting to Odysseus’ son Telemachus’ struggle to grow up in the shadow of his father’s legacy. I am confident everyone can find a bit of themselves in The Odyssey.

Professor Tyson Hausdoerffer is beyond knowledgeable of Homeric works. He is actually able to perform many parts of The Odyssey in its original language; that unique experience alone makes the class worthwhile. However, Professor Hausdoerffer is also not afraid to tackle contemporary variants of The Odyssey—the good and the bad. There are the powerful explorations of the epic like the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? as well as tacky “sword-and-sandal” ones like 1954’s Ulysses that he challenges students to analyze, and it is amusing as well as intriguing to do so.

Between the legendary subject matter and excellent professor, Nostalgic Fictions is one of my favorite classes I’ve taken here at UW-Milwaukee so far.

Dayton Hamann

Ethnic 275: Queer Migrations

Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Humanities

Buzzfeed tells us that college is a time to discover who we are, whatever that means. Before we can answer, we must first understand where we come from and where we hope to go. Queer Migrations posits how race, gender, class and sexual orientation shape our identities.

If you’ve grown tired of the tedious, PowerPoint-heavy lecture, Professor Noel Mariano is the instructor for you. His exercises in experimental learning have proved to be one of the most engaging episodes of my college experience. The quirky, unpredictable flair of Mariano’s lessons command attention.

This once-a-week, three-credit course is among UWM’s finest hidden gems.

You won’t want to miss a single class.

My honorable mentions: Hebrew Studies 100, Comparative Literature 233

-Jack Feria

English/Art History/ Film Studies 111 – Entertainment Arts: Film, Television and the Internet
Satisfies: Humanities

Out of any general education course, I have learned the most and enjoyed this class the most. The material was very engaging, unlike most large lecture classes where the professor drones on for 50 minutes. Each week a new topic is lectured on and discussed. A movie or television show is shown to accommodate and illustrate the topic of that week. Then, the assignment for the week is to write up a journal entry that should be around a page responding to the prompt given at the end of the class. Aside from the three exams throughout the semester, journal entries, participation and attendance altogether make up your final grade.

Overall, the movie and TV show choices are pretty interesting. Examples include Moulin Rouge, Modern Family, and South Park. Ultimately though, the instructor who taught my course, Ben Schneider, is what made the class so interesting. He engages a discussion during lecture and makes lecture actually interesting and worth your while. You can definitely tell when he teaches that he is passionate about the subject. If you’re looking for a fun and interesting humanities general education course, this would be the one for you!

Bo Bayerl

Bio Sci 100: Survey of Zoology
Satisfies: Natual Science plus Lab

Getting your general education credits out of the way can be tedious, but some classes are a pleasant surprise from the tedium of gen. ed. Curriculum. The Biological Science 100 level Survey to Zoology class is for everyone who spent their youth trip to Disney World enthralled with The Animal Kingdom. This lecture and lab course covers the miniscule molecular makeup of the Kingdom Animalia and the greater characteristics and classifications of different animal species.

Courtesy of:

It can be a lot of information, but the labs are well directed and get this, the class extra credit is an information scavenger hunt at the Milwaukee Zoo. Many have had much worse e.c. plights. Highly reminiscent of high school anatomy classes, fetal pig dissections and cells under microscopes are abundant. With any luck, you may even develop an epic Edward and Bella like romance with your lab partner while examining the various stages of mitosis.

-Analise Pruni

Hmong 265: Hmong Americans: History, Culture, and Contemporary Life
Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Social Science

Although an incredibly visible minority on campus, broader understanding of Hmong history is largely unknown to those who have limited knowledge of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. This small, albeit resilient Southeast Asian ethnic group’s origins take root in China, and “Hmong 265” takes a chronological approach from this point forward. The class’s syllabus starts from the earliest exodus of the Hmong into the foothills of Northern Vietnam and Laos, through the colonialism period in Indochina, and into the life in modern Hmong America.

A fairly large portion of this course deals with the Vietnam War and the subsequent “Secret War in Laos,” which lasted from 1961-1975. This decades old cover-up operation by the United States government, and its eventual bloody aftermath in Laos, led to a diaspora which has brought thousands of Hmong refugees to the US, many becoming our friends, coworkers, and classmates. Hearing about Cold War politics, especially from the viewpoint of a vulnerable minority, is something applicable in today’s heated foreign policy debates. Some of the most poignant moments in this course however focus less on the historical aspects of the Hmong population and more on their customs, culture, and religious practices. Shamanism and courting rituals in particular are some of the more fascinating traditions which have been passed down through the generations.

Since this course focuses on the lives of Hmong Americans, a significant portion of the curricula is devoted to learning about contemporary Hmong issues which begin taking shape after their resettlement in the US during the 1970s. Social, educational, and cultural Hmong issues stemming from a lack of understanding and racism have carved out unique narratives which the class explores at length.

-Mac Writt

Peace Studies 201: Introduction to Conflict Resolution and Peace
Satisfies: Social Science

In Peace Studies 201 you finally grasp the full definition of peace. Peace is defined in a way that is easy to understand and even the everyday pessimist can comment upon it as a feasible and fair way of living with one another around the world. The material in the beginning of the class is a little dull, but once you get passed the dry definitive chapters it transforms in to a class where you feel like you have the ability to make a great change in the world. In the classroom setting there is a steady flow of readings and it is heavily discussion based. The lasting impact from this class was learning about troubled people of the world and then learning about the people who aim to help them.

Kearstin Estrada

JAMS 101: Introduction to Mass Media
Satisfies: Social Science

Why does the Pokémon anime refer to Onigiri as donuts? How is Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Twilight similar? Why is it smart to sell cassette tapes of songs from the TMNT live rock band at Pizza Hut? Can the Teletubbies get any scarier? All of these questions and more can be answered if you take JAMS 101 – Introduction to Media Studies.

This class not only satisfies a Gen Ed requirement for the social sciences, but it also teaches us about the media and its power. Media and the technology that drives it is getting stronger and more prevalent every day, so we need understand all aspects of its production, marketing, and influence on society in order to understand it from a critical eye.

“Media is something that we all understand very intuitively because we’ve been paying attention to it all our lives,” said Professor Michael Newman, who teaches the class for the Spring semester. “But there’s a way of being critical and analytical about media and understanding how it functions in business and understanding how it functions as a way that citizens and communities get their ideas and interact with one another that I think we can understand better by studying than just by being consumers. I think to really understand our modern world we need to understand the media.”

Jack Fennimore

For more general education classes offered at UWM, check out and use this advanced search to find specific classes for specific GERs. With these classes filling up quickly, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Enough already: High school stars should be able to go directly to NBA

It was not long ago that the nation was gripped in public debate about a 14-year-old Taylor Swift moving to Nashville to pursue a music career. Remember the concern for the future of the child actors starring in the Harry Potter movies?

Of course not. This did not happen.

Duke's Jahlil Okafor will enter NBA draft

Just like there was no hand-wringing in 2007 when at 18 Patrick Kane became a professional hockey player for the Blackhawks. Just like there was no national discourse in 2011 when the Cubs made Javier Baez a professional baseball player out of a Florida high school.

Indeed, our culture applauds prodigies and rightly encourages their youthful pursuit of their passions.

But not when it comes to basketball.

lRelated Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky wins Wooden Award
College SportsWisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky wins Wooden AwardSee all related

Gifted players such as Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker and Anthony Davis must wait.

“Come on,” said Nick Irvin, AAU coach of Mac Irvin Fire, which annually fields elite pro-level talent. “Look at tennis players, golfers. They turn pro early too. It’s like, why basketball? Why are you putting the stipulation on them? It’s not right.”

While other leagues have draft rules regarding age, there is far more — frankly too much — control and hypocrisy dictating when basketball players can jump to the NBA.

Record 7 Kentucky players intend to enter NBA draft

Record 7 Kentucky players intend to enter NBA draft Associated Press LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has a lot of spots to fill now that a record seven players have announced they will enter the NBA draft. LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has a lot of spots to fill now that a record seven players have announced they will enter the NBA draft. ( Associated Press ) –>

The current one-and-done rule is laughable and ineffective. Worse, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is touting a rule that essentially requires players to complete two seasons in college to produce more finished products for the league.

The NFL has the most restrictive policy, with players needing to be out of high school three years to be eligible for the draft. The NFL understandably has this rule to prevent players who are not fully developed from entering the league and getting injured.

But among all sports, basketball players are arguably the most skill-ready to play professionally out of high school. If he’s not ready, don’t draft him.

The National Basketball Players Association will vehemently fight a two-year rule. More players may opt to immediately play professionally overseas out of high school.

The NBA should abolish age requirements and strengthen its developmental league by creating 30 team associations instead of using colleges as its farm system.

The argument isn’t all business though.

Benet Academy to retire Frank Kaminskys jersey

Benet Academy to retire Frank Kaminsky’s jersey Naperville Sun staff Thursday will be Frank Kaminsky Day in Lisle. Thursday will be Frank Kaminsky Day in Lisle. ( Naperville Sun staff ) –>

The majority of players drafted are African-American. Many are from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds whose families would benefit in life-changing ways from lucrative contracts.

An air of moral superiority is often offensively and hypocritically inserted into the unnecessary debate: Basketball players need an education. They aren’t ready to handle the financial windfall. They’ll succumb to the fame.

“I think there is a racial implication there,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist who worked as an NBPA consultant. “They’re being told, ‘We know what’s best for you. We’re going to paternalistically not allow you to do what you want to do.'”

Duke one-and-doner Okafor, potentially the No. 1 pick this year, should have had the right to immediately turn his gift into his teenage profession. Just like other stars.

Twitter @sryantribune

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Construction of STEAM Academy at UK could start next year, Fayette school board learns

Local News

Construction of STEAM Academy at UK could start next year, Fayette school board learns

Springfield School District failing to comply with physical education requirements

Posted Apr. 13, 2015 at 9:26 PM

Vermont's figures in education equity don't match that of nation

WESTMINSTER GT;GT; There were no attendees at a public meeting hosted by the Vermont Agency of Education at Bellows Falls Union High School on April 7, but that didn’t stop two women tasked with filing an educator equity with the federal government from going over their talking points anyway.

Amy Fowler, the deputy secretary of education, and Annie Howell, an educational consultant working with the agency, went through their typical presentation at BFUHS and highlighted the 2011-12 data they have accumulated. Regional public meetings are being held throughout Vermont to gather input regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s call that all states must examine to what extent schools that serve students from historically underserved communities (poverty and high-minority populations) are enjoying the same access to quality educators as those at schools of greater privilege (wealthy and low-minority populations).

Fowler explained Vermont sees statistics that are the opposite of nationwide standards. She said students attending a high-minority school have less exposure to first-year teachers than students at low-minority schools, educators in low-minority schools earn about $3,000 less per year, and low-minority schools see higher turnover rates in their staff.

Fowler said the notion of high-minority schools being disadvantaged is not showing up in the state data she has gathered. She also said poor schools have the same turnover rate as low-minority schools.

The deputy secretary also said teachers in high-poverty schools throughout Vermont are paid less annually, by about $1,000.

“The federal government believes, based on research, that if you have better quality teachers and better quality principals, then students can learn more and, of course, that makes sense to all of us,” Fowler said. “And what they’re asking us to do is what’s called an equity analysis. In November, they alerted us that we needed to prepare this plan that is due on June 1.”

Fowler explained to get federal funds through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, each state must have an educator equity plan.

“In the early days, when they gave it they said, ‘Here’s money. Go do what you want,'” she said. “Over time, it’s had a lot more restrictions associated with it and this is one of those restrictions.”

Fowler said all plans must meet requirements that include finding equity gaps between, poor and wealthy schools (based on the percentage of students receiving free- and reduced-price lunch) and high-minority and low-minority schools, explaining the gaps, making a state plan to close them, determining how to know the state plan is working, and reporting the results to public. Agencies must also meet with the public to get people’s ideas and input.

Fowler planned to give the same presentation at Rutland High School on April 8 and at Bennington Elementary School on April 9.

Contact Domenic Poli at 802-254-2311, ext. 277.

3 Turnaround Tips for High Schools With Low Graduation Rates

Despite rising graduation rates nationwide, some high schools still lag behind.

At least one-third of students at more than 1,200 high schools — which collectively serve more than 1.1 million students — don’t graduate, according to a report released last week from the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national education reform policy and advocacy group. Many students at these schools are minorities or from low-income families.

Improving student outcomes at these high schools can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.

Talladega County School District in Alabama, for example, has seen a large improvement in its graduation rate. Formerly one of the district’s lowest-performing schools, Winterboro High School in Alpine went from a graduation rate of about 63 percent in 2008 to 90 percent in 2014, according to district data.

Find out below what educators have done to improve graduation rates at low-performing schools.

1. Encourage students to take ownership of their education: Improvements begin to happen when students are more responsible for their learning, says Suzanne Lacey, superintendent of Talladega County Schools.

Her district placed a large emphasis on project-based learning — an instructional strategy in which students learn through working on projects. Students became very interested in their projects, she says, and began working overtime at school — attendance rates went up and disciplinary rates went down, she says.

“I think the instructional piece is just as important as the school culture piece because you really have to work hard to prepare the transition for students sitting in rows and desks to this more collaborative model,” she says.

Find out [tips for transitioning to project-based learning.]

Students at North High School in Denver analyze and reflect on their academic and attendance performance and set goals to improve each quarter, says principal Nicole Veltze. The school saw a double-digit increase in its graduation rate from the 2008-2009 school year to 2013-2014, according to state data.

Educators at the school have set high expectations for their students too, she says. Her school has set graduation requirements for seniors that go beyond the district minimums, for example.

“Many people don’t necessarily realize that that’s a fundamental answer to getting kids to have hopes and dreams of graduating and moving on to college,” she says.

2. Make teacher professional development opportunities a priority: “We’ve created a strong culture of professional learning for our adults that is differentiated based on their needs,” says Veltze.

Teachers regularly meet with their peers at the area’s middle schools to share ideas and ensure they are on the same page.

They know that once students move to high school in ninth grade, there’s only so much the staff will be able to do on important college skills like argument writing, she says.

In Talladega County, educators observe their peers within their district and beyond to discover ways to improve.

“One of the most powerful things when we first were working to make changes was to visit other places across the nation and to see it in action,” Lacey says. “We would leave these particular schools so inspired and with the mindset that, ‘We can do this, we know we can do this.'”

3. Get communities and families involved: “We can’t do this alone as a school. It takes the families as well,” says Veltze, the Colorado principal. Her school makes constant efforts to communicate with families to make sure they know if their child is on the path to success, she says.

Then parents can reinforce the high expectations teachers are putting on students.

The school has also partnered with community organizations to offer additional supports, such as mentoring and help with college applications to students, she says.

Discover how [after-school programs can help teens at risk of dropping out.]

Lacey’s schools in Alabama have incorporated technology into the classroom to support learning. Students can use tech tools, such as iPads and MacBooks, to watch educational videos or connect with a scientist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, for example, she says.

“In a rural area, many of our students are not exposed to life outside of their communities so being able to connect all over the world through the use of technology has been a huge equalizer for our students,” she says.

Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at

Alexandra Pannoni is an education staff writer at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at

Flight academy prepares to launch at Zephyrhills High

The program, which would teach classes pertaining to aviation mechanics, drone operation and fabrication, among other skills, is expected to be launched in August, said Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent with the school district.

Breaking traditions: Sikeston student wins honor for choosing road less traveled by males


SIKESTON — Sikeston High School student Caleb Head began helping in the Bulldog Preschool as way to fulfill his service requirements for a scholarship program and he wound up finding the career of his dreams in the process.

The senior was recently awarded the high school male winner of the 2015 Missouri Breaking Traditions contest for the Southeast region, which included a $100-scholarship prize.

“I would have never envisioned myself as a child caregiver,” Head said. “I have always cared for and interacted with my younger family members but never thought it to be career goal for myself.”

But after spending time volunteering in the preschool, which houses the learning environment for both high school students of childhood education courses and the preschool for 3- to 5-year-old children of Sikeston R-6 staff members, Head became interested in enrolling in the program offered through Sikeston Career and Technology Center.

“He was such a natural with the children, we couldn’t understand why he wasn’t already in the (childhood education) program,” recalled childhood education instructor and preschool director Dee Beydler.

Head, who is the 18-year-old son of Joseph and Lisa Head, has also completed two medical church mission trips to Honduras and assisted in his church’s children’s church. He’s also been the assistant church youth leader and preschool teacher at his church.

During the spring semester of his junior year, Head was given the opportunity to join the preschool program class — and he’s glad he did.

“I finally found a purpose and goal in my life that made sense,” Head said.

He also gave much credit to Beydler for making it possible for him to enroll in the preschool program mid-semester.

“If I had not been accepted into this program, I would be lost as to what I wanted to do,” Head said. “Mrs. Dee has helped me in her class by pushing me and never letting me give up. She knows what we are are capable of and that’s what she expects of you.”

It was also Beydler who nominated Head for the Missouri Breaking Traditions award which is sponsored by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Regional College and Career Consultants. The application process included Head answering a student-question form and writing an essay.

For 22 years, Breaking Traditions has honored outstanding students who have chosen nontraditional career and technical education programs based on their interests and abilities and who have not let their gender influence their career decisions.

Nontraditional means occupations or fields of work in which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in that occupation or field. Winners from the state’s nine regions are chosen by a panel of judges.

“This program has given me the skills and abilities to not only teach small children but also nurture the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of children,” Head said. “It has given me the confidence that I can make a positive difference in the life of a young child.”

Head said through the program, he’s learned firsthand how to teach children and not just babysit them.

“The success that I have had academically in the Bulldog Preschool has built my confidence in myself that I can succeed with my plans upon graduating from college,” he said.

Head said the preschool has given him skills of problem-solving, writing and implementing lesson plans and planning lunch menus.

He will soon take an exam for Child Development Associate credential, a nationally recognized certification. Head’s goals after high school and college are to work in the child care industry where he can teach and nurture all aspects of a child’s development.

“All of the things that I have learned about in Bulldog Preschool will help me structure my daycare,” Head said.

The high school senior said people should follow their own course and paths in life to be happy and successful — no matter what others say or do.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you how to live your life when you know what you want do to,” the teen said. “Set your goal and pursue your dreams.”

High schoolers display, sell artwork

It’s not unusual to find artwork from South Broward High School students on display at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.

Most recently, students in the Bulldogs’ National Art Honor Society had more than 40 pieces, including decorated masks, on display in the “UnMasqued” exhibit.

While many patrons there focus on work from professional artists, the Hollywood school’s exhibit drew interest. Four students were approached about selling their paintings and drawings.

“This gave them a huge boost of confidence about their artistic abilities and promise for artistic greatness,” said South Broward art teacher Susan Ostheim. “The students and I have been on an emotional roller coaster over this issue of selling artworks.”

The school’s display is part of an ongoing program at the center.

“[This is] a totally free program to the school,” said Jordan Canal, education coordinator. “We always talk to our patrons a lot when they visit and encourage them to really take a look at the student work.”

Canal said a purchase process was developed last year after a patron wanted to buy a student’s artwork. After negotiating a price, the center receives 10 percent of the profit to help fund the education program.

In three exhibitions this year, a total of eight works have or will be sold by students from South Broward High, Pembroke Pines Elementary and Pine Crest School.

“We’re just so proud that we’re able to help with that confidence and professionalism [in the students],” Canal said. “These students get to display their work next to up-and-coming or already famous artists. It’s a great opportunity to see what the youth in this community are capable of.”

For the South Broward students, the final sale will not be complete until August. Students need the work for their portfolios as part of its involvement as a Cambridge International School. Ostheim said each artist needs two portfolios equaling 12 pages of artwork. The portfolios are sent to Cambridge University in England as part of course requirements. With a passing grade, the students earn college credits and points toward a Cambridge diploma.

“To our great surprise, the patron was even more excited about purchasing these art pieces,” Ostheim said. “This is our first year with Cambridge, [and] the patron did not know he was choosing Cambridge student work. The fact that the patron is a former Cambridge professor is even more interesting and says something about collegiate connections that the students need to be aware of.”

Sara Shell can be reached at

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

Second high school could be back on South Kitsap’s table

South Kitsap School District superintendent Michelle Reid told the audience at Thursday’s Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon that it is “time” for a second high school. - File Photo

The construction of a second high school is once again on the agenda for the South Kitsap School District.

Superintendent Michelle Reid revealed that during her presentation Thursday at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon at McCormick Woods.

Kt Arthur, a local real-estate agent, posed the question about the possibility of building another high school. South Kitsap, which has more than 1,900 students, is the largest high school in the state.

Arthur told Reid that she pulled her children out of SKHS years ago because of its size.

Reid responded that the district’s “long-range capital facilities committee” likely will recommend that SKSD place a bond issue before voters to construct a new high school. The last time the district did that was 2007. At that time, district officials asked for a $163.2 million capital-facilities bond that would have paid for a new high school, rebuilt South Colby Elementary and improved technology infrastructure, roofing, heating and cooling systems, and physical education and athletic programs. It failed by about eight-percentage points of the required 60 percent to pass.

“I think we have to go bold and go do it,” said Reid, adding that the neighboring Peninsula School District has two high schools even though its district-wide student enrollment is 1,000 less than SKSD. “It’s time.”

Just not as bold as eight years ago.

Reid believes the figure then was too much for locals. She estimated that a new capital-facilities bond in the coming years could be in the $95 million range to construct a new high school on the 56-acre plot near the intersection of Old Clifton and Feigley roads that was purchased in 2003.


While a new high school is a future prospect, Reid also discussed several academic initiatives that are underway. Reid, who earned her bachelor’s degree in natural science/chemistry in 1980 from the University of Puget Sound, spent 28 years in various teaching and administrative roles in the Port Angeles School District before she was hired July 1, 2013, to lead SKSD. Upon her hiring, Reid used her analytical background to review statistical data within the district — and noticed some negative trends.

According to Reid, 60 percent of high-school graduates in Washington “successfully enter post-secondary education,” which she said means being “career and college ready.” She said SKSD’s average was 46 percent upon her arrival and has increased to 51 percent. For the Class of 2020, Reid wants that number at 80 percent.

That meant making strategic changes within the district. According to research she has read, Reid said eighth-grade students who take Algebra are “twice as likely” to attend college as those who do not. In an effort to encourage that, seventh-graders now can take Algebra.

In addition to that, SKSD has increased the number of Advanced Placement courses offered. In September, South Kitsap High School added 13 Advanced Placement courses, while the district’s junior highs now offer Advanced Placement Human Geography and Environmental Science for freshmen. Reid said the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses in the district has increased to 1,055 this school year from 377 in 2013-14.

“We’re encouraging students to step up,” she said. “We want them to be amazing future leaders.”

Reid said the district must continue to evolve for that to occur. In an effort to guide that process, Reid posted a questionnaire during the winter through a Thoughtexchange survey on SKSD’s website. Through that, Reid said 3,319 participants contributed 8,978 thoughts and provided 192,961 priorities. She said participation was led by parents (42 percent), followed by students (35), staff (19), community (3) and others (1).

She said one of the most significant positive takeaways was the participants feelings toward the district’s staff.

“That makes me feel really proud,” Reid said.

It also highlighted areas where SKSD can improve. Reid said many expressed frustration about scheduling conflicts, where students might have to forego taking a preferred elective because they must take a class to meet graduation requirements. Reid said the district will work on those issues.

Reid said school safety was another concern, which she believes stems from several highly publicized school shootings during the last several years.

“At times, we are such a welcoming school district,” she said. “I think there are some concerns that we are too accessible.”


Other significant concerns were related to class size and the condition of schools. Reid believes the former issue will be somewhat mitigated by the district’s Boundary Review Committee, which last month proposed to shift some elementary and junior-high students for the 2015-16 school year, which interim assistant superintendent Bev Cheney said was designed to address “enrollment imbalance.” Those recommendations will go to the school board for approval May 5.

The subject of school condition might be a greater challenge. East Port Orchard Elementary, which reopened in 1991, is the newest building in SKSD. In September 2012, the district had a building condition assessment completed by the Education Service District 112 Construction Services Group, which is required every six years by the state. SKSD’s average building score was 58.74. According to the assessment paperwork, a new building rated excellent receives a score of 100. A rating of 60 is regarded as fair, while 30 or less is poor.

“We’ve spent a lot of money maintaining buildings because they’re so old,” Reid said.

And not just the structures.

“We just replaced the dishwasher at Olalla Elementary School that was 47 years old — and we bought it used,” Reid said.

She said the district has made significant progress in other areas since her arrival. Reid said some of the aforementioned academic initiatives, along with others such as adding free, all-day kindergarten throughout the district by the 2016-17 school year, have helped reverse some negative enrollment trends. Reid said SKSD’s enrollment gains from 2013-14 were the first in 16 years.

Tracy Patterson, assistant superintendent for business and operations, said the district receives about $5,700 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in state funding. SKSD had 8,458.71 FTE enrolled through March.

Patterson also said in March that district officials have a “target” of $8.9 million for that account when SKSD’s financial year ends Aug. 31.

The district has not had that large of a fund balance since it was more than $8.6 million in 2009-10. But that number decreased to about $4.9 million in 2012-13, which led Reid to consult with Debra Aungst, a former Puyallup School District administrator, to perform a review of SKSD’s finances in August 2013.

Aungst’s report stated that the district’s “current financial condition clearly calls for immediate attention.” She was referring to a specific category state education officials use to measure each district’s financial health. Using the state’s matrix, SKSD was three steps away from a financial warning. Among the state’s 295 school districts, 270 were in better financial shape than SKSD.

“I think that was our darkest time,” Reid said. “A great deal of our financial issues were related to enrollment.”