Ridgefield’s First National Merit Scholar Finalist in Seventeen Years

Until now, Ridgefield High School only had six National Merit Finalists in its entire history.  And this year, Ian Abrams became the seventh.

The last time Ridgefield had a National Merit Scholar, George W. Bush was president and the Oscar for Best Picture went to A Beautiful Mind.  It has been so long because the achievement is so challenging.

This year, about 1.6 million students took the Preliminary SAT (PSAT).  Semifinalists are the highest-scoring students in each state and represent the top 0.5% of the state’s senior students.  And of that number, only the highest achieving students are selected as National Merit Scholars.  Finalists have to submit applications that list academic record, extracurricular achievements, awards, and leadership positions to be admitted to the elite group.

Ian Abrams is one of only seven National Merit Scholar finalists in Ridgefield High School’s history.

When Abrams became a semifinalist, the notification was lost in the mail.  He found out he was a semifinalist by reading it in the newspaper.  But when he became a finalist, he actually received the letter.  “I came home and my mom had the letter.  She said, ‘Well, I might have read it through the envelope,’” Abrams laughed.  “She was pretty excited.”

Abrams had a busy senior year.  He was president of the Associated Student Body (ASB), captain of the cross country team, a team member in Knowledge Bowl, and leader of the Peer Tutoring Program through the National Honor Society.  This fall, he is leaving high school behind and heading to Brigham Young University.  He plans to study biochemistry and hopes one day to help contribute toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Abrams credits his parents for helping him strive for success.  “My parents have taught me to work hard.  And as I’m doing everything, I’m looking toward the future, how this education will help me to serve people better.”

The Reflector newspaper wrote a profile on Abrams.  The article is available online at https://bit.ly/2IqxJAj.

Union Ridge Elementary Puts On Annual Culture Parade

The city of Ridgefield is well known for its old-fashioned Fourth of July parade.  But a smaller annual parade is making its mark on Ridgefield too:  the Union Ridge Elementary School Culture Parade.

The sixth annual Culture Parade went through downtown Ridgefield, showing the community what the classes studied during the school year.  Each grade highlighted a different facet of world culture.

The parade was led by the school’s assistant principal, Brian Heim, and Ridgefield Mayor Don Stose.  The first students in the parade were kindergarteners, who reflected their personal family history and culture with timelines of their lives.

First graders studied the cultures of individual countries.  They wore paper vests decorated with country flags and interesting facts.  Many of the students’ families had personal connections to the countries they chose.

Next were the second graders, who studied the cultural influence of historical figures.  Each student carried a posterboard with a drawing and biographical facts about the person they studied.  The posterboard made a costume of the historic figure, with the student’s face showing thorough a cutout.

The third-grade classes studied the culture of different regions of the United States.  Each regional group marched together, some of them shouting slogans—like ”West is best!”—and handing out postcards to promote their region.  Students carried posters and dressed to reflect the culture of the region they studied.

To close the parade, the fourth graders brought their study of the culture of the state of Washington.  On each block, the students waited for the music to start before performing Washington’s state dance, the square dance.  Dressed in western wear, they brought a lively close to the parade.

Many people lined the streets to cheer for the students.  But one set of parade watchers got a lot of attention:  the firefighters standing by the fire truck parked near City Hall.  As the students passed the fire truck, their eyes widened.  One kindergartener got brave and asked a firefighter, “Why are you here?”

The firefighter answered, “We’re here because you’re here, buddy!  We’re here to support you!”  The firefighters applauded and high-fived the students as they walked past.  And the students beamed, enjoying the support of the community for their culture parade.

Third grader Leela Weeks dressed as the Statue of Liberty for the Culture Parade.


First graders display country flags and facts on their paper vests.


A firefighter high-fives students as they walk the parade route.


Pioneer Day at South Ridge Takes Students Back in Time

 A covered wagon was parked in the grass.  Women in sun bonnets and aprons guided children through doing laundry on a washboard, hanging the garments up on a line to dry.  Kids sporting coonskin caps and straw hats played with cornhusk dolls in the shade.  Ridgefield in the 1800’s?  No, Ridgefield in 2019 as students at South Ridge Elementary celebrated Pioneer Day.

The entire fourth grade at South Ridge spent many weeks studying pioneer life.  And the unit culminated in Pioneer Day, an outdoor event where students could get a taste of pioneer life.  They rotated through several stations, learning something new at each one.

Some of the stations focused on home life and daily routines.  The students peeled apples and ground wheat to learn about food preservation.  They poked holes in tin to make tin lanterns.  They learned how to make yarn from wool.  And they even milked real goats right there in the schoolyard.

Other activities focused on things pioneer children would have enjoyed.  Quills and ink let them practice the hand lettering pioneer students would have learned in school; there were a lot of ink blots on the paper as they practiced the new skill.  For playtime, they had to learn how to make their own entertainment.  They made cornhusk dolls and learned how to do the cat’s cradle with yarn.

To make the day a little more magical, all the fourth-grade teachers dressed in costume.  And Clark Public Utilities brought their Water Wagon, a reproduction covered wagon, for the children to see.  For a few hours, students brought their pioneer studies to life.  They enjoyed stepping back in time with a taste of pioneer days.

South Ridge fourth grade teachers dressed in costume for Pioneer Day.


Students learned hand-lettering with ink. Clark Public Utilities Water Wagon is in the background.


Students learned to wash clothes using bars of soap, washboards and tubs of water.


Milking goats was harder than it looked!






District’s Surplus Sale Set for Friday, June 21


District’s Early Learning Center Offers New Options

Based on feedback from the well-attended Early Learning Center Information Night on Wednesday, May 29th, the Early Learning Center is pleased to offer some new options.

  • Preschool only:  T/Th, M/W/F, M-F (8:30-12:30) $30/day
  • Preschool with childcare:  T/Th, M/W/F, M-F (7:00-6:00) $51/day

The before/after school age care (grades K-4) has the option to choose the days your family needs; however, the days you choose will be your reserved space, and we won’t be able to make frequent changes to those days.

Please note:  Space is limited and a large number of families have already enrolled.  For an application packet, visit the Early Learning Center webpage at https://www.ridgefieldsd.org/o/district/page/early-learning-center-preschool-child-care.  Submit completed applications with payment to The Early Learning Center, RACC, 510 Pioneer Street, Ridgefield, WA 98642.

If you have any questions or need more information, please email the Early Learning Center at elc@ridgefieldsd.org.


District’s CAPS Program Highlighted in Forbes.com

Ridgefield High School’s CAPS program was highlighted this past week in an article regarding real life leaning in Forbes.com.  Ridgefield High School CAPS students, Emma Haynie and Jordan Nash, appear in a photo at the beginning of the article.

The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) campus at Innovation Ridge is part of the nationally recognized CAPS Network comprised of more than 100 school districts.  The innovative high school program provides students the opportunity to be fully immersed in professional culture using industry standard tools.  Students are mentored by actual employers who partner with the program.

CAPS at Innovation Ridge launched its inaugural semester this year.  Spearheaded by Superintendent Nathan McCann, the program’s vision became a reality through the efforts of Ridgefield High School Principal, Christen Palmer, Director of CCTE and Federal Programs, Tiffany Gould, and Ridgefield High School teachers, Andrea Reinertson, Steve Rinard and Kara Breuer.

“We held the students to a high standard, expecting them to act, dress, and communicate like professionals, and they have truly risen to the occasion,” said Reinertson.  “To witness the way they have transformed from every day students in the classroom to those who get a shout out in Forbes is fulfilling every teacher’s dream!”

“Having the opportunity to work alongside the CAPS teachers and students as they have followed their passions has been a highlight of my career,” said Gould.  “I am inspired by the students in the health sciences, engineering, and business, marketing and entrepreneurship strands that have demonstrated their commitment to their learning and career goals every day.”

 Click here to read the article on Forbes.com:


WIN Time Gives Students a Winning Start

The students all left class and walked downstairs.  “Where are you guys heading?” Principal Todd Graves asked.

“Outside!” they said.  “We’re going to the basketball courts to practice a play that we’re doing for WIN time, the plot line for Scaredy Squirrel.”  When they got to the courts, they broke up into groups.  Each group did a skit on a different part of the book Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.  Students played squirrels, killer bees, narrators, and even trees as they worked through the story’s exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action.

In other classrooms, students worked together to solve math puzzles projected on the screen, conducted experiments, or read aloud from novels.  The classes were all part of WIN time, an innovative program that allows students at Sunset Ridge to find new ways to achieve academically.

Students in Anja Felton’s WIN Time class work on a problem together.

WIN stands for What I Need.  Every student at Sunset Ridge participates in the WIN time program three times a year.  It creates focus on the areas where each student could see improvement or seek more challenges, based on standardized assessments.

The WIN time session assigns each student to a particular subject area.  The students leave their regular classrooms and go to spend a period in a WIN time classroom with other students from their grade.  Each student is challenged to achieve at his or her own level.

WIN provides a wide range of academic support, including informational comprehension, literature, numbers and operations, algebraic thinking, and more.  They even have an eighth-grade math class—for sixth grade students.

The program changes a little each session as the teachers determine what is working best for their students.  Graves said the results have been overwhelmingly positive.  “When we asked students for feedback, ‘Did WIN help me target an area that I needed specific help in?’ almost 100% of the students said yes.”

The students on the basketball court are having a great time creating their skits.  Some of them stand on top of the concrete bases, pretending to be up in trees.  Graves watches with a smile.  “I think of all the things we’ve done here at Sunset Ridge, one of the things I’m most proud of for our kids is WIN time,” Graves said.  “It’s a pretty cool thing to watch.”

Brianne Irons’ WIN Time class gathers on the basketball court.


Students in Brianne Irons’ WIN Time class prepare their skit on “Scaredy Ssquirrel.”


Sunset Ridge Students Present Innovative Ideas Around City Growth

More and more people are moving to the city of Ridgefield.  But how do we maintain the things we love most about Ridgefield as we grow?   The fifth and sixth graders at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School completed a unit asking them to tackle that difficult question—and they came up with some pretty creative ideas.

The fifth grade group projects addressed three different areas:  business, parks and recreation, and preservation.  Each student group selected a specific issue within those areas.  They did extensive research to learn more, including calls and meetings with area experts.  The students projected possible solutions.  Then they created detailed presentations for Growth Expo night, many featuring reports, models, polls, and handouts.

Principal Todd Graves explained that Project Based Learning (PBL) is an important part of the Sunset Ridge curriculum.  Each year, students answer a question that impacts the community.  “We identify something local, that has an impact on the community, and give a few different topics for the kids to explore.  Then we turn them loose.  What they do is amazing,” Graves said.

PBL teaches students to use the four C’s—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity—to assess and address the issues.  “Those are major skills our kids will absolutely need to have as they leave and go into the work force,” Graves explained.

The thorough assessment of the issues helped the students become extremely knowledgeable about their topics.  During the fifth grade Growth Expo night, one student explained how a hotel could generate new city revenue through taxes.  Another offered cost effective ways to mediate drainage issues on sports fields in Abrams Park.  The sixth grade presentation is coming up soon; their PBL Showcase will be on June 6 from 4:30 to 6:15 in the commons area at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.

Some of the students have been invited to present their findings to the Ridgefield Parks Board.  “That’s exactly the kind of interaction we want to see,” Graves said.  “If you do things like that, the kids will realize their voice actually matters.”

Michael Chandler presents a plan to create a permanent farmers’ market in Ridgefield.


Students created this detailed model of a proposed Blue Heron Water Park.


A model for a community pool created by a student in Minecraft.

Ridgefield School District Receives WSPRA Communications Awards

Ridgefield School District was recognized by the Washington School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) at its annual conference held earlier this month for outstanding work in public school communications throughout the 2018-19 school year.

Ridgefield’s communications team is led by Carolyn Enos, the district’s communications specialist and includes Kimber Webb and Marie Bouvier.

“I am extremely proud of the work our communications team continues to produce,” said Superintendent Nathan McCann.  “They work hard to keep our stakeholders informed and celebrate the many successes of our students and staff.”

The district received the following awards for school districts in the state with enrollment less than 10,000 students:

Award of Excellence:  2018-2019 Annual Report

Special recognition to Kimber Webb for graphic design, Marie Bouvier for feature writing for Ridgefield Schools:  Proud Past, Prosperous Present, Promising Future, and Carolyn Enos for editing and feature writing for Where Are They Now? Spudder Grad Success Stories

Awards of Merit: 

Calendar category:  2018-19 Parent Guide & Calendar

Special recognition to Kimber Webb for graphic design and Carolyn Enos for writing and editing

Social Media category:  Weekly Construction Updates

Special recognition to Carolyn Enos writing and editing

Video category:  Growing Together, the 2018-2019 School Year

Special recognition to Shannon Korta and Mack Stromme of LSW architects for video production and Carolyn Enos for writing and editing

Congratulations to all WSPRA communications award recipients for their outstanding work this year!

District to Open Early Learning Center This Fall

The Ridgefield School District will be opening an Early Learning Center in the Ridgefield Administrative & Civic Center this fall!  The center will provide full and half day opportunities for children ages 3-5.  In addition, before and after school care will be available for students through 4th grade.  Space is limited.

Registration is now open.  For a registration packet, click here:  https://tinyurl.com/y3w7ur6x.  For more information about the program, email the Early Learning Center at elc@ridgefieldsd.org.

Spanish Class Holds Mexican Heritage Celebration

The tables were loaded with delicious Mexican food.  Nopales (cactus), arroz con leche (rice pudding), fresh tortilla chips with six kinds of salsa, conchas (sweet bread shaped like shells), Takis (spicy corn chips), rico coco cookies, Vasito tamarind candy, and Jarritos (fruit flavored soda) made a colorful display the students could hardly wait to dig into.

The teacher, Jennifer Zora, flipped tortillas by hand at the griddle.  “A true Mexicana turns her tortillas without a spatula.  My fingerprints are almost gone!” she laughed.

Jair Guitron carefully stirred the arroz con leche that his friend, Julian Galant, brought.  “This is delicious!” he told his classmates.  “You will like it.”  The students filed through to fill their plates, then sat down together.  Conversation was lively, in English and in Spanish, as music videos played.

The Mexican Heritage Celebration was the end of their class unit on Mexico.  By the end of the semester, the students will have toured through many Spanish speaking regions:  South America, Central America, Mexico, Spain, and the Caribbean.

The students use workbooks with a wide range of activities, from practicing vocabulary to writing entire paragraphs in Spanish.  Their progress has been fast since the semester began, and when they pair off to start doing skits together, you can hear their comfort speaking the new language.

This is the first year the Ridgefield School District has offered Spanish classes in addition to French classes at the middle school level.  For the students, learning the second most spoken language in the world is a clear benefit.

Zora teaches Spanish at the middle school and the high school.  “Teaching seventh and eighth graders is something special,” she said.  “At that age, they are like sponges; they pick it up so quickly.”   She smiled as she watched the students practicing their skits.  “They’re doing so well, we might have to change our Spanish I classes at the high school to be more advanced.”

Jennifer Zora heats tortillas for her students during the Mexican Heritage class celebration.

Police Officers Read to Students

Police officers are showing up at school libraries—to read books to students.  Union Ridge Elementary School uses the readings as a reward for good behavior, and students are really enjoying the chance to meet the officers.

Sergeant Cathy Doriot and Officer Jason Ferriss visit Ms. Sullens’ kindergarten class at Union Ridge Elementary.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support is a positive reward system used district-wide to encourage and teach positive behavior.  At Union Ridge Elementary School, students earn Tater Bucks tickets when they follow the three R’s:  Respect, Responsibility, and Resilience.  Then students can use the Tater Bucks for prizes and drawings of their choice.  There are also bonus awards an entire classroom can earn, including a recess award, lunchroom award, and library award.

Librarian Jubilee Roth explained the program with the Ridgefield Police Department.  “I select two classes a month that have shown the three R’s in the library, and they earn a visit from a police officer who reads them a story during library class.”  The students get the chance to meet a police officer one on one, and it also rewards the classes for good behavior.

The police officers read a story, then lead questions and answers.  The students can ask about the book, information about police work, or even personal likes and dislikes.

Sergeant Cathy Doriot and Officer Jason Ferriss are working the library beat in addition to their regular duties.  So if you see a police car parked at the school, the officer might be in the library, happily reading Dr. Seuss to a room full of students.





A Look Back: National Geographic World Brought Ridgefield Students to Mount St. Helens Blast Zone

Many people remember the Mount St. Helens eruption.  But not many people remember leading a group of students through protected areas of the mountain in the years following the eruption.  Longtime Ridgefield resident Allene Wodaege did exactly that, taking a group of Ridgefield students to the blast zone area with a team from National Geographic World magazine.

Thirty-nine years ago, on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted.  For years after the eruption, some areas around the volcano were off limits to the public.  When National Geographic World, a magazine for young people, wanted to visit and take pictures of students in the blast zone, they called ahead to find area students who would be willing to go.  Allene Wodaege, who was a coordinator for the nearby Cispus camp at the time, was happy to help.  She coordinated a group of Ridgefield students to take a bus up the mountain with the writer and photographer.

Wodaege & students in restricted Mount St. Helens blast zone. National Geographic World photo.

“No one could go up,” she explained.  “It was closed.  It was really closed at that time.”  She worked with the principal and with fifth grade teacher Ron Ward to get a bus and several students to accompany them on the journey.  The National Geographic photo with Wodaege and the students looks like a black and white picture with only the children’s clothes in color; even many months after the eruption, the entire area was dead and covered in ash.

Teacher Ron Ward took the students near Meta Lake to observe the wildlife that had lived through the blast.  Wodaege said, “Because the lake was covered with ice and snow when it blew, it didn’t kill everything in the lake and around it.  But you can see how devastated everything was.  Ron Ward came up with little tasks that the kids could do while they were up there so they could have a learning experience.”  The photos show students Nathan Schwarz and Troy McIntyre holding a crawfish they found in the lake, and Ward taking water samples.

The Columbian newspaper arranged a meeting between Ward and Wodaege, more than 35 years after their trip with the students.  The article by Jeffrey Mize features Wodaege and Ward, celebrating their shared experience and the anniversary of the eruption.  The article can be found at:  https://www.columbian.com/news/2019/may/18/journey-to-the-blast-zone/

Wodaege has been an outspoken advocate for the importance of Cispus outdoor school and outdoor learning for nearly fifty years.  While some people might have seen danger taking students so close to an eruption zone, she saw a chance to learn about how nature recovers from a once-in-a-lifetime natural event.  Each year, she took students to Cispus outdoor school, not far from Mount St. Helens, to study the ecosystem and its changes.  “I said, ‘It’s a learning experience; it’s going to be wonderful,” Wodaege said.  “And it was.”

Ron Ward and students studying Meta Lake wildlife. National Geographic World magazine photo.


Allene Wodaege speaks with Jeffrey Mize of The Columbian about the Mount St. Helens trip.

Ridgefield Loses Beloved Coach

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Dusty Anchors, head softball coach, after a lengthy battle with heart disease.  He was 68 years old.

Coach Anchors was instrumental in reviving the softball program at Ridgefield High School, where he coached for three years starting in 2016.  The team thrived under his leadership, advancing to state competition in 2016-17.  Last year, it placed fifth in the state with a 21-5 record.  This year, the team is currently ranked second in their league with a 16-4 record.

Even through his illness, Anchors continued his coaching duties and remained steadfastly dedicated to the team.  His zest for life and infectious enthusiasm for the game will live on in the hearts of the entire Ridgefield community.  He will be sorely missed.

“Today is a difficult day here in Ridgefield with the passing of Coach Anchors.  Dusty was truly a remarkable man who coached with passion, integrity and a deep love for the game,” said Brynan Shipley, the district’s athletic director.  “We will honor his legacy and continue to carry on the culture that he built here.  Our thoughts are with his family and the Ridgefield softball community.”

Counselors are on hand at Ridgefield High School to help students and staff through the grieving process.

Stellar Year for Ridgefield High School Golf Team

In a year with many successes, the Ridgefield High School golf team had a standout year.  They won the 2A League individual day golf tournament.  They won the Hudson Invitational and the Titan Cup, where they competed with 3A and 4A schools.  In October, they won the 2A District IV Golf Championship.  And with the team’s remarkable performance at District, the entire varsity team—all six members—qualified to go to state competition in May.

The RHS Golf Team lifts the District Championship trophy. Photo credit: Bob Ball Photography.

With a field of 80 players at District competition, three of the RHS golfers were in the top five players, and all six students made the top 15.  Cade Bringhurst placed second, Kellen Bringhurst placed fourth, and Kale Suomi placed fifth.  Caden Whitsitt placed ninth, Nick Radosevich placed 11th, and Eli Saenz placed 14th.

In an interview with the Reflector, Kellen Bringhurst said, “Definitely the fact we could send all six to state was huge for us.  Our main goal—we’ve said it from the beginning—is for this year was that we wanted to win state as a team.”

“We’ve got a lot of good players on this team, and only two of them are seniors, Kale (Suomi) and I.  So for the next three or four years, our team has a lot of great potential and talent.  I want to leave a little bit of a legacy for them to follow.  A state title would be sweet to leave behind.”

Topping off the League honors, sophomore Cade Bringhurst won Player of the Year.  This is his second year as Player of the Year.  And Coach Bob Ball won District Coach of the Year.  “That’s thanks to Cade and the rest of them,” Ball said.  “You don’t win that without players doing well.”

Coach Ball is proud of the students and what they have achieved.  He pointed out that last year, the same set of students won the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 2A boys’ golf academic championship, with a 3.9 collective GPA for the team.  “They’re good, smart kids.  Good students,” Ball said.  He expects them to do well both academically and athletically again this year.

Three of the six students are playing other sports right now, so practice time is limited before the state tournament.  But Coach Ball said they will be preparing by working on fundamentals.  They’ll also be learning about the course where they’ll be playing, Liberty Lake Golf Course just outside of Spokane, and learning about the strategy it takes to play it.

The whole Ridgefield High School golf team will be going to state competition on May 21st and 22nd.  If you see the team members or Coach Ball, please congratulate them and wish them luck at state.

Kellen Bringhurst competes at the 2A GSHL golf tournament.  Photo credit:  Bob Ball Photography.


Caden Whitsitt competes at the 2A GHSL golf tournament.  Photo credit:  Bob Ball Photography.