School briefs

MISD approves first budget reduction resolution

Members of the Mercer Island School District Board of Directors approved a resolution during a special meeting last week, dealing with the budget reduction plan for next year.

Resolution 563 specifies the reduction of one full-time personnel assistant and a full-time administrative assistant to .78 FTE positions, beginning July 1. The district will also eliminate a non-represented grounds position effective at the end of August. MISD hopes to find a way to fund the grounds position through an agreement with the city of Mercer Island, but will not know final outcomes until later in the year.

“We hope we can keep this through the city; if not, the grounds won’t be kept up as well as they usually are,” said Liz Ziara, associate superintendent of business services with the district.

The impact of the loss of hours for assistant personnel at the administrative level means more clerical work for the directors.

District approves new math curriculum

The Mercer Island School District Board of Directors approved a new math curriculum during the April 30 meeting. Math Expressions will be used in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms.

“We feel it would be a tremendous math program,” said Kathy Morrison, the associate superintendent of instruction, while recommending that the School Board approve the new curriculum. The School Board’s unanimous approval came after more than a year of research and discussion on various math programs.

Morrison said the implementation plan includes a generous amount set aside specifically for teacher training, almost $54,000. However, Morrison said they were able to talk the math curriculum publishers down a bit in price, bringing the overall cost to $191,000. Originally, it was projected that the materials alone would cost the district around $200,000.

“It’s not all the bells and whistles; we were going for what we need,” said Morrison. “We feel like we have a very comprehensive professional development plan.” The plan includes at least one full day of training for staff prior to the beginning of the next school year.

School Board member Pat Braman said prior to the April 30 meeting that she wanted to make sure that, if the district adopted a new math curriculum, staff would get the support they need to make it a success.

“This is an important subject matter. It’s vital we do it well,” she said. On Thursday, she thanked the committee and district staff for all the work they had done.

Musicians honored at state contest

Music students from Mercer Island High School earned honors during the state solo and ensemble competition in Ellensburg two weekends ago. Of those who participated, six placed in the top three in their respective categories and another six came home with superior ratings from the state judges.

The Rochambeaux percussion ensemble earned first place in the large percussion category while the Gillingham percussion quartet earned first in the small percussion group. Other placers included Jacob Bloom at third place for alto-bass clarinet, Ben Fang with a second-place finish in guitar, and third place for Whitney Miller in mallets. Miller also earned a superior rating in snare drum. Matt Gunby earned second place for his performance in the euphonium/baritone horn category.

Others who earned superior ratings included: the MIHS tuba quartet, James Kashima for oboe-English horn, Woodrow Jacobson for alto-bass clarinet, Ziv Feinber for trumpet/cornet and Monica Lee for the French horn.

Experience the world through exchange program

Families and residents of the Island looking for new ways to experience the world may want to consider joining an exchange program. The Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI) is looking for families and students interested in hosting foreign students as part of its Cultural Exchange program.

Marcia Grech, the local CCI representative, said exchange students arrive before the beginning of the school year and stay until school is over for the year. Every student in the CCI program is insured and brings his own spending money.

CCI has been designated by the United States Department of State as an exchange program sponsor. It is a nonprofit organization for high school-aged students and helps give students new experiences in over 65 countries around the world.

If interested in hosting a student, contact Grech at (425) 922-7399.

PTA to sponsor new world language program

The Mercer Island PTA Council will be sponsoring a new world language enrichment program at the elementary schools next year, contracting through Sponge.

Following a six-month review of the current program, it was found that parents and students wanted better access to a wider array of language studies. Michael Schiehser, director of instruction and assessment at the district, said that they decided to go through people who really know the area.

“It’s amazing. It’s great stuff,” he said of the language enrichment program which Sponge offers. “It’s different than any other type of classroom.” He added that, after talking with the PTA Council, he was happy to report they are excited to sponsor the program.

Sponge classes would be offered to kindergarten through fifth-grade students next year, with hopes to expand to the middle school the following fall. The current world language enrichment program meets twice a week, but scheduling with the new program would ultimately depend on enrollment, according to the district. Classes would include French, Spanish and Mandarin to line up with offerings at the high school.

“We’re very excited about helping Mercer Island students on their path to global citizenship,” said Jackie Friedman Mighdoll, the founder of Sponge.

Rachel VanDeMark, the regional director for Sponge, said the program aims to help students have fun while learning.

“It’s a fun immersion environment,” said VanDeMark.

Sponge began in 2005 and has centers in Seattle and Issaquah. More information can be found at

Crest Plant Sale

The annual plant sale at Crest Learning Center continues after opening last weekend.

Plants are available for sale to the public between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. on weekday afternoons, until all the plants have been sold. The sale, part of Rose Chaffee-Cohen’s class at Crest, allows students to work in the greenhouse throughout the spring before they host the sale.

For more information, contact Crest at 236-3390.

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