The Bucket Drumming Club in action. 
Photo by Colby Hess
The Bucket Drumming Club in action. Photo by Colby Hess

January, like the two-faced Roman god Janus that it's named for, is many things to many people. It's the first month of the Gregorian calendar, it's statistically one of the coldest of the year for those in the northern hemisphere, and it's one of only two months containing two federal holidays. Also, for the 24th year in a row, by proclamation of the Washington state governor, it's School Board Recognition Month. 

At the recent Eatonville School Board of Directors Meeting, held Wednesday, Jan. 16 at Weyerhaeuser Elementary School, a number of honors were bestowed upon local school board members as well as the school superintendent.

First was a presentation by Wayne Hilton, area chair for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) which is an all-volunteer program run through the Department of Defense whose mission is "to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment."

Hilton presented two separate awards to Superintendent Krestin Bahr in recognition of the school district's efforts in employing National Guard and Army Reserve members, and in being flexible and understanding of the requirements their duty entails. 

She was given both the Patriotic Employer Award and the Statement of Support for the National Guard and Reserve, one of which was personally signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis prior to his recent resignation.

Bahr then proceeded to present all five board members with certificates of recognition "in appreciation of (their) valuable service to the children of Washington State" and for being "outstanding volunteers and champions for public education."

School board members are publicly elected and serve four-year terms in a volunteer capacity.

Following the award presentations, all those present were treated to a special performance by Weyerhaeuser Elementary's very own Bucket Drumming Club.

The after-school club, run by teacher Vince Greco, is now in its third year. Meeting once a week after school, it aims to teach children rhythm and percussion skills and to expand the school's musical repertoire while operating on a shoestring budget. A bucket drum can be assembled using readily available construction materials for a cost of around four dollars.

Mentoring and tutoring programs reviewed 

Matt Pederson, who serves as a math coach and Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST) mentor, gave a presentation about the mentoring program. Funded by a recurring grant offered by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), its purpose is to support first and second-year teachers and to assist them with professional development.

"We've used it the past few years as on onboarding for people who are new to the district," said Michael Farmer, Executive Director of Innovation and Learning for the school district.

The program offers individual support through in-class observations and written feedback as well as providing mentees with the opportunity to sit in on other classrooms. Professional development takes place through sessions designed and presented by mentors.

Pederson also discussed Weyerhaeuser Elementary's "Kinderbuddies" program, where older students volunteer to give up part of their recess time in order to tutor kindergartners who struggle with math. These students mainly struggle because they were not exposed to numbers before starting public school. 

Pederson said the program is popular among older children and kindergartners alike and has been beneficial to students as well as math teachers.
Weyerhaeuser Elementary School Principle Linn Ames updated board members on this year's School Improvement Plan. Its stated aim is "closing the achievement gap by supporting the whole child: providing positive connections to school and support for academic success."Ames laid out a number of programs and curricula the school plans to employ to improve the education of its students.

One item of note was the school's ECHOES outdoor education program. It provides children with an opportunity to learn about nature through hands-on, outdoor classes and activities. Ames described it as being very well liked by the students.

Other school news

The board voted to approve a $4,000 donation from Pacific Cascade Distribution to the Eatonville High School Boys and Girls Basketball programs, with $2,000 going to each. It was noted that the donation complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex.

Also approved was a donation of $566.66 to School District from Eatonville ECEAP, "to be used for scholarships, food and childcare for the Love and Logic Parenting Class."

Regarding transportation issues, the board was shown a video put together by district staff called "The Long Road to School." It detailed the issues faced by the district in getting students to and from school.

Students in the Eatonville School District, which comprised 460 square miles, have some of the longest bus rides in the state, according to Bahr.

Efforts are ongoing to work with the state legislature to provide additional funding. Bahr estimates the current shortfall in transportation funding district-wide to be between $400,000 and $500,000.

Lastly, a representative from the student body apprised the board of the need to purchase a new mascot outfit for Eatonville High School. He said initial estimates put the cost of a full replacement at around $7,000 while opting for the head only would still cost $3,000. Associated Student Body members are exploring options for funding and perhaps an alternative, cheaper procurement source.

The student also expressed thanks to the Eatonville Family Agency for providing loaner dresses to girls who can't afford one for the upcoming Tolo Dance.

The next meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 30.