Port Angeles school board to set up public forum

Directors to meet with community on budget concerns

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School Board agreed to hold a public forum this month to meet one-on-one with parents and community members to listen to their concerns about the district and answer questions about the 2024-2025 budget.

Directors said at their regular meeting Thursday they had heard from parents wanting better communication with the board as well as a desire to repair a relationship strained by the paraeducators’ strike in April that closed schools for five days.

The district is facing a $554,950 shortfall in its 2024-2025 budget while seeking to rebuild its reserves.

“If parents are wishing to be a part of that process and to have input, it’s important for them to have that opportunity and for us to hear from them,” board member Mary Herbert said. “We all want the same things for our kids, that’s the bottom line.”

Three community members on Thursday criticized comments directors Sarah Methner and Sandy Long had made at a special budget meeting two days earlier. They said they considered the remarks referring to teachers and the recent strike insensitive.

“I would like to express my dismay at overall tone and divisive comments made by some members of the board,” Jessica Shiepko said. “The budget and its impact on student programs, equitable compensation for all of our educators, is of concern for all stakeholders. Sarcastic comments should have no place in our educational leadership.”

The forum will be conducted from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 28 at a location that has yet to be decided. No action will be taken at the event.

Board member Stan Williams said he looked forward to meeting with parents.

“I’m interested in their input,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Kathy Flores, one of the parents in charge of graduating senior events, requested the board consider making June 14 a half-day so students and staff could attend the senior parade planned for 2 p.m. that day.

The paraeducator strike pushed the last day of school to June 24, and June 14 is now a full day of classes. Graduation is still scheduled for June 14.

The problem with creating a half-day, Superintendent Marty Brewer said, is that it would cut into the 180 days of instruction and 1,027 instruction minutes in an academic year the state requires; in making June 14 a half-day, the district would fall short of those requirements, he said.

Board member Sarah Methner said one of her sons had participated in the senior parade and she understood how important the event was, but there were a lot of elements — from food services to transportation — that needed to be taken into account before the board could make a decision.

“I want to know how we can make this happen or make it easier for families to attend when graduation is on that day,” Methner said.

The board unanimously approved the calendar with June 14 as a full day and June 24 as a half-day of classes and tasked Brewer with bringing a solution at its next meeting on May 25.

Assistant Superintendent Michelle Olsen reported that the screening process for the district’s Transition to Kindergarten program will start in June. The program prepares children who haven’t had high-quality early education with the academic and social skills they need for kindergarten. Classes are held at Roosevelt and Dry Creek elementary schools, and transportation, breakfast and lunch are provided. Class size is capped at 16 students and there is a paraeducator in each classroom.

To qualify for Transition to Kindergarten, a child much be 4 as of Aug. 31; to sign a child up for a screening, go to tinyurl.com/3amcm4wa.

The school district has expanded its highly capable program for students who perform or show the potential for performing at a high academic level, Olsen said. Its Ridge Program at Dry Creek now has second-graders in addition to third- through sixth-graders.

Each fall, every second-grader in the district is screened for the program. Those with the highest scores are screened again. A second screening is now conducted in sixth grade to make sure no students have been overlooked.

In other news Thursday, Seaview Academy principal Mace Gratz introduced eighth-grader Liam Dewolf and 10th-grader Juniper Brown as the district’s students of the month.

Seaview Academy is the district’s online education program. Its 432 students come from 21 districts across the state. This year’s graduating class of 30 students is its biggest since the alternative school was established four years ago, Gratz said.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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