"October is National Principal Month and I extended the invitation to our legislators to visit our schools and talk with our principals and students," said Tienhaara. "I think its a valuable experience for legislators to get inside the schools and hear from the educators who are doing the work. All three of them jumped at the opportunity and it was nice to show them what we are doing here in South Bend."
Kresta Byington, principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary, began by explaining how her school is working very hard to see that each and every student is achieving. Rep. Blake questioned the impact of the new Common Core standards and asked how the Common Core and new state assessments are impacting schools. "One of the challenges we face is that the State is seemingly always changing the target," explained Tienhaara. "It is difficult to constantly adjust instruction to meet an ever changing set of standards."
Byington, recently recognized as Distinguished Principal of the Year in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties, praised her staff as being a group who strives to provide good opportunities for all kids. "Despite all of the new standards and testing, my teachers and staff work really hard to be sure our kids are making good progress," said Byington. "Though it is challenging work, our school provides quality instruction and works to meet the needs of each student."
Amy Nelson, school guidance counselor, arranged for the gentlemen to meet briefly with the school's Big Brother/Big Sister program during the visit. Each of the legislators gave a brief description of what they do in Olympia and answered questions of the students.
"We are the ones who help make the laws in the State," said Takko.
"We each serve on committees that help address the many concerns of state government. One thing we encourage all students to do is be a legislative page," explained Hatfield. "We often have times when no one applies to be a page." "The experience is something I believe is quite valuable and provides good leadership experience."
Concluding the visit, Sen. Hatfield, Rep. Blake and Rep. Takko met with Jason Nelson, principal of South Bend Junior/Senior High School. South Bend High School was recognized in 2014 as one of "America's Best High Schools" by US News & World Report. Takko was interested in the types of vocational programs South Bend is offering. "We have a strong construction program that does a lot of work out in the community," said Nelson. "Our kids under the direction of Mr. McMurry have worked on several projects including ones for Habitat for Humanity."
Nelson continued, "We also are in our second year of robotics and will be competing at the state level this year. Our business program is also active and provides kids with good opportunities focused on business education," added Nelson.
Takko concluded, "It is really a privilege to get out in the schools. Personally, this is the first time I have had a tour of the South Bend facility. t is obvious the school is doing good things for kids here in the Harbor."
he 2015 Legislative Session is touted as being the "Super Bowl" of legislative sessions as far as education is concerned. With the McCleary decision looming down on legislators, lawmakers will have their plates full in deciding how to comply with the State's mandate to fully fund education.
Superintendent Tienhaara concluded, "It will be interesting to see how this session plays out. We do the very best job we can given the resources provided, and our community has historically been extremely generous to the schools. Regardless of how the legislative session goes, South Bend will strive to provide the very best opportunities possible. We have fabulous teachers and staff, excellent administrators, and good kids. All part of the formula in providing a great school system."