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South Whidbey school board is honored by state

The Washington State School Directors’ Association has named the South Whidbey School Board as one of three “Boards of the Year.”

The award recognizes school district boards of directors that have demonstrated outstanding efforts and accomplishments in promoting student achievement.

Board members were honored Nov. 14 in Seattle.

The awards, which include a gift of $500, are presented to a board from a small, medium and large school district.

South Whidbey, with an enrollment of 1,805 students, received the award for school districts with 1,001 to 5,000 students. White Pass and Richland were the other recipients.

South Whidbey school board members are Fred O’Neal, Rich Parker, Helen Price-Johnson, Bob Riggs and Steven Scoles.

Parker said the announcement came as a surprise.

“We knew we’d been nominated, but the recognition was unexpected,” he said. “Our mantra has been to do the right thing for the right reason, in our case to build a public trust back into the community.”

Parker added that when the honor was announced, the WSSDA conference president stated the South Whidbey board never blamed others when problems developed.

“They practiced forgiveness and moved ahead,” Cindy McMullen said.

Price-Johnson, who just graduated from a year-long professional development class, noted the district has come a long way in the last four years.

“Our schools were great on many levels, but the district suffered from a negative cash flow, our policy book was seriously out of date and the basic structure was unbalanced,” she said.

In her view, the award is a clear sign that the board met and overcame those challenges.

“As a board, we knew we had to get the foundation pieces in place. And we did that,” she said.

Actions and accomplishments attributed to the board include:

• Restoring public trust and confidence in the district through a systematic approach to solving academic, financial and personnel challenges;

• Developing a long-range plan for continuous improvement in the district’s teaching and learning programs;

• Providing support and personal involvement in key areas such as community engagement, facilities planning, technology improvements and labor relations;

• Establishing and adhering to a vision and mission that supports the administration in developing new initiatives and removing obstacles related to student success.

“This hard-working board in partnership with the administration, teachers, parents, students and community has overcome a number of obstacles and dealt with a great deal of adversity over the past few years,” District Superintendent Fred McCarthy said. “The district is now recognized as a leader in promoting student achievement.”

The award comes on the heels of another honor. Last month, South Whidbey High School received a Blue Ribbon by the U.S. Department of Education, one of only two schools in the state honored.

Madison Elementary in Spokane was the other recipient.

On Nov. 10, former high school principal Mike Johnson and math department chairman David Nelson received a special plaque and a Blue Ribbon school flag at the ceremony presented by the Secretary of Education in Washington, D.C.

“It went very well,” Johnson said.

“We met a lot of teachers and administrators from 289 other schools around the country. What we heard reinforced the fact we’re on the right track in making progress meeting the state’s expectations,” he said.

The No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon schools program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their states or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

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