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New MISD classes focus on the future

This month, King County will conduct a Top 2 primary. Voters will not have to pick a party and will be able to choose among all candidates for each office. In each race, the two candidates with the most votes will advance to the November General Election.

The Municipal League of King County has released their ratings for legislative races on the Eastside.

The nonpartisan ratings assess each candidate’s potential to be effective in office and ability to serve the community. They don’t consider political affiliations or stands on specific issues. Candidates are not compared against each other.

41st District races:

• Bob Baker (R) Senate, Good.

• Fred Jarrett (D) Senate, Outstanding.

• Marcie Maxwell (D) Position 1 Representative, Good.

• Stephen Litzow, (R) Position 1 Representative, Very Good.

Ratings in Supreme Court races:

• Michael J. Bond, Position 3, Very Good.

• Mary E. Fairhurst, Position 3, Incumbent, Outstanding.

• James M. Beecher, Position 4, Very Good.

• Charles W. Johnson, Position 4, Incumbent, Outstanding.

• C. F. (Frank) Vulliet, Position 4, Not Qualified.

Ratings for King County Superior Court:

• Susan H. Amini, Position 1, Good.

• Timothy A. Bradshaw, Position 1, Very Good.

• Suzanne R. Parisien, Position 1, Very Good.

• Jean M. Bouffard, Position 10, Good.

• Regina Cahan, Position 10, Very Good.

• Les Ponomarchuk, Position 10, Very Good.

• Julia Garratt, Position 22, Outstanding.

• Rebeccah J. Graham, Position 22, Good.

• Holly R. Hill, Position 22, Outstanding.

• Matthew R.l Hale, Position 26, Not Qualified.

• Laura G. Middaugh, Position 26, Incumbent, Good.

• Nic Corning, Position 37, Very Good.

• Barbara Mack, Position 37, Very Good.

• Jean A. Rietschel, Position 37, Outstanding.

• Ann Danieli, Position 53, Very Good.

• Mariane C. Spearman, Position 53, Outstanding.

The Youth & Family Services food pantry, located in the Luther Burbank Administration Building at the park, is in need of donations as its usage has increased by 36 percent as compared to last summer. It has no more than a two-week supply on hand, and it serves an average of 10 Mercer Island families on a weekly basis with a user breakdown as follows: unemployed, 30 percent; low-income, 30 percent; disabled persons, 23 percent; senior citizens, 10 percent; homeless, 7 percent.

The pantry accepts nonperishable food item donations such as soup, protein drinks, nut spreads, jams, beans-rice meals and pastas, to name a few, as well as grocery gift cards and toiletries. It also offers food cards in the amount of $50. It does not accept produce or fresh foods. All donations are tax-deductible.

If supplies of a certain essential item run out, as items are contributed by local churches, service organizations and families, Family Assistance and Employment Coordinator Cheryl Manriquez will grocery shop to fill the need through the Emergency Assistance Fund in order to “stay ahead.” Manriquez is striving to get 12 people to commit to provide one food item for a six-month basis.

For more information or to arrange making donations, contact Cheryl Hudson Manriquez at 275-7611 or Derek Franklin at Derek.Franklin@mercergov.org.

Hats off

Erica Breese, of Mercer Island, graduated from Emory College of Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., with a Bachelor of Science in May. She is the daughter of Dr. John Sydney Breese and Emily Seklar Breese. Emory University is ranked as one of the country’s top 20 national universities, according to “U.S. News & World Report.”

Mercer Islander David Paul Stechmann graduated from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., with a Master of Science in mechanical engineering in May.

John Hollowed, of Mercer Island, received a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., in June. Hollowed is the son of John and Anne Hollowed.

The Mercer Island School District, reaching toward its goal of an exceptional, 21st century curriculum, has proposed a number of new classes for the 2008-09 school year. Many of the changes reflect the “Really Big Idea,” which aims to “prepare our students to thrive in this changing world.”

One priority in the district’s 2008-09 plan is to focus on “explicit teaching that integrates technology in the curriculum in all schools.”

Last May, the district hosted renowned academic Yong Zhao, Ph.D., who spoke about building a “21st century education” and consulted with the Really Big Idea Committee (RBIC) on creating a “2020 Vision” for Island students. Zhao urged educators to “personalize the educational experience,” adding that an Internet-based curriculum could help do this.

“Technology has created a new environment and a global world,” he said. “Education, with technology, can be personal.”

Although district administrators are not going so far as to build the K-12 curriculum around the Internet, they do recognize the importance of online programs in today’s classroom environment.

Later this month, all Mercer Island teachers will be attending the Summer Technology Institute, a day-and-a-half technology training program. In addition to becoming familiar with new computer software and online projects, teachers will have the opportunity to develop “core, required curriculum lessons that reach all learners.”

Unlike previous years, when the training was optional, those teachers who cannot attend the Aug. 20-22 sessions will be required to make the lessons up.

“We’ve done it in past summers, but never to this extent,” said Director of Technology Jennifer Wright. “Because we know the equipment is coming — thanks to the tech levy — we’re getting teachers ready for this.”

Classroom curricula will also be re-designed to prioritize today’s pressing global and environmental issues. The Mercer Island High School AP economics class, for example, is being reworked to focus on how economics impacts world decisions and current events. A new science program at Islander Middle School will focus more on today’s global environment.

MIHS science teacher James Cooke, who teaches a course on science ethics, welcomes the change at IMS.

“I’m really curious to talk with teachers at IMS and see what they’re doing to incorporate [environmental and global] issues. That would be great because that’s what I’m doing in my classroom,” Cooke said. “[The course] goes well beyond learning science content. It applies this knowledge to issues of conflict.”

Starting this September, the district will also launch a new K-5 social studies curriculum, ninth-grade global history course and integrate science and writing through “notebooking,” in which students develop hypotheses and conduct their own experiments.

“The reality is, educators are starting to realize that our focus needs to change a little bit. I think we’re heading in that direction,” said MIHS Principal John Harrison.

More important than school curriculum, Harrison pointed out, is individual teacher instruction. And this, he said, is what the district will prioritize for 2008-09.

“Our focus this year is our assessment practices. Now that the curriculum is in place, let’s talk about the best methods of teaching,” he said.

Other 2008-09 changes include: new precalculus textbooks that feature more strategies for differentiated instruction, a K-5 standards-based reporting system that focuses on assessment for learning, “coordinated learning support” for elementary students in reading and the addition of an eighth-grade gifted program.

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