Prairie High School Set to Perform of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

posted Oct 13, 2017, 2:55 PM by Joe Vajgrt

Prairie High School Set to Perform of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

October 13, 2017

Prairie High School drama will perform the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” beginning Oct. 28. The musical by Frank Loesser is based on the 1952 book by Shepherd Mead. 

The musical business satire follows J. Pierrepont Finch who attempts to climb the corporate ladder using a handbook called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The tale is filled with potential dangers for the company man, including an office party, backstabbing co-workers, caffeine addiction, and true love as Finch moves through the ranks from window washer to high-powered executive.

The show runs from Oct. 27-28, and Nov. 3-4. Performances will be at Prairie High School, 11311 NE 119th St., Vancouver. Tickets cost $6 for students, $12 for adults, and $8 for senior citizens and are available online at:

The performance dates and times are as follows: 

Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 28 at 1:00 p.m. 
Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. 
Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1:00 p.m. 
Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m. 

It’s Socktober for Amboy and Pleasant Valley students

posted Oct 12, 2017, 2:18 PM by Joe Vajgrt

It’s Socktober for Amboy and Pleasant Valley students

October 12, 2017

Thanks to the efforts of two Battle Ground schools, 14,610 toes (and counting) will be properly covered this fall and winter. That’s because all of the fifth graders at Amboy Middle School and the kindergartners in Michelle Anderson’s class at Pleasant Valley Primary are collecting socks to donate locally as part of “Socktober,” a national movement intended to get kids and grownups alike to help their local communities in a fun, easy way.

So far, the two schools have collected 1,461 pairs of new socks, and they’re just halfway through the month-long drive. Amboy Middle School has already surpassed its goal of 600 pairs of socks, and Pleasant Valley is about 80 percent of the way towards reaching its goal of 1,000 pairs. Donated socks will be distributed through Battle Ground Public Schools' Family and Community Resources Center, located at the CASEE center.

This is the second time that Michelle Anderson’s class has participated in the annual drive. The first time came while she was a teacher at River HomeLink, where her first and second grade students collected about 800 pairs of socks. This year, she decided to bring the drive to the Pleasant Valley campus, where her kindergarten class is collecting new pairs of socks with assistance from the middle school.

“The Socktober drive has been a wonderful experience,” Anderson said. “Not only do the socks go to local community members in need, but it also provides valuable lessons to students. Counting and pairing socks provides kindergarteners with math practice, while also presenting an opportunity to talk about what it means to be homeless and why it’s important to do something to help others.”

Teacher Erica Benge got all of Amboy Middle School’s fifth grade classes involved after her class watched Kid President’s “Spreading the Good” video on YouTube. After sharing the video with the other fifth grade classes, everyone agreed that they wanted to participate. To help generate interest and have a little extra fun kicking off the drive, Amboy’s fifth graders got creative with their own footwear for “crazy sock day” early in the month.

“Kids are learning that even seemingly little things like socks can mean so much, and that small acts of kindness really do make a difference,” Benge said. “Through this donation drive, we are trying to ‘spread the good,’ to learn empathy, and create a sense of community. It’s been uplifting to see how much the students and staff enjoy giving and caring about those in need.”

You may be asking yourself, “why socks?” Well, socks are one of the least donated items in homeless shelters, yet are among the most-needed items. Socktober was launched several years ago by “Kid President” creator Brad Montague to address this issue, and it’s really taken off. Last year, more than 10,000 schools, families, businesses, and churches rallied together to bring Socktober to life, and people from every state and continent have taken part in the drive since its inception.

Donated socks will be made available to local families and students in need through the district’s Family and Community Resource Center (FCRC). If you are interested in donating new socks or blankets as part of this drive, or are in need such items for yourself or your family, please contact the FCRC by calling 360-885-5434 or emailing

River Online Learning works to fit students' educational needs

posted Oct 6, 2017, 12:29 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Oct 6, 2017, 12:33 PM ]

River Online Learning works to fit students' educational needs

October 6, 2017

Kylie Delaney is one busy sophomore. In between training for national air rifle competitions and working toward her dream of becoming a large animal veterinarian, she immerses herself into a full course load of classes—all taken online. Kylie's balancing act is supported by River Online Learning (ROL), a Battle Ground Public Schools program that allows her to focus on biology, geometry, and English classes no matter where her competition and training schedule takes her.

River Online Learning enables students in grades 6-12 to take classes online instead of in a traditional classroom setting. Students in the program can learn at their own pace from anywhere that has an internet connection. And when they need support, they can get it from certificated  teachers and their peers at River HomeLink, Battle Ground's alternative learning school that provides a brick and mortar base for the online program. Continuous enrollment allows students to start any time and begin with just one class, and increase their course load over time to fit their specific needs. 

"River Online Learning works to fit the student, not make the student work to fit the program," said Darlene Wilgus, River HomeLink's assistant principal. "Help is always available to students whether it’s in person or online." With small group spaces, ROL teachers can help students who may need individualized assistance or who might otherwise get lost in a traditional classroom setting.

Full-time students in the program meet with teachers face-to-face on a weekly basis, while part-time students meet with teachers at least once per month to track progress and address questions or issues that arise. Students, parents, and teachers can also initiate additional or more frequent in-person meetings based on individual needs. 

ROL is great for students who participate in sports, travel, or have a job that conflicts with a traditional school schedule. Sophomore Cooper Laine likes the ROL format because he can work at his own pace and review course videos and text at his convenience. It is a more efficient way to learn, he said. “You have to be self-motivated to be successful in this program,” Laine said. “But those who stay focused can get more done in less time.”

In addition to providing this flexibility, River Online Learning also provides classes that are not offered at other schools, such as computer science courses, foreign languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Latin, and many more. Sophomore Peter Vorobets is taking courses to help him prepare to become an electrician. Freshman Hunter Gomulkiewicz is able to choose technology classes that fit his goal of becoming a video game designer. In all, there are 460 classes that ROL students can choose from, opening up a whole new world of learning opportunities. 

Students can also select from multiple course platforms that support a variety of learning styles. Classes are offered in multiple digital formats that allow for reading and video teaching as well as transcripts in different languages to accommodate students’ individual learning needs.

Senior Alyssa Easter, who wants to become a firefighter, appreciates that ROL cuts down on the distractions that can occur in traditional school settings. “There’s no drama here,” Easter said. “You can focus on your work and get it done quicker.”

ROL currently serves 76 full-time students within Battle Ground Public Schools, double the number enrolled last year. The goal is to further develop the program for students in grades 6-8. Additionally, online courses are available for a fee beyond the school day for students needing an additional credit to graduate on time. 

Students and parents interested in River Online Learning can fill out an inquiry form on the River HomeLink website at More information is also available  by calling (360) 334-8261 or by emailing

Supporting attendance is a ‘Chief’ strategy for student success

posted Sep 28, 2017, 3:45 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Sep 29, 2017, 8:28 AM ]

Supporting attendance is a ‘Chief’ strategy for student success

September 28, 2017

Each morning at Chief Umtuch Middle School, arriving students are greeted by smiling and enthusiastic staff members who are busy doling out high fives, hellos and good mornings left and right. While it’s a small gesture, Chief’s leadership team knows that when students have positive interactions like these with teachers and staff, children feel better about school–and about themselves.  

The morning welcome is just one of the ways that the school is ensuring that all students feel supported while they’re at school, and that they fully benefit from their education by building a habit of consistent school attendance. 

“If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s worrying about the students who aren’t here,” said Principal Beth Beattie. “If kids don’t come to school, we can’t teach them. We know that there are a variety of reasons that students are absent, from health concerns to transportation challenges. It’s our job to make sure there are many people in our building prepared to help students and their families face these challenges so kids can get to school.”

The staff at Chief Umtuch has always kept track of attendance figures, but this year they’ve launched several new attendance and support programs to provide encouragement, resources, and when necessary, intervention,to help students get to class regularly and on time. 

Each grade level at the school has a designated attendance advocate called CHAMPS (Collaborative, Holistic Attendance Mentoring for Pupil Success). The CHAMPS advocates help track daily attendance and communicate with parents to understand why a student is absent or chronically late. The advocates help identify challenges that families may be facing and seek to match them with available supports to help them overcome barriers preventing consistent attendance. The CHAMPS advocates also serve as a primary point of communication for families of students who need attendance support.  

“Getting students to school on time and ready to learn every day helps children not only do well now, but also leads to future success in high school and beyond,” said Kara Kent, a principal intern at Chief Middle and the school’s eighth grade CHAMPS advocate. “Closely monitoring attendance and frequently checking in with families to make sure they have the tools and support they need is already having an impact on reducing absences and tardies.”

Using funds that were donated by the Battle Ground Education Foundation, Chief Umtuch has outfitted a Welcome Room with school supplies, food, clothing and other items that are available to assist students who don’t have what they need. The Welcome Room also serves as the epicenter of the school’s attendance support programs. 

Students with chronic tardiness issues participate in the school's Pit Stop program by checking into the Welcome Room when they arrive on campus. On time students check in on a chart. If a student is late, an advocate is there to greet them, find out why they’re late, and ask if they need additional supports. Once a student arrives on time for 10 consecutive days, they may exit the program but can still visit the Welcome Room anytime.

If a student is struggling academically, parents or students can ask to be in the Check-In/Check-Out support program. Advocates in the Welcome Room are available to help students print missing homework and assignments and act as a liaison between students, teachers and parents. If a student drops below 80 percent attendance, a parent meeting is called that includes teachers, counselors, administrators, or a prevention intervention specialist to devise a support plan.

“We understand that there are many reasons a student may arrive late to school, and that often it requires a team approach to get a family out the door,” Beattie said. “Our attendance programs are not designed to be punitive, but rather to provide positive, incentive-based programs that help make sure students have what they need to attend school and be successful.”

  • Missing 10 percent (or about 18 days) of school increases the chance that your student will not read or master math at the same level as their peers
  • Students can still fall behind if they miss just a day or two every few weeks
  • Being late to school may lead to poor attendance  
  • Absences can affect the whole classroom if the teacher has to slow down learning to help children catch up
  • By 6th grade, absenteeism is one of three signs that a student may drop out of high school
  • By being present at school, your child learns valuable social skills and has the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with other students and school staff
  • Absences can be a sign that a student is losing interest in school, struggling with school work, dealing with a bully or facing some other potentially serious difficulty
  • By 9th grade, regular attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores
  • Set a regular bedtime and morning routine
  • Prepare for school the night before, finishing homework and getting a good night’s sleep
  • Find out what day school starts and make sure your child has the required immunizations
  • Don’t let your student stay home unless they are truly sick. Keep in mind complaints of a stomach ache or headache can be a sign of anxiety and not a reason to stay home
  • Avoid appointments and extended trips when school is in session
  • Develop back-up plans for getting to school if something comes up. Call on a family member, a neighbor, or another parent
  • Keep track of your student’s attendance. Missing more than nine days could put your student at risk of falling behind
  • Talk to your student about the importance of attendance
  • Talk to your student’s teachers if you notice sudden changes in behavior. These could be tied to something going on at school
  • Encourage meaningful after school activities, including sports and clubs

BGPS school psychologists play crucial role in students' social-emotional development

posted Sep 21, 2017, 2:21 PM by Joe Vajgrt

BGPS school psychologists play crucial role in students' social-emotional development

September 21, 2017

The kindergartners in teacher Kristen Barton’s class are sitting in a circle on the brightly colored carpet, thinking hard and taking turns offering suggestions about how they can recognize and take control of their emotions when they begin feeling frustrated in school. Their answers vary greatly, but Glenwood Heights Primary School Psychologist Marissa Avalon is there to help guide the students in devising healthy, productive means for coping with the stresses that may arise during the school day. 

This exercise is part of Avalon’s outreach to all students at Glenwood Heights, helping to teach the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS expectations, which Battle Ground Public Schools has implemented at all its schools in support of its focus on social-emotional learning. 

Avalon certainly isn’t alone in what she does for BGPS students. The district employs 21 full-time school psychologists, plus an intern. School psychologists are considered the “case manager” at their buildings, serving both general and special education students. The services they provide include counseling, group work, and guiding the multidisciplinary special education team processes. 

“Our school psychologists are essential to providing successful social-emotional learning programs in all of our schools,” said Ellen Wiessner, the district’s Executive Director of Special Services. “I’m continually impressed by the phenomenal job they’re doing through engaging with students, and they bring an impressively versatile skillset to Battle Ground Schools.” 

Glenwood Heights’ PBIS motto is Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible, and with help from their teachers and specialists like Avalon, these kindergartners are learning how to meet and exceed these expectations. 
In addition to general student outreach efforts, Avalon also engages directly with individual students who are struggling to meet behavior expectations. Last year, she brought the district's “Check In, Check Out” support program to Glenwood Heights. Students who have been referred by their classroom teacher meet with her or one of Glenwood’s four other designated mentors for 10 minutes each morning to “check in” about how they’re feeling and to discuss coping strategies should challenges arise. At the end of each day, they meet again to “check out” and discuss how the strategies worked and plan ways to be more successful in the coming days and weeks. 

“For kids struggling with emotional regulation, having positive connections with an adult for even a few minutes each morning and afternoon can have a huge impact,” Avalon said. “Having that guided conversation, setting specific goals, and providing encouragement to these students is beneficial in helping them make progress.”

Avalon also leads skill-building groups that help students with trauma, anxiety, impulse control, and those who have trouble focusing. Groups of about four students meet with Mrs. Avalon weekly to practice strategies that help them build coping skills. Using colorful charts,  these kids learn to identify disruptive emotions and cope with them using methods such as positive self-talk, breathing techniques, and muscle relaxation. For example, kids in the impulse control group use a chart modeled after red, yellow and green traffic lights called “Stop, Think, Do.”

“Essentially, these kids are learning about self control,” Avalon said. “Over the course of 6-8 weeks, these students can work with a group of peers to become more self-aware and practice skills to use, such as forgetting and moving past negative interactions with peers that would otherwise make them react emotionally. There’s a lot that these kids can learn to do on their own to feel better and be happier at school and beyond.” 

“Marissa is a critical component to the overall success of Glenwood students,” said Assistant Principal Damen Hermens. “She is continually supportive of teachers and has a natural ability to connect with students. Her contributions have helped Glenwood establish successful systems of intervention and supports that center around providing for student needs and growth.” 

Avalon is passionate about what she does, and that quickly becomes apparent when you talk to her about her work. She realizes that teaching coping skills to children, especially those in the early years of their education, has a tremendous impact on shaping their future success. 

“Some conditions are easy to diagnose and respond to, but behavior problems can pose a  challenge because they can be hard to identify and can be easily misunderstood by others,” Avalon said. “Each student has different needs, and it’s important that every student feels supported so they can come to school each day emotionally prepared to learn.”

Battle Ground Public Schools continue to see enrollment growth

posted Sep 14, 2017, 3:48 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Sep 15, 2017, 8:10 AM ]

Battle Ground Public Schools continue to see enrollment growth

September 14, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools' 2017-18 enrollment numbers are in, and they confirm what those who have visited our schools in recent years already know: some buildings are pushing the limits of their intended capacity.

Overall, Battle Ground has 13,070 students enrolled, an increase of 164 students compared to a year ago, and 322 more students compared to 2012. The four primary and middle schools in the southern portion of the district have experienced the most dramatic growth, even though Battle Ground's school board revoked boundary exceptions at Glenwood and Laurin beginning last year and at the Pleasant Valley campus this year. Significant construction of new homes and apartments have contributed increased enrollment in the southern portion of the district, and more is expected. Over the past three years:
  • Glenwood Heights Primary has 160 new students, a 25.2 percent increase 
  • Laurin Middle School has 95 new students, a 16.1 percent increase
  • Pleasant Valley Middle has 56 new students, an 11.4 percent increase
Glenwood Heights Primary was built in 1956 to accommodate 484 students. This year, there are 795 students enrolled at the school. Space at Glenwood Heights’ campus neighbor, Laurin Middle School, is similarly stretched thin. Built in 1965 for 600 students, LMS has 684 students enrolled this year. 

In addition to revoking boundary exceptions to help address the growth at Glenwood and Laurin, the district added eight portable classrooms to the campus over the summer. Now, more than 40 percent of Glenwood and Laurin's classrooms are portables. Adding additional portables to the current campus is not possible going forward because the schools' core facilities, including lunchrooms, parking lots, libraries, and playgrounds cannot support additional classrooms. 

With this in mind, the district has implemented other changes to maximize available space, including: 
  • Art teachers and other specialists no longer have their own classrooms. Instead, art teachers are using carts to bring supplies to students' home classrooms.
  • Reading and math intervention specialists do their work in students' home classrooms, not a separate space.
  • Glenwood’s fourth graders eat lunch in the adjacent Laurin Middle School cafeteria because of space constraints. 
Some class sizes at these schools are approaching “overload” status, which is a contractually-defined student-to-teacher ratio that when exceeded, requires either hiring additional staff to provide aide time, or teachers must be paid additional salary. 

At the Pleasant Valley campus, where the district installed a 10-plex containing 10 classrooms just one year ago, students had to give up two classrooms this fall that were being used as a cafeteria. Now, students at Pleasant Valley eat lunch in their classrooms. Enrollment also grew at Prairie High School this year, up 59 students over last fall. 

As the entire region continues to experience housing and population growth, the BGPS Board of Directors has other options for managing increasingly limited classroom and facility space, including presenting voters with a bond and redrawing boundary lines. 

You can help BGPS make school attendance a top priority

posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:54 PM by Joe Vajgrt

You can help BGPS make school attendance a top priority

Used with permission of Attendance Works and the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD)

September 7, 2017

The opening days of school conjure up images of backpacks stuffed with notebooks and unsharpened pencils, bulletin boards freshly decorated by teachers, and students showing off new clothes to old friends. 

But even in these early days of the new school year, some students are already heading toward academic trouble by missing too many days of school. Across the country, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year—absences that correlate with poor performance at every grade level.

This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps, and ultimately, to increased high school dropout rates. 

This year, BGPS is recognizing September as Attendance Awareness Month, part of a nationwide movement intended to convey the message that every school day counts.

We can’t afford to think of absenteeism as simply an administrative matter. Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. All of our investments in curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students aren’t showing up to benefit from them. 

Problems with absenteeism start surprisingly early: National research shows that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning that they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days of instruction, because of excused and unexcused absences. 
Chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, and students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school. They are also more likely to be chronically absent in later years, since they never developed good attendance habits. 

By middle school, chronic absence becomes one of the leading indicators that a child will eventually drop out of high school. By ninth grade, it’s a better indicator than how well a student did on eighth grade tests.

Chronic absence isn’t just about truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, bullying or simply because their parents don’t understand how quickly absences add up—and affect school performance. 
After all, 18 days is only two days a month in a typical school year. A student who is absent misses out on their future success no matter whether absences are excused or unexcused, or whether they occur consecutively or sporadically throughout the school year.

How do we turn this around? A key step is for parents and guardians to recognize the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day. Parents can help their children build a habit of good attendance, enforce bedtimes and other routines and avoid vacations while school is in session. 

As a district, we will continue to closely monitor our attendance numbers to help identify potential issues early on. Our principals and administrators are continually seeking ways that we as a district can support our students and improve our attendance numbers. Just as we use grades and test scores to measure the progress that students and schools are making, we will also look at the impact of chronic absence rates. 

We invite you to think about what you can do within your own family to help get more kids to school on time each and every day. And join us in our effort to make every day count.

Battle Ground School Board Approves District Budget for 2017-18

posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:31 PM by Joe Vajgrt

Battle Ground School Board Approves District Budget for 2017-18

September 7, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools' Board of Directors unanimously approved the 2017-18 district budget at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 28. The changes that the Washington State Legislature made to school funding in its biennium budget do not begin to take effect until next school year, so little is changed in this year's budget compared to last year.

At their meeting, board members approved allocations for four main buckets: day-to-day operations, including $600,000 for the general fund reserve; student activities; debt services (bonds); and facilities projects. 

Battle Ground expects to receive $169.1 million in revenues in 2017-18, an increase of 8 percent over last year's budget. However, most of the increase is tied to specific programs and salaries, leaving the district to fill in gaps with local funding. Most of Battle Ground's increase in state revenues is for a state-mandated 2.3 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), 15 percent increase in employer retirement contributions, and nine percent benefit increases for state-funded staff. The district must provide state-mandated salary increases to unfunded staff, and some areas have experienced increased costs over last year. For example, transportation costs are up 10.5% percent.

The majority of the district's revenue increase will come from the state ($9.4 million) and local levy funds ($2.9 million). The Washington Legislature approved additional funding for school districts for cost of living and benefit increases, class-size reduction, and to cover maintenance and supplies increases due to inflation. Battle Ground Public Schools receives about 74 percent of its revenues from state funding. The district also receives federal funds, local levy dollars, and money from other local, non-tax sources.

Even though the Legislature approved a two-year budget for the state, questions still remain about next year's education funding and how districts will need to categorize future spending.

More information about the district's budget presentation for the school board is available online.

Battle Ground Public Schools conducts voluntary air quality testing

posted Aug 22, 2017, 9:55 AM by Rita Sanders

Battle Ground Public Schools conducts voluntary air quality testing

August 21, 2017

As part of its ongoing safety measures, Battle Ground Public Schools has voluntarily tested its facilities for radon. Tests conducted in the district's school buildings found no elevated levels of radon in areas used by students and staff.

Just one location, a storage room at Laurin Middle School, tested above the action level for radon. Battle Ground Public Schools is working with a radon testing and mitigation specialist to determine how to mitigate this storage room.

Battle Ground Public Schools planned last year to test for radon after completing water testing in all of its buildings. The last time the district tested buildings for radon was in 2010-2011. Those results were within the EPA's acceptable limits, and there wasn't any mitigation.

BGPS receives AED from Fire District 3 and American Medical Response

posted Aug 17, 2017, 5:14 PM by Joe Vajgrt

BGPS receives AED from Fire District 3 and American Medical Response

August 17, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools has received a new Automated External Defibrillator, or AED, thanks to the generosity of Clark County Fire District 3 and American Medical Response (AMR). An AED is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock that can potentially stop an irregular heartbeat and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest.

"We are very pleased to donate this AED to the Battle Ground School District,” said Fire District 3 Chief Steve Wrightson. “They are a proven tool to help save lives, and we greatly appreciate our partnership with AMR, which donated this AED to Fire District 3 to be placed in the Battle Ground community.”

AEDs make it possible for more people to respond to a medical emergency where defibrillation is required. Because AEDs are portable and easy to use, they can be used by non-medical people. In fact, an AED at Chief Umtuch Middle School was used last school year to save a man’s life after he went into sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball, providing a great reminder of the effectiveness of citizen CPR combined with having an AED nearby.  

“Each year, there are more and more people working, learning and recreating in district buildings,” said BGPS School Health Services and Nursing Supervisor, Cathy Shannon. “Improving access to AEDs in our schools is more important than ever and can literally be the difference between life and death, so we are very grateful for the donation from AMR and Fire District 3.” 

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