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Mercer Island Schools year in review

Back in school for the new year, it’s time to reflect on the year that brought changes to education around the Island. The first class of students required to pass the WASL has mostly cleared that hurdle. Students survived wacky winter weather. The school board continues its work evaluating and planning the district’s performance. Students have begun to adjust to healthier foods at school. Those seeking transfer credits have learned the new process for getting that credit. West Mercer Elementary welcomed an interim principal, Pat Blix, in the fall.

The year 2006 has brought some changes, and also some major successes. The high school received national recognition. Several teachers earned National Board Certification. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation raised more than $750,000 for the 2006-2007 school year.

MERCER ISLAND HIGH SCHOOL

The class of 2008 took the Washington Assessment of Student Learning last spring as the first group of students required to pass the test in order to graduate from high school.

Mercer Island's scores were the best in the state. Most students passed all three sections, though math lagged behind slightly. About 97 percent of the Island class of 2008 passed the reading section; 85 percent passed math; and 96 percent passed writing. Statewide the numbers were 82 percent in reading, 51 percent in math and 80 percent in writing.

Last fall, the high school was named a national Blue Ribbon School, a high honor awarded for its excellent WASL test scores. Principal John Harrison traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the award on behalf of the school. He attributed the success to great parental involvement.

“It’s recognition that our kids are achieving at the highest level,” Harrison said. “It’s validation of the involvement and support of our parents that have allowed us to be as successful as we are with their kids.”

The school added a tutoring program, available with funding from the Mercer Island Schools Foundation. The program provides time for after-school instruction with a certified teacher.

The district established a transfer credit policy limiting the number of courses that can be transferred for a grade on a Mercer Island School District transcript.

Numerous Islanders made the list of semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship program. These students were among the highest-scoring juniors when they took the Preliminary SAT test in 2005.

Mercer Island High School: Micah Babinski, Jacob Bobman, Bridget Crawford, Katherine Defliese, Meghan Flaherty, Anders Forsgaard, Devin Hawkins, Michael Holtzman, Andrew Lu, Daniel Naylor, Alexandre Puttick, Elliott Spelman, Laura Vogel, Rachel Wold, Brittney Wong

Lakeside School, Seattle: James Lambert, Jeremy Larus-Stone, David Wyde

Northwest Yeshiva High School: Leah Robsman

AP/IB/HONORS REPORT

A committee assigned the task of determining the best advanced coursework to help students gain admission to the best colleges and universities in the country recommended the district add Advanced Placement courses and provide support to students who wish to take those courses. The committee recommended support and preparation for AP courses for students at both the high school and the middle school.

Additional AP classes may be available as soon as the 2007-2008 school year.

WELLNESS POLICY

This fall, the district began phasing in its new Wellness Policy. The federally-mandated policy calls for restricted portion sizes, reduced fat and sugar content and more whole grains. Students around the district offered mixed reviews. Some said they like the idea, but not the execution.

Others said they'd like to see more focus on physical fitness in addition to nutrition.

The policy is designed to combat childhood obesity and teach children healthier habits.

PEAK

Officials with the King County Boys & Girls Club said fund-raising efforts are moving quickly for the proposed 45,000-square-foot building on school district land.

Daniel Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, said the group has raised $9 million of the $14 million needed to fund the project.

Current plans for PEAK include a 2,870 square feet of child care space, a 70-square-foot increase from the West Mercer property. They plan to include space for eight infants, 14 toddlers and 20 learning lab students.

The latest parking plan is based on a shared-use plan with 255 total available spaces. Ninety-nine of those will be PEAK spaces; the district will add 35 new spaces to its current parking for a total 156 district spots. A traffic consultant has completed a parking study with anticipated high-activity and regular-activity usage.

The Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club also hired a new executive director, Blair Rasmussen.

ODDS AND ENDS

Wacky weather plagued the district this fall, with two snow days in November and a major power outage in December. High school students missed four days due to weather, while middle school and elementary missed five.

Students, parents and staff were shocked early in the fall when one high school student stabbed another at a Metro bus stop in front of district headquarters. The injured student has recovered and returned to school; the alleged attacker was taken into state custody and charged with felony assault.

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