May 19, 2024 8:59 pm

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A look back at 2023: Top education stories

To commence the Lynnwood Times’ Year in Review series, the Lynnwood Times will highlight the top 2023 education stories. During 2023, we lost Robert Burton who kickstarted the Meadowdale Music Department and a Mountlake High School Student was name a 2023 Washington STEM Rising Star. Also, Meadowdale High School’s take on Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a hit!

Unfortunately, the sexual misconduct of teaching staff (from Lake Stevens to Mukilteo) to principals placed on administrative leave after a drug-fueled coke binge provides a glimpse into the continued struggle to protect kids our institutions of learning face.

Bipartisan bill making Holocaust education compulsory introduced

Senate Republican Leader John Braun (R-Centralia) and Senator Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) introduced legislation on December 15 requiring Holocaust education within schools to combat the rise of antisemitic sentiments in Washington.

Holocaust Center for Humanity, photo by Aaron Leitz, courtesy of Olson Kundig.

The bill, SB-5851, gives Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) until July 1, 2027, to require Jewish Holocaust curriculum in all K-12 public schools. Upon bill passage, April will be designated international genocide prevention and awareness month to formally recognize the Holocaust and other genocides. Also, students between grades six through 12 will be offered an optional stand-alone elective on Holocaust and genocide education.

Washington public school enrollment climbs by nearly 2,000 students

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) announced on December 6 that enrollment in the Washington public school system this fall has climbed by nearly 2,000 students when compared to fall of last school year. Approximately 1,092,977 students were enrolled at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

The largest increases over the last year are in the 2nd grade (6.3% increase), Running Start (4.3% increase), 11th grade (3.3% increase), and 5th grade (1.7% increase). The largest decreases are in 1st grade (3.7% decrease), 8th grade (2.5% decrease), kindergarten (2.4% decrease), and 3rd grade (2.4% decrease). In the earlier elementary grades, continued declines in enrollment appear to be attributed to additional homeschooling and declining birth rates.

Mountlake Terrace high schooler named 2023 Washington STEM Rising Star

Katie Larios, a student at Mountlake Terrace High School, has been named the 2023 Snohomish Regional Rising Star by the Washington STEM.  She is one of 11 promising young women recognized by the organization for 2023.

Katie Larios | Washington STEM

Larios is a 12th grader, an officer in her school’s Feminism Club and the Latino Student Union. One of her favorite movies is Hidden Figures, a 2016 American biographical drama film about three Black female mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s who contributed to the United States Space program.

Hundreds of thousands of student loan borrowers charged incorrect amounts

The United States Department of Education found that MOHELA failed to meet its basic obligation by failing to send billing statements on time to 2.5 million borrowers – some within only seven days of their payment date – and over 800,000 borrowers being delinquent on their loans as a result. In response to identifying this error, the Department is withholding $7.2 million in payment to MOHELA for October, and has directed MOHELA to place all affected borrowers in forbearance until the issue is resolved. Any months these borrowers are in forbearance will count as credit towards loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Income Driven Repayment plans.

The Department also identified errors from loan servicers resulting in at least 305,000 borrowers receiving incorrect payment amounts on their billing statements, and borrowers who have pending Borrower Defense claims incorrectly placed back in repayment status. All borrowers affected by these errors will be placed in forbearance by their servicer until the issues are resolved and any months in forbearance will count as credit towards loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Income Driven Repayment.

Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation elects eight new board members

The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation board announced the appointment of eight new members from Snohomish and Island counties. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Sno-Isle Libraries.

Guided by a board of directors, it helps extend the library district’s reach by supporting library programs, services and events, funding demonstration libraries in communities with limited library service, and investing in capital improvements throughout the library district.

The new members are Curtis DeClue, Nick Hamdem, Eleanor Howell-Shrylock, Nicolas Kadir Jensen, Naomi Johnson, Frank Kwan, Brianne Nevill, and Joyce Zhou.

These eight new members join Board President Luke Distelhorst, Vice President Jeanne Thorsen, Secretary Sami Postma, Rim Benoud-Schmitz, Heather Croteau, Sonia Siegel Vexler, and Board of Trustees Liaison Susan Kostick as members of the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation Board of Directors. Board members serve terms of three years and can serve up to three consecutive terms.

Hundreds of Meadowdale alums gather to sing for retired teacher’s 90th birthday

Approximately 250 Meadowdale High School alums gathered at the Edmonds Waterfront Center on June 24 to celebrate the 90th birthday of former music teacher Robert Burton; taking the risers one last time to sing songs Mr. Burton had taught them over 30 years ago.

Former music teacher Robert Burton at the Edmonds Waterfront Center on June 24 to celebrate his 90th birthday. Photos courtesy of Barbara Burton.

In many ways Robert Burton kickstarted the Meadowdale Music Department, as the school’s first-ever music teacher when it opened in 1964. Until his retirement in 1989, Burton taught band, music theory, wrote the school’s fight song, adapted the alma mater, formed the first MHS choir, and founded the jazz choral group, “The Impressions” – which is still active to this day and won a jazz competition in Gresham, Oregon, in 1969 under Burton’s leadership. Burton also joined his fellow MHS faculty and staff in recognizing MHS’s first graduating class in 1965.

Later in the year, Bob Burton died peacefully, alongside family in his Edmonds home near midnight on Thursday, August 10, 2023, after several weeks in hospice care due to ill health resulting from congestive heart failure and a stroke. A lover of ice cream, beautiful sunsets, spectacular music, his view of the Puget Sound and his children and grandchildren, he was able to die with all of these surrounding him.

Washington students boast record-high graduation rates

According to data released this year by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the 4-year graduation rate for the Class of 2023 reached 83.6%, an increase of 1.3 percentage points since 2022 and a record high in Washington state. The total number of graduates in the Class of 2023 has also increased by over 1,200 students.

Nearly every student group in the Class of 2023 saw an increase in their 4-year graduation rate compared to 2022. The largest gains were made by students who are identified as American Indian/Alaska Native, whose graduation rate rose by 3.7 percentage points. Students who are experiencing homelessness and students with disabilities also made gains, with their graduation rates rising by 2.3 and 1.5 percentage points, respectively, as compared to 2022.

More than books: Mukilteo Library celebrates 25th year Anniversary

In 1932, the first library in Mukilteo opened in a modest 400-square-foot space, established on the site of an old post office on second street. Now, 90 years later, the Mukilteo Library, built in 1998 on Harbour Pointe Boulevard, celebrated its 25th year anniversary in its new location. Held on December 2, the library celebrated this milestone with a small gathering of community members, and a cake.

Librarian Danielle cutting the 25th Anniversary cake at the Mukilteo Library on December 2, 2023. Lynnwood Times | Emily Chu.

Snohomish Book Cafe, delivering free books to a neighborhood near you

Each summer the Snohomish Book Cafe travels around Snohomish giving out one to three books to kids completely free of charge. Books range from board books all the way up to young adult. The Snohomish Book Cafe distributes approximately 500 books a week.

Inside Snohomish Book Cafe’s mobile book distribution van that delivers hundreds of books to kids a week. SOURCE: Snohomish Book Cafe.

Most books are provided to the Book Cafe through donations, but kids can also make requests. Coats jots down the titles and tries her luck finding them at used bookstores using the monetary donations the district receives. Dogman, for example, is this year’s hottest title, Coats said, so she tries to have as many copies of these as she can.

Dolly Parton to visit Washington to celebrate success of Imagination Library

On August 15, legendary icon, musician, and philanthropist Dolly Parton visited Washington State to celebrate achieving statewide coverage of the Imagination Library. All Washington children from birth to age five can now register to receive one book every month, for free, from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

August 15 was also be signified by a proclamation from Governor Jay Inslee and Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck as “Imagination Library of Washington Day.”

Sno-Isle TECH’s Criminal Justice Program, preparing students in law and beyond

Sno-Isle TECH’s Criminal Justice program allows students explore a wide variety of careers in law enforcement and the criminal justice system and now, thanks the passing of a Senate Bill this year, it’s more accessible than ever.

Myron Travis welcome by Sno-Isle Tech on June 1, 2021. SOURCE: (20+) #TeacherTuesday Today we would like… – Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center | Facebook

One of the benefits of the program, Myron Travis, Criminal Justice Instructor at Sno-Isle, told the Lynnwood Times, is students who complete it are eligible for 10 college credits through a partnership with Everett Community College. With a recent passing of Senate Bill 5048, Washington State will now pay for those credits providing even more opportunities for those living in poverty or low-income to pursue professional careers.

Former Kamiak High School coach arrested for sexual misconduct

Mukilteo Police announce the arrest of former Kamiak High School Coach, Julian Willis, 33, for allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor — a 17-year-old female student.

Julian Willis, a substitute teacher and assistant football coach at Kamiak High School, was put on leave earlier this year when the allegations surfaced. He is no longer employed at the school or anywhere else in the Mukilteo School District, Principal Stephen Shurtleff confirmed in a statement released in May.

School Principals Gone Wild: A loaded gun, cocaine, and QFC

Two Northshore Elementary School District principals were put on administrative leave after one allegedly had a cocaine-induced psychotic episode at a Redmond QFC on Sunday, April 30, 2023.

At the time of the incident Michael Griffin, principal of Sunrise Elementary, had a fully loaded Glock-19 pistol, unsecured and stuffed within his sweatshirt pocket, Kiro 7, who obtained the police documents, reported yesterday. He was erratic, police said, making delusional statements with dilated pupils and a visible “white-powdery substance” on his lips.

Griffin was detained without incident shortly after and ushered to a nearby hospital.

Later, on May 30, Griffin’s wife, Meghan Griffin, also a Northshore School District Principal at Moorlands Elementary, was placed on administrative leave once the police reports surfaced. The documents revealed that Meghan had allegedly joined her husband Michael, an elementary school principal, in a cocaine-fueled bender that began when the couple was on vacation and only grew more intense recently.

Kamiak Winter Percussion secures 8th place at WGI World Championships

In late April, Kamiak Winter Percussion went to Dayton, Ohio to compete in the WGI World Championships for the first time ever, making it to finals and securing 8th place.

Kamiak Winter Percussion performing “Feel the Rain.” SOURCE: Kamiak Winter Percussion.

Kamiak Winter Percussion also competed in the NWAPA Circuit in their first home show on March 5th, along with the Kamiak Color Guard. Throughout their season, they would take 2nd place at the WGI Portland Regional on March 25th, and secure their 6th Gold Medal at Sherwood High School down in Oregon with a score of 89.75.

Meadowdale Drama returns with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Meadowdale High School Drama returned, January 12 through 14, with an ambitious take on Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Rehearsal of Jacqueline Meyners adaptation of Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. SOURCE: Jacqueline Meyners.

Based on Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name, the story follows Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old English boy on the autism spectrum who embarks on solving the murder of Wellington – his neighbor’s dog who was fatally stabbed with a garden fork. The play is uniquely told through Christopher’s mind resulting in a sort of play-within-a-play experience.

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