MABTON - Teachers, students, parents and community members gathered at Mabton High School last Friday for a town hall meeting to address the state of the Mabton School District, as well as to hear inspiring Mabton success stories.
"Our purpose is always supporting the children," said Mabton Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis. "That is the final word and that is important."
Pasiero-Davis shared 2008 WASL scores with the crowd and explained how the school district interprets data.
"What the school considers when looking at data is evaluating what to do next," she explained.
For students who are struggling with the WASL exams, she said, "The school thinks about what they need to do to close the gap between each individual child."
Pasiero-Davis said WASL scores aren't the only thing taken into consideration when it comes to nurturing a student to a path of success.
"One test does not define the universe," she said. "Other tests are looked at too when evaluating the best way to intervene."
Pasiero-Davis said that parents need to pay close attention to their children's work and be vocal if a student is getting low scores.
"You have to come in and have these conversations. Otherwise, these scores are going to scare you," she said.
After showing a graph charting WASL results for the past few years that reflected positive growth, Pasiero-Davis said, "What does this data tell us? Our students can succeed. Our students may soon exceed the state standard."
Simply put, she said, "Believing in high performance pays off."
Pasiero-Davis cited two obstacles the district faces: parents who don't participate and schools that don't collaborate with parents.
She said, "One solution is that we have to be partners in excellence, working hand in hand to support students."
Also included at the town hall meeting were three success stories.
Ricky Maldonado, Mabton's physical education coach, graduated from Mabton High School. "I know from my own experience the difference a teacher can make in a student's life," he said.
Maldonado was born to farm laborers and in his family, the children went to work with the parents in the fields. Maldonado said that he respected how hard his parents worked, but he wanted a different path for himself. That's when he got a job at a grocery store.
After graduating from Mabton High School, he juggled being a father with working and college. But he attributes a supportive family and the Mabton School District's passion for instilling respect for higher education to his success.
Arturo Nunez, a senior at the high school, said it was support from his older brother who had dropped out and support from school staff that has prepared him to head off to WSU after graduation.
Lucia Tovar, an MHS counselor, was also born to farm laborers. She lived in tent cities growing up and, she said, "Our family picked what seemed like everything we ate."
The third of 12 children, Tovar was the first to consider college, which was strongly supported by her father. She said her father was emphatic about her going to college. "He said education was so valuable and no one could take it away from his children."
It was mentors at Eastern Washington University that helped her stick with college and the homesickness she struggled with. She went on to get her Masters at the University of California Los Angeles.
"I was afraid of failing, but I knew I would regret not trying," she said.
For many years, Mabton has had the goal of prepping every student for college. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Kimberly Mitchell was present last Friday, too. Mabton has received funds from the foundation for the past nine years but the grants will soon end.
Mitchell noted that Mabton may be small, but the school district never wavered in its mission to prepare students for college.
"Mabton was one of the first schools in the state to take a stand and say, 'We want all students to go to college'," she said.
College is important, she said, "Because most of the jobs our children will compete for don't even exist right now. That's how fast things are going."