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Blogger visits Yelm High School Robotics Class
Photo courtesy: Yelm Community Schools

Yelm Community Schools (YCS) Superintendent Andy Wolf hosted about 30 people yesterday for a 3.5+ hour familiarization tour of the Administration Offices, then a school bus ride to Yelm High School, Ridgeline Middle School and Mill Pond Elementary School. A broad cross-section of the community joined in this uplifting and eye-opening experience. Some recognizable faces on the tour were YCS Community Relations Coordinator Denise Bagwell, Mayor Ron Harding, City Administrator Shelly Badger, City Council members Don Miller & Russ Hendrickson and his wife, YCS Board President Denise Hendrickson.

As the guests arrived on each of the school’s campuses, they were warmly welcomed by the Principal and staff, along with volunteers from the student-body to conduct tours. After a briefing by each Principal, we divided into small groups of 3-4 people for each tour and were escorted to the students in their classes, got to observe the curriculum and interact with teachers & the students. Each of us had ample opportunity to ask questions along the way of our student guides.

In addition to all of the impressive statistics of what YCS has done to improve in so many areas since Superintendent Wolf took the reigns, several things stood out at this writer on the tour:

1. Our first and longest stop was at Yelm High School. An exuberant welcome was extended by Principal Brian Wharton, in his second year here as Principal. As he said on reflection of his first year:
“It has been an amazing year at YHS! We received accolades for our FFA Chapter and the students Project Tornado! YHS athletes earned two Narrows League Scholar Athlete Awards and won a state championship in wrestling (Dylan Hyder) and the state 4 X 100 Relay Championship (Michael Herlinger- Hopkins, John Larsen, Taylor Mitchell and Spencer Good). Our graduates earned $2.1 million in scholarships offers and at least 155 seniors earned some form of scholarship or aid.

There is outstanding momentum heading into 2011-12.”

This momentum was truly felt by all of us. Wharton’s volunteer students did a fabulous job of guiding us around the campus. While we had been to public events held at Yelm High, this was the first time we have visited inside the classrooms or common areas. Classes visited were Robotics, First year Spanish and U. S History. We met and spoke with Robotics Team members, who earned a State Berth in competition in Seattle.

As described at the Yelm High School, the “F” rates and student absences are both decreasing. I asked Celeste what she was doing that improved the school’s attendance rate so significantly. She said calling unaware parents to let them know their children had not been in class was a key. By getting the students to participate just by “showing-up” more has had a marked improved in the dropping “F” rates.
That was impressive!

We were told about this unique program:
Students Teach Respect to Fellow Students

“On October 19, YHS students watched a video created by YHS students for their peers. The video urges all YHS students to treat their classmates with respect and dignity. This video kicks off our efforts by students and staff to promote positive choices in behavior at school.”
Click here to see the video.

We also were reminded that a Yelm High teacher was recognized as Ag Teacher of the Year, Mike Patrick.
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2. Our second stop was at Ridgeline Middle School, Home of the STORM! From their website:
“Middle school is an exciting time in a students life. It is a time of transition as they leave behind the first phase of their educationelementary schooland enter a fast-paced, sometimes hectic, adolescent period in their life known as middle school.”

After a welcome briefing by the Principal and staff introductions, we again divided into small groups and toured with students Ariel Temra, Kendall & Danny, who were all so animated & robust in their enthusiasm for their school. Each student wore a snappy blue school shirt with a name-tag. They guided us to a writing class and Geometry class in-progress, as well as several others.

Principal John Johnson was nominated Principal of the Year. One could definitely see why – his sincerity and purposeful intent came through immediately in his introduction. His school’s volunteers were so well-organized in their line-up welcome and on the tour.

3. Our third stop was to Mill Pond Elementary School, where we were all greeted by Jeri Person, Principal. Mill Pond is a K-6 elementary school with about 460 students and is home to one of the YCS Developmental Preschool Programs. We gathered in the school’s library and were familiarized with the unique curriculum offered. Other elementary School principals also joined us there and was nice to meet each from McKenna, Prairie, Ft. Stevens & Southworth Elementary Schools.
Here we toured the Music & 5th grade math classes, as well as viewed the challenged children’s & pre-school areas.

My wife & I will be scheduling a tour at Lackamas Elementary School soon, named 2011 School of Distinction, whose tour will be reported here, too.

Our last stop was back at the Administration Offices with a closing talk by Superintendent Wolf.
He said the Yelm Schools are our area’s “Best Kept Secret!”
All of us agreed on that as we left.
This tour was very important for the community to see what goes on in our schools, what our property tax dollars are providing and how Wolf and his fine team have really done the remarkable to bring YCS into the upper tiers of our state’s school programs.
The Yelm Community Blog acknowledges Andy Wolf and all of his staff at YCS for this unique opportunity to tour and interact with school administrators, teachers and students!

Having a broad understanding and knowledge base as to what is being done to lead our area’s children is vital to the February, 2012 YCS levy on which taxpayers will be voting. If you would like to visit these schools and take a tour, please contact Community Relations Coordinator Denise Bagwell – click here.

Be sure to check-out Citizens for Support of Yelm Schools and their Facebook page.
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Posted by Steve on November 16, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

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