Ridgefield School District Receives Clean Audit Report

On February 22, 2018, the Office of the Washington State Auditor released its Financial Statements Audit Report for the Ridgefield School District for the period September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017.

According to the audit report, the financial statements of the district presented fairly the district’s financial position.  Further, it identified no deficiencies in internal control or instances of non-compliance in the district’s financial reporting.

“We continue to make improvements in financial reporting processes,” said Paula McCoy, Ridgefield School District’s Executive Director of Business Services.  “We take seriously our responsibility in providing and disseminating to the public, complete and accurate accounting and financial information and strongly believe in the importance of government accountability in the use of taxpayer resources.”

View the complete 2016-17 Financial Audit Report here or visit the Finance page of the district’s website at http://www.ridgefieldsd.org/finance–5.

Ridgefield School District Hosts Safety Night Open House

Ridgefield School District will be hosting a Safety Night Open House on Wednesday, March 14 from 5:00-7:00 pm at the Ridgefield High School Commons.

The goal of the family-friendly community event is to share important district information regarding school safety and to engage the community in working together with the district to ensure safe learning environments for all Ridgefield schools.

Attendees can arrive at any time during the event and visit various stations staffed by experts in their field who will provide information and answer questions on topics such as emergency response protocols, bullying prevention, safety/security improvements and recommendations in the 2017 Bond Program, gun safety, mental health, and social media safety.

Participants will also learn more about programs now used in the schools such as SRP (Standard Response Protocol), RSD Safe Spaces, Second Steps anti-bullying program, and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS).

District and school personnel will be on hand at the various information stations along with representatives from the Ridgefield Police Department, R&C Management Group, and Community Services Northwest.

Performances of “The Little Mermaid” Set for Saturday, March 10

Ridgefield Community Education and Missoula Children’s Theater present “The Little Mermaid” on Saturday, March 10th at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center.  Shows are at 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm.

Come and enjoy the performances of our talented Ridgefield students as they bring to life this popular children’s fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Advance tickets are now available at ridge.revtrak.net or at the door on the day of the performance.  Pre-sale tickets are $5 Adults/$2 Kids.  At the door on the day of performance:  $6 Adults/$3 Kids.

A presentation of Ridgefield Youth Arts Month.

Committee Presents Proposed Boundary/School Start Time Changes to Ridgefield School Board

At the regular Board of Directors meeting on February 27, Ridgefield School District’s Boundary & Start Time Committee presented a proposal regarding changes to the district’s school boundaries and school start times to take effect in 2018-2019.

The district, realizing that adjustments to boundaries and start times are necessary to serve continued rapid growth and the opening of new schools, formed the committee in fall, 2017.  The 15-member committee is comprised of district and school administrators, KWRL transportation representatives, teachers representing each school, and parents representing each school.  Work began even before the committee’s first meeting on October 30.

On September 15, the district made available a survey requesting feedback that would assist the committee in establishing the core values and principles necessary to guide the decision-making process.  An unprecedented 725 responses were received, including 613 from parents (84.6%) and 112 from staff (15.4%).

Based on responses tallied from the Agree and Strongly Agree columns of the survey, the results identified the top five core values that would direct the committee’s work:

  • School start times that optimize learning (89%)
  • Increase in transportation efficiency (80%)
  • Age-appropriate transportation (77%)
  • Reduction in ride time on transportation (72%)
  • Maximize neighborhood schools (69%)

“I feel like the work we did as a committee was focused, genuine, and sincere toward our mission of making the best decision for our community,” said committee member Nick Allen, a parent and Ridgefield High School teacher.  “I sincerely believe that the work we did as a committee will help the Ridgefield School District continue to be successful as our community grows.”

Proposed School Start Times

9:05 – 3:35    South Ridge Elementary and Union Ridge Elementary (both K-4)

8:05 – 2:35    Sunset Ridge Intermediate (5-6) and View Ridge Middle School (7-8)

8:00 – 2:45    Ridgefield High School (9-12)

The committee spent hours reviewing and debating research and best practices, always keeping the five core values in mind.  Committee member Georgianna Jones appreciated the variety of roles represented by committee members from throughout the Ridgefield community.  “This fostered a variety of valuable perspectives,” she said.  “Our conversations were data-driven, informative, thoughtful and sensitive to our overall goal of making the best decision we could with the interests of our students and community front and center.”

The committee reviewed research from expert organizations that included American Automobile Association, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with student achievement and attendance data from Ridgefield High School and first-hand experiences from school districts who made start time changes.  While studies recommend ideal secondary school start times between 8:30 – 9:00 a.m., student achievement and attendance data at RHS indicated that the current start time is serving students well.  The committee expressed concern that unnecessarily moving the secondary schools start times even later would have negative unintended consequences.  Adjusting the school day still later into the afternoon would increase the number of students leaving school early for academic, athletic, and other extra-curricular events on a regular basis.

“We take great pride in the fact that such a high percentage of our students participate in at least one after school activity.  These opportunities are foundational to the overall educational experience we aspire to ensure for every student,” said Christen Palmer, RHS principal and a member of the committee.

Palmer noted additional considerations. “If we were to move our start time back an hour, it would not only mean that approximately 49% of our students would have increased absences in their fifth and sixth period classes, but our teachers, who are our advisors and coaches, would require substitutes, impacting student learning for every child.”

“We encourage our students to be involved in extracurricular activities in order to stay connected to school,” Palmer continued.  “The research is overwhelmingly positive that students who are involved in at least one extracurricular activity have better overall academic performance.  In the same vein, we encourage our staff members to stay connected to our students and build positive relationships outside of their classrooms, through being advisors and coaches.”

The proposed start time for elementary level schools was determined based on the core value for age-appropriate transportation.  Currently, K-12 students ride buses together.  This has been a district concern, shared by many parents for some time.  By adjusting elementary students (K-4) to one start time (9:05 am) and secondary students (5-6, 7-8 and 9-12) to a different start time (8:00 am or 8:05 am), this core value is achieved.

KWRL Transportation will be able to increase age-appropriate transportation even further.  Approximately 50% of the bus runs for Sunset Ridge/View Ridge and RHS will only transport students from their school site.  That means that half of all Sunset Ridge and View Ridge students will be transported on buses that only serve grades 5-8.

To accommodate the need for daycare in advance of this start time change, the district is working with Educational Service District 112’s Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium (SWCCC) to increase availability.  SWCCC currently provides daycare in Ridgefield schools.  In addition to increasing spots through SWCCC, the Ridgefield School District is working with Ridgefield High School to start a Child Development Center.  While it will be limited to a small number of students in the initial pilot program that starts next year, the district is determined to grow the program, increasing the number of students served.

The committee also focused on the core value of reducing student ride time.  The proposal reduces ride time in a variety of ways.  Transporting K-4 students on their own bus will save 15 minutes of ride time since buses will not need to drive from elementary sites to Sunset Ridge (saving approximately 7-8 minutes) and load Sunset Ridge students (saving an additional 7 minutes).  Overall, K-4 students will experience the shortest ride times among the grade levels.

Proposed Boundary Shift

The committee is proposing to move students residing in the carve-out in the Pioneer Canyon subdivision region back to Union Ridge.  Years ago, these neighborhoods were shifted to the South Ridge boundary area due to lack of space at Union Ridge.  The adjustment created transportation inefficiencies and reduced neighborhood school attendance.  Returning the carve-out to their neighborhood school will increase transportation efficiency and adhere to the core value of neighborhood school attendance.

Nearly 800 new homes are currently planned for construction behind Ridgefield High School, on both sides of Royle Road and south of the new 5-8 campus.  If boundaries were not adjusted, students moving into these subdivisions would have added to the rapidly-expanding enrollment at Union Ridge, which is already one of the state’s ten largest elementary schools.

The committee proposes a northward shift (Phase I on map) in the boundary between South Ridge and Union Ridge.  This shift moves newer developments from the Union Ridge boundary area into the South Ridge boundary area, balancing school attendance zones.

The district realizes the challenges associated with boundary adjustments and the impact they have on students.  To prevent current third graders from moving to a new elementary school for their final year, the district will automatically approve boundary exceptions.  This will allow next-year’s fourth grade students to remain in their current school if they so choose.  The district will also continue to allow all students to apply for in-district boundary exceptions.  To ensure operational efficiencies and create greater equity, the committee recommends adhering to the expectation that student transportation is the responsibility of parents and guardians for all in-district boundary exceptions.

Looking ahead, a Phase II boundary shift will be needed when the district’s third elementary school (proposed for the east side of the I-5 freeway) is opened.  The new elementary boundary will balance elementary student populations among all three sites as well as maximize neighborhood school attendance.

“Ridgefield is such a special, close-knit community.  I’m excited that our youngest students will be able to continue the tradition of maintaining community in neighborhood elementary schools,” said Georgianna Jones.

The Boundary & Start Time Committee adhered to the district’s commitment to engage with the community, gather feedback, and utilize a deliberative decision-making process.  Individuals serving on the committee were required to make a serious time commitment.

“I am so proud of each and every one of our committee members.  I want to thank them for their time, effort, thoughtful consideration and reflective conversations,” said Assistant Superintendent Chris Griffith.  “We were charged with a very difficult task.  The committee was driven to find a balanced solution that will enhance the Ridgefield School District for years to come.”

Committee member Jenifer Goss reflected on her experience.  “I learned a lot and definitely have a greater understanding of how the district makes decisions.  I saw first-hand how much the district values community input and doesn’t make hasty decisions without doing the work.”

The school board is expected to take action on the committee’s recommendations on Tuesday, March 13 at their next scheduled Board of Directors meeting.

For more information about the work completed by Ridgefield School District’s Boundary & Start Time Committee, visit their webpage at http://www.ridgefieldsd.org/boundary-start-time-committee.

PE Showcase 2018

Ever wonder what activities Ridgefield students participate in when they are in PE class?  Come to “PE Showcase 2018” on Tuesday afternoon, March 13th and get a preview of the district’s PE curriculum while getting a workout and participating in lots of fun games and a chance to win prizes.  This is a free event open to all ages.

The district’s Physical Education Department is hosting the event as part of the “Shape Up Across Washington” program, whose goal is to encourage daily physical activity and a healthy lifestyle for elementary and middle school students.

The event starts at 5:30 pm at View Ridge Middle School Gym with more activities at Union Ridge Elementary.  Athletic wear is highly recommended.

Participants can take fitness challenges that test endurance, strength and flexibility, learn yoga, play spikeball or speedball or take part in lots of other fun PE games and activities.

The showcase wraps up at 7:15 pm with a raffle drawing for prizes.  Enter to win Timbers tickets, a bluetooth speaker, gift cards and much more!

3 Grands to Perform in Ridgefield Sunday March 18

Get ready for a concert experience that is spontaneous, electric and truly unbelievable!

On Sunday, March 18th at 7:00 pm at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center, 3 Grands Concert & Benefit will showcase the music of three award-winning blind pianists, Mac Potts, Nick Baker and Brent Gjerve (pronounced Jeffries) all performing simultaneously on stage.  Also featured will be performances by jazz vocalist Darcy Schmitt and the Ridgefield High School Jazz Choir.

Presented by Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Lions Club, the concert is one of many events organized in celebration of Ridgefield Youth Arts Month.  Proceeds will benefit Ridgefield High School’s scholarship program and Ridgefield School District’s music programs.  A sell-out would help achieve a $12,000 goal to fund these programs.

3 Grands first performed together as a group in 2011 at the 125th anniversary celebration of the Washington State School for the Blind.  Their performance, combined with vocals by Darcy Schmitt, was a tremendous hit, and the group has been performing concerts yearly ever since.

Watch the group perform during some of their onstage appearances — click HERE.

Mac Potts was born blind.  He is from the Portland area and has been playing piano since age two.  His parents found him a Suzuki teacher a few years later, and he took lessons using that method for 10 years with the help of two teachers.  Mac was coached in the art of jazz, blues and gospel by many people; however, his primary instructors were legendary blues pianist D.K Stewart and Janice Scroggins.  He learned to play the saxophone in the Kalama Middle School Band, and with the help of Reggie Houston, a New Orleans sax player, took his sax skills to New Orleans where he played with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  He was also one of the featured artists at the Cincinnati Blues Festival.  He has also played annually at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland and has performed as a guest artist at Michael Allen Harrison’s “Ten Grands” concerts in 2011 and 2012.  Mac has had the honor of playing with Henry Butler, Charmaine Neville, Marcia Ball, Dr. John, Mitch Woods, the Storyville Stompers, Tom Grant and Harry Connick, Jr.  In addition to keyboards and saxophone, Mac plays drums and harmonica.  To earn a living, he spends ten percent of his time tuning pianos, and the rest, teaching and entertaining.  Mac currently has a steady gig at Warehouse 23 in Vancouver, Washington (Tuesday through Saturday).

Mac Potts

Nick Baker was born totally blind and later diagnosed with Autism.  He has perfect pitch and almost instant recall, which means he can listen once to a new piece of music and play it perfectly.  He graduated with honors from Shoreline Community College in 2008 with an AA degree in Musical Performance and earned Outstanding Honors in both Classical Voice and Classic Piano Juries.  Nick uses technologies that allow him to work independently in his home studio to record, engineer and produce much of his music.  To date, he has released four CD’s.  His first, titled “Think Positive,” was released in June 2001.  His newest release in 2011, “This One’s For You,” features a collection of jazz standards.  Partnering with his mother, Nick has also written a children’s book entitled “Turtle,” in which he shares his experiences as a child with multiple disabilities, describing the challenges he faced in dealing with school-age peers.  He is currently working on his second book, “Bad Behavior Blues.”  Nick’s latest passion is creating jingles for radio and advertising.  He lives with his mom and stepdad, Kathy and Raymond Passage, in Edmonds, Washington.

Nick Baker

Brent Gjerve (pronounced Jeffries) is a graduate of the Washington State School for the Blind.  Autistic and blind from birth, Brent has been described as a “piano genius.”  His dad played accordion and his mom played the piano, so since infancy, Brent was surrounded by music throughout the first years of his life.  Brent’s parents first discovered his musical talent when he was four after noticing that while sitting at a separate piano, Brent had the ability to play along with a pianist who was performing nearby.  They discovered that Brent not only had a gift for piano but also possessed perfect pitch, meaning that he could identify and produce any note simply by hearing it.

Brent Gjerve

Darcy Schmitt, well-known local jazz vocalist, founded and performed with the vocal quartet, Pure Imagination, which performed at the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz, in night clubs, various Northwest festivals and commercials for ten years.  Ms. Schmitt continues to perform as a soloist, often with her pianist, Brent Gjerve, though sometimes working with various artists including Jim Fischer, Vancouver USA Singers, Diane Schuur, the Woody Hite Big Band, the Portland Symphonic Choir, the Art Abram’s Swing Machine, and currently as a member of 3 Grands.  Ms. Schmitt is the vocal music director and head of the Performing Arts Department at Battle Ground High School and is the vocal director for Prairie/Ground Musical Productions.  She is also a voice teacher and vocal coach at Opus School of Music and Dance Works and is a frequently-requested clinician and guest artist at many festivals and high schools.

Darcy Schmitt

Advance ticket sales for 3 Grands Concert & Benefit are available for purchase online at:  https://ridge.revtrak.net/events/#/v/3-grands-concert :  $20 for adults, and $10 for students.  Tickets purchased at the door will be $25 for adults and $15 for students.   Children (ages 5 and under) attend free.

La Center School District Hosts Free Screening of Award-Winning Film

“Screenagers – Growing Up In the Digital Age” is a powerful documentary depicting the way millions of teens struggle with phones, games and technology in general.  The film offers solutions on how we can help kids navigate the digital world and provides practical tips for raising happy, healthy technologically empowered teens.

Sponsored by the La Center School District, the film will be shown on Wednesday, March 7th from 7:00-8:45 pm at the La Center High School Commons.  Admission is free.

Watch the official Screenagers 2017 trailer and a Google Talk interview with Dr. Delaney Ruston, Stanford-trained physician, who wrote and directed the film.

First Saturday Events Kick Off Ridgefield Youth Arts Month

Ridgefield will be buzzing on First Saturday, March 3rd as performers and artists converge downtown to help kick off Ridgefield Youth Arts Month with two exciting events sure to entertain and engage.

At 10:00 am, the Ridgefield Community Center comes alive with creative art opportunities for kids of all ages (and adults too!).  “Express Yourself!” offers hands-on art activities featuring Ridgefield Art Association and Ridgefield School District artists and staffers.  Engage in even more activities at the Art Bar sponsored by the Ridgefield Library or grab a paintbrush and add some colorful inspiration to Ridgefield’s first-ever Community Mural.

Across the street at Sportsman’s Restaurant & Lounge, check out “Art Alive!” starting at 11:00 am – a showcase celebrating the performing arts.  Watch live theatrical, instrumental, vocal, dance and poetry performances by local and future stars and professional entertainers.  Mac Potts, blind pianist extraordinaire, will perform at 1:00 pm, providing a preview of the upcoming “3 Grands Concert” on March 18th at RHS Performing Arts Center, where he will perform with two other award-winning, blind pianists, Nick Baker and Brent Gjerve.  Be inspired and entertained!

Join us on First Saturday, March 3rd for a day of engaging fun, creativity and entertainment to celebrate and support local youth art programs in Ridgefield.

Ridgefield Celebrates Youth Arts Month

Ridgefield School District is celebrating Youth Arts Month in a big way this year, joining with local businesses, organizations, the city of Ridgefield and local artists to offer an abundance of opportunities for children and the Ridgefield community to discover their creative side through art and music throughout the entire month of March.

The school district established Ridgefield Youth Arts Month to support the district’s commitment to deliver personalized learning experiences for each student through appreciation of the arts as well as to increase support of the arts throughout the community.

To celebrate Youth Arts Month, Ridgefield Community Education is offering a phenomenal array of classes for the community and for kids of all ages.  Many classes are free!  View the Ridgefield Youth Arts Month 2018 brochure here or visit the Community Education page at www.ridgefieldsd.org and click on 2018 Catalog.

All classes require online registration and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  If you find a class full, sign up for the wait-list.  With enough interest, a second class may be added!  Visit www.ridgefieldyoutharts.com for updated information.

Choose from a variety of classes in arts and crafts or music and dance.  Get involved in theater arts productions like “Junie B. Jones” or “The Little Mermaid”.  Take in the District Art Show or the many musical concert performances scheduled throughout the month showcasing the talents of our amazing students.

This year, Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Lions Club are pleased to present a special performance by three award-winning blind musicians, Mac Potts, Nick Baker and Brent Gjerve in an amazing piano concert, “3 Grands Concert & Benefit” on Sunday, March 18 at 7:00 pm at the Ridgefield Performing Arts Center.  Be prepared for a unique, awe-inspiring performance by these talented musicians.  Proceeds benefit Ridgefield High School’s scholarship program and the Ridgefield School District’s music program.  Tickets are now available online at ridge.revtrak.net.

Be in the know!  Join Ridgefield Community Education’s mailing list to receive periodic updates and reminders.  Simply email “Add me” to terri.cochran@ridgefieldsd.org.  A variety of Winter/Spring classes is now being offered.  Visit the Community Education page at www.ridgefieldsd.org.

Questions?  Call Ridgefield Community Education at 360-619-1303 or email Terri Cochran at terri.cochran@ridgefieldsd.org.

Ridgefield School District Honors February Employee and Students of the Month

On February 13, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the February Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting.

The Employee of the Month is Sara Eastham at Union Ridge Elementary School.  Sara is an outstanding member of the Union Ridge Elementary community.  She is constantly stepping up and volunteering her time, talents, and skills for the betterment of the school.  A member of the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) team, she volunteered to take the lead in planning and presenting the school’s PBIS assemblies.  Her ability to tap in to what children find interesting and enjoyable makes the monthly assemblies a favorite activity for all.  Sara is also a leader in her second grade professional learning community and is a mentor to a new teacher.

Sara Eastham

The Union Ridge staff is grateful for all that Sara does to make the school a great place for students.  It is with pride that we congratulate Sara Eastham as February’s Employee of the Month.

Students of the Month

Marlena Hernandez, a fifth grader, is February’s Student of the Month at South Ridge Elementary School.  Marlena’s growth throughout the school year is an inspiration to all.  She comes to school with a smile on her face every day, ready to learn.  Marlena is kind to everyone, is respectful to her peers and teachers, and participates in class discussions.  Her joyful attitude towards learning lifts the mood in the classroom and contributes to a positive environment for everyone.  Marlena’s commitment to school, paired with her positive attitude for learning, make her a perfect choice for South Ridge Elementary’s Student of the Month for February.

Marlena Hernandez

Jack Rorabaugh, a second grader, was selected at Union Ridge Elementary.  Jack is an outstanding student and a kind-hearted leader among his peers.  With his warm and friendly demeanor, he reaches out to everyone and is a friend to all.  He holds high expectations for himself and is quick to take initiative no matter what the task.  A creative and critical thinker, Jack continually looks for ways to solve problems outside the box.  He is also an extremely hard worker and pushes himself to achieve.  The staff and students at Union Ridge are thrilled to name Jack Rorabaugh as its Student of the Month for February.

Jack Rorabaugh

Lucas Allmaras, an eighth grader, is View Ridge Middle School’s Student of the Month.  Lucas is an excellent student and role model.  He is also a strong athlete and leader in the wrestling program.  Lucas works well with others and is always respectful and courteous.  He consistently contributes to a positive learning environment and maintains high expectations of himself by welcoming  feedback–even seeking it out—and grows academically as a result.  View Ridge Middle School is pleased to recognize Lucas Allmaras for February Student of the Month honors.

Lucas Allmaras

Sydney Dean, a sophomore, was chosen from Ridgefield High School.  When asked to describe Sydney, teachers say that she is hardworking, respectful, dependable, ruthless in her learning, and demonstrates the 3 R’s (respectfulness, responsibility and resilience) on a daily basis.  One teacher describes Sydney as “the kind of student who makes me a better teacher.”  Sydney is in the jazz band, playing alto sax, is involved with Knowledge Bowl and plays tennis.  Outside of school, she is involved in 4H.  Students of the Month at Ridgefield High School represent less than 1% of the total student body, and Sydney is truly deserving of the honor for the month of February.

Sydney Dean

Ridgefield School District is grateful to its sponsor, the historic Sportsman’s Restaurant and Lounge, a local Ridgefield business owned and operated by Terry Hurd.  This is the fourth year that Hurd has provided funding to support the district’s recognition program.

Ridgefield Students Shape Design of Community’s Open Space

Imagine a meeting of professional architects and landscape designers planning the design of open space for the Ridgefield community.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about that–until you take a closer look and realize that students are creating the designs, and the professionals are paying close attention.

Ridgefield School District’s 2017 Bond Project is in full swing with four construction projects in the works:  the 5-8 schools complex, Ridgefield High School expansion, security upgrades at two elementary schools and the repurposing of View Ridge Middle School.

Recognizing that the repurposing project at View Ridge does not include bond funding to landscape the open spaces around the school, Superintendent Nathan McCann turned to the 12 students in his Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC) for ideas.  The council, which meets monthly with McCann, is comprised of students from Grades 4-12 representing each of the district’s four schools.

With the professional support of architects and landscape designers, McCann met with his SSAC students in January and presented them with a unique challenge:  To design and construct a park in downtown Ridgefield utilizing the open spaces around View Ridge Middle School, relying primarily on the volunteer efforts of professionals and the Ridgefield community.

The open space in need of landscaping includes the nearby baseball field, the school’s open space fronting Pioneer Street, and the hillside on 5th Street.

Not only were the students eager to tackle the project, they came up with some impressive ideas for the design team, including a community garden, a playground for early learners, and an amphitheater, to name a few.  The kids were excited for the chance to provide ideas that would not only benefit their community but leave a lasting personal and positive legacy in Ridgefield.

“We’re very excited and appreciative of the work that they’re doing, and this is happening with students as young as fourth grade,” said McCann.  “Watching them in their groups looking at some layouts and doing some greenlight thinking, it’s pretty inspiring  to see what they create when you give them just a little bit of guidance from professionals.”

LSW Architect, Trevor Chayce, was impressed with the thoughtfulness that the students integrated into their ideas.  “They’re thinking about the big picture, about everybody that’s using the space, not only kids coming to play but even the users of the new renovated building, including the early learning components and everything about the site,” he said.  “Everything that they’re generating here today will be utilized in the final design.  We’ll be able to work with this team and refine a lot of the ideas to be reflected on the site in the future.”

Payton Grimm, a sixth grader at Union Ridge Elementary, shared her group’s design plans for the open space.  “We’re trying to incorporate the community into the extra land around the school, bringing in a community garden, benches and play structures for everyone to use,” she said.  “I feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity to make my mark on the community because I feel like it’ll be here forever.”

Jacob Bell, a sixth grader from South Ridge Elementary, was equally excited.  “I think it’s really awesome that I actually got to be here, and I think this is going to be a really cool project to be a part of.”

“It’s really great for these younger kids to be a part of what’s coming for the future of the community,” said Jolie Gullickson, a junior at Ridgefield High School.   “The best part is being able to work with them and knowing what their input is on what’s yet to come and just making sure that we keep Ridgefield the way it always is because it’s growing so much.”

In the coming year, the students will continue to collaborate with landscape designers and architects to refine their ideas, and as their plans move forward toward implementation, get community organizations on board and increase volunteer support.  Estimated completion of the landscaping project is January 2019.

Ridgefield High School Students Shine in Poetry Out Loud Contest

On Wednesday evening, January 18, over two dozen Ridgefield High School students braved the pouring rain to take center stage at The Old Liberty Theater to recite the works of both famous and lesser-known poets in the school-level round of the national Poetry Out Loud competition.

Grace Melbuer, a sophomore, earned first place, with a recitation of Rita Mae Reese’s poem, “Dear Reader.”  Natalie Dean, a senior, finished second.  Davin Tjia, a sophomore, and Kendall Davis, a freshman, tied for third-place honors.

Grace Melbuer

“Poetry is a unique art form that allows for the expression of ideas and opinions,” said Melbuer.  “I appreciate Poetry Out Loud at Ridgefield High because it gives students the opportunity to expose themselves to the wonderful art while practicing their memorization and public speaking skills.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation.  The program, which debuted in the 2004-2005 school year, has exploded in popularity, with more than 3 million students representing 10,000 schools participating over that time.

This is the fifth year that Ridgefield High School has competed in the Poetry Out Loud contest, and members of the English Department continue to be impressed each year with the quality of the presentations given by their students.

To prepare for the competition, all RHS English students selected and memorized a poem chosen from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems.  English classes held competitions where students recited their poems in class.  Students were evaluated on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and ability to convey the poem’s meaning to audience members.  Classroom winners and a wild-card advanced to the school finals.

This year, students benefitted once again from the professional guidance of Katherine Murphy Lewis, co-founder of the non-profit arts group, From the Ground Up.  Murphy Lewis worked with groups of RHS students, presenting workshops and tutoring small groups in individual classes to prepare for the contest.  The English department was able to bring Murphy Lewis in through a grant from the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation and a generous donation of her time.

The district is grateful to the staff at The Old Liberty Theater, who hosted the competition.  We congratulate Grace and wish her the best as she advances to Poetry Out Loud’s Southwest Washington Regional Finals at Educational Service District #112 on January 30th at 5:00 pm.

Ridgefield High School Students Selected for Local, State Band Honors

Nine students from Ridgefield High School were recently honored for their accomplishments in music.

Congratulations to freshmen Alina Fabyanchuk and Eireann Van Natta; sophomores, Samantha Fenton, Emma Thulin, Spencer Hess and Emma Schmidt;  juniors, Ellie McCann and Anthony Paepcke; and senior, Hannah Farley.  All were selected for the 2018 North County Honor Band.

On Saturday, January 20th, the students performed in the group’s annual concert at Hockinson High School.  The free annual concert was open to the public.

The North County Honor Band is made up of middle school and high school students from Hockinson, Prairie, Battle Ground, Ridgefield, La Center, Woodland, Camas and Washougal high schools.  Applicants are chosen based on their musical accomplishments and band director’s recommendation.

Students selected for the opportunity receive a quality band experience that challenges them as musicians of a high-level honor group, performing with their peers from other school districts and working with esteemed guest conductors—this year, Dr. Rob Davis, director of bands at Lower Columbia College, and Dr. Rodney Dorsey, director of bands at the University of Oregon.

Two of the RHS students were also selected for the Washington All-State Small Schools Wind Symphony.  Samantha Fenton (flutist) and Emma Schmidt (clarinetist) will perform with the ensemble at the 2018 Washington Music Educators Association Conference in Yakima, Washington during Presidents’ Day weekend.


View Ridge Middle Schoolers Participate in FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition

Last month, two robotics teams from View Ridge Middle School participated in a FIRST LEGO League Robotics qualifying competition at Washington Middle School in Olympia.

The VRMS Rebels (also known as “The Squishies”) and VRMS Rebels Too (also known as “The RoboRebels”) are coached by View Ridge English and history teacher, Raechel Cowell.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit international youth organization founded in 1989 that operates the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League, JR. and FIRST Tech Challenge competitions.

FIRST LEGO League team competitions require student teams (in Grades 4-8) to design, build, and program a robot using Lego Mindstorms technology and drive it to complete challenges on a table-top playing field.  This year, teams were also presented with a real-world problem (hydrodynamics) and were required to develop a solution by collaborating with community members and doing research culminating in a presentation to judges at the competition.

The competition helps participants learn to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM) along with creativity to solve a problem.  Along the way, they develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic STEM applications and presentation skills.

In addition, by embracing FIRST’s Core Values, participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.  The event provided the middle schoolers with the opportunity to meet students from other schools, get to know their teammates better and to have fun.

VRMS Rebels team (a.k.a. The Squishies) from left: William Sowders, Jud “JP” Kennedy, Carter Long, Cayden Lauder, Kaison Apol, Liam Rapp, and Isabelle “Izzy” Sheley. Christian Duquette (not pictured) is also part of the team.

At the competition, both teams faced numerous challenges required of their robot.  After selecting specific challenges to work through, the students set goals, all of which they were able to accomplish.  “THAT was very exciting,” said Cowell.  “The students worked hard and made effective use of downtimes to make programming changes.  One team actually changed their robot design during downtime!”

“When we finally got to see our robot do the first challenge successfully, it was really cool,” said Parker Staker from the RoboRebels team.  “The best aspect of the competition was when we were pressured for time and within hours, made the robot able to do two more challenges than what we came in with.  It was fun to see the saw blade attachment that I made work and help the robot do the challenge.”

VRMS Rebels Too team (a.k.a. The RoboRebels) Back row (from left): Parker Staker, Mara Schwenneker, Dominic Harris, John Stryker. Front row (from left): Catalina Hagen and Gabriel Thomas. Other team members (not pictured): Olivia DesRochers, Aaron Breitengross, and Megan Weber.

In the end, View Ridge ranked 27th and 28th out of a field of 33 teams.  “However, I am very proud of them,” said Cowell.  “They weren’t trying to win necessarily, but had the full spirit in them to do their best.  The students enjoyed themselves,” she said, adding, “Many would have been happy simply designing robots and programming them.  Students simply love to do this stuff.”

The View Ridge robotics teams gratefully acknowledge the support they received from Ridgefield High School’s Steel Ridge Robotics Team (Coach Jeff Brink and students Jake McCarthy and Eli Holter) and parents Chad Stryker, Mitzi Staker, and Timm Sowders.

“Being my first year doing robotics, I really enjoyed myself and found the entire robotics community very supportive,” said Cowell.

FIRST LEGO League is an alliance between FIRST and the LEGO Group.  It was founded in 1998 by FIRST founder Dean Kamen and owner of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen to engage children in playful and meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology.


Family Resource Center Receives $5000 Donation from Successful Turkey Trot

The Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation (RPSF) announced today that it is donating $5,000 to Family Resource Center after its first annual Turkey Trot exceeded fundraising expectations.

The first annual RPSF Turkey Trot presented by Krippner and NW Funding Group was held on November 23, 2017. More than 300 race participants showed up on Thanksgiving morning and braved the rain to run in the 5k/10k race. The event raised over $12,000 for the Foundation and brought in a large amount of food donations for the Family Resource Center.

Georgianna Jones, RPSF board member and lead event coordinator said, “The Ridgefield community, in both participation and sponsorship, showed us in record numbers that gratitude and giving back go hand in hand. I am beyond proud to have played a part in organizing the Turkey Trot.”

Nearly 20 local businesses and organizations stepped up to sponsor the race, showing Ridgefield’s exceptional commitment to its community and public schools. “We were surprised and grateful for the success of the event, given it was its first year,” said Jeff Vigue, RPSF President. “And in return, we wanted to donate a significant amount of the proceeds to the Family Resource Center.” The remaining amount will go to fund RPSF programs and grants for Ridgefield schools.

The Family Resource Center, which is located on Ridgefield School District property, provides Ridgefield students and families with food, clothing and basic necessities. The RPSF believes in the importance of whole child development within the educational system. The support provided by the Family Resource Center is making a difference in the lives of more and more Ridgefield students every day.

To learn more about the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation or attend an event hosted by the Foundation, please go to www.ridgefieldpsf.org.

The Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation is a privately funded, non-profit organization, established in 2009. Our mission is to advance programs and activities that support whole student development for which public resources are insufficient or unavailable.