By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch School is back in session. Sept. 3 was the first day of classes for the 2014-15 school year in the Eatonville and Bethel school districts. Students are returning after the summer recess to find new school leaders, new or improved school buildings, bus-mounted cameras watching for miscreant motorists, and a new effort to help dropouts finish high school. Here's the rundown:
New principals One school in the Eatonville district and eight in the Bethel district have new occupants in the principal's office. John Colgan, who is moving over from the Tacoma School District to become principal of Eatonville High School, has more than 17 years of experience as an educator. His first year of teaching was spent in Kaoshiung, Taiwan. He later taught social studies at Prosser High School, where he also coached football, tennis and golf for the eastern Washington school. He has spent the past eight years as an assistant principal in the Tacoma Public Schools system, most recently at Mount Tahoma High. Graham-Kapowsin High School's new principal is a familiar face at the school. He's Matt Yarkosky, an assistant principal there the past two years. Seven elementary schools in the Bethel district have new principals. They include Kapowsin (Mary Sewright), North Star (Stephen Rushing), Pioneer Valley (Christoph Green), Roy (Chad Honig), Shining Mountain (Paul Marquardt), Thompson (Ralph Wisner) and Camas Prairie (Cassie Stephani). Marquardt, Stephani and Wisner are new to the Bethel district. Marquardt and Stephani are moving over from the Federal Way School District. Wisner has been working in Salem-Keizer School District in Salem, Ore. Bigger and better Pierce County Skills Center, the consortium that includes Bethel and Eatonville school districts, is getting and $8.7 million, 24,870-square-feet expansion. When finished, there will be space ifor students in the culinary arts, hotel and restaurant management, and medical programs, as well as a deli and administrative offices. The project is tentatively scheduled to be complete next spring, according to officials with the Bethel district, which administers the skills center. Other school districts in the consortium include Orting, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma and White River. Washington Patriot Construction, which is based in Gig Harbor, is the expansion project's contractor. In the Eatonville district, John Heersink, manager of maintenance and facilities, said :"a number of projects that will improve our schools and enhance our students' experience" were completed over the summer. The new or upgraded features include: " Eatonville High School: State-of-the-art weight room, science lab, computers in the computer lab. " Eatonville Middle School: Metal siding and exterior paint, heating and cooling units in the commons area, computer lab, fast pitch and play field, reader board. " Weyerhaeuser Elementary School: Sprinklers in the front lawns, play field, reader board. " Columbia Crest STEM School: Classroom tables and chairs, reader board. " Eatonville Elementary School: New playground equipment, playground basketball hoop (provided by the Booster Club), play field and reader board. Bus cameras In an attempt to improve student safety by cracking down on motorists who don't stop for school buses that are picking up or dropping off students, the Bethel district and Pierce County's District Court and Sheriff Department are conducting a pilot program with bus-mounted cameras that will capture images of the offending vehicles' license numbers. Camera systems have been mounted on 10 buses and will be tested through mid-October. No tickets will be issued during the pilot program. Officials will review the data that's collected before any citations are issued to drivers. State law allows school districts to install the cameras. They can only take pictures of vehicles and license plates, not drivers or passengers, as a visual record of motorists that don't stop when the buses' red lights are flashing and paddle stops are extended at bus stops. Offenses carry a fine of $394. American Traffic Solutions, a Tempe, Ariz.-based company that also works with cities in Washington on installing cameras at intersections to catch and ticket red-light runners, is the supplier and installer of the bus cameras. Help for dropouts
The Bethel district has launched an individual-study program to help high school dropouts earn their diploma. Bethel Acceleration Academy is in response to a state requirement to give them a second chance at graduating. Students as old as 21, working online with the help of an Amazon Kindle provided by the academy, can complete about half of their studies at home. The rest of their work will be at the academy site at 163rd Street and Pacific Avenue in Spanaway, which will be open 13 hours a day to help accommodate students' family and work schedules. The state pays nearly all of the program's cost, including Bethel's administrative expenses. The teachers are provided through Atlantic Education Partners, a company that specializes in aiding dropouts.