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School board dedicates new S'side parent center

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Vickie Widmyer takes advantage of the technology center at the Sunnyside School District's new parent center at 810 E. Custer Ave. The center will serve as a place for parents to come and get information on different programs offered in the district, as well as take advantage of different parent workshops provided in both English and Spanish.

The community of Sunnyside has a new place to go when it comes to resources to help better the achievement of both children and parents in the local school district. Thursday night, the Sunnyside School Board, as well as representatives from the Northwest Community Action Center and Education Service District 105 gathered together to celebrate the dedication of the new parent center at 810 E. Custer Ave. in Sunnyside.

Jesse Garza, executive director of the Northwest Community Action Center, said his organization has been working with the Sunnyside School District on its parent center for the past five years. He noted that one of the things that helped make the center possible was a grant that was received through the Department of Education.

Sunnyside Executive Director of School and Community Resources Ruben Carrera said the center will offer parents a place to come and learn about different resources available through both the school district and the community.

Carrera also noted that the parent center includes a technology center. The computer lab serves as a place where parents can come in and take computer classes or simply take advantage of the technology.

"You never stop learning, no matter what the age," Carrera said.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole took time Thursday night to congratulate everyone who was involved with making the center possible. He added that although the center will serve as a central hub for parent activities and resources, it does not diminish the parent involvement efforts taking place at the different schools in the district.

Following the dedication, school board members and several administrators walked across the parking lot to the Denny Blaine building for the school board retreat. During the retreat the board members talked about a variety of topics, including further discussing parent involvement, looking at the salary schedule for all district employees and touching on school safety.

Susan Martin, the parent involvement coordinator for Educational Service District 105, said she has been working with the local school district on its parent involvement component since last May.

"What I truly believe is that all families want what is best for their children," Martin told board members.

Martin then commended the board on taking a proactive stance on parent involvement, noting that they are ahead of many districts when it comes to taking steps to actively include parents in their children's education.

"Family and school together, can help all students be successful," Martin said.

Carrera added that although the opening of the parent center is a big step, the process of getting parents involved in school is ongoing.

"You've laid a great path and it's going to be an exciting journey," Martin said.

During the board retreat, Human Resources Director Debbie Holwegner and Payroll Officer Pauline Schut took time to walk the board through the 2004-05 salary schedules and agreements for the different positions in the district.

As Holwegner and Schut showed some of the different salary schedules to the board members, Cole made some comments about some of the changes that have taken place in regards to the different salaries scheduled for the 2004-05 school year.

He pointed to the salary schedule for classified administrators, which include positions like the transportation supervisor, noting that this is the first time there has been a salary schedule for these positions. He explained that in the past the different positions have each had their own salary range. This year all of those positions have been brought together, with all of the salaries also having been brought closer together and put in the same salary schedule.

Cole said another change to the salary schedule involves principals in the district. Cole said principals have been year-around employees. He said this is because many principals were often found in their buildings in July, dealing with everything from new hires to getting things organized for the next school year.

John Hughes, safe and effective schools director, took time to talk to the board about the upcoming Washington State Health Youth Survey, which is administered every two years to sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth graders. Hughes said this year will mark the third time the test has been administered in the school district.

Hughes said the test will be administered sometime between Oct. 11 and 15. He added that the surveys are anonymous and voluntary, and deal with everything from bicycle safety to drugs and alcohol.

Hughes said the district has also been working on putting together a curriculum for younger students that deals with irrigation canal safety. He said the district received a $5,000 grant from Pacific Power to work on the curriculum, which is being created with help from both kindergarten teachers and students. He told board members he is currently searching for an illustrator to draw the coloring books that will make up the curriculum.

Cole then talked about different subjects the school board would like to bring up when they schedule a joint meeting between the board and city council.

Cole said he would like to talk about different partnerships between the two entities and working to ensure that services are not being duplicated. He said the different subjects he would like to see discussed include looking at aligning all of the early learning programs in the community on the same page, working to get children ready to enter kindergarten. He said he would also like to see the subject of technology discussed, because technology is something that affects everyone in the community.

As for the subject of adequate yearly progress, Executive Director of Instruction and Learning Gary Vegar said many of the schools in Sunnyside are showing signs of making a lot of progress. However, schools in the district are still struggling to make adequate yearly progress.

"We just need to keep the course," Cole said, noting that the district has done a lot of work when it comes to literacy and trying to prepare students for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exams.

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