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News Releases
Graduation is the top priority for students with TEAM staff preparing
Graduation is the top priority for students with TEAM staff preparing
Woodland Public Schools' TEAM High School offers an alternative for students seeking flexible schedules and the ability to work at their own pace (Photo) - 06/11/18

Monday, June 11, 2018-Woodland,WA-Woodland Public Schools’ TEAM High School offers an alternative path for students to achieve success in their K-12 education by offering flexible lesson schedules, self-directed lesson plans and personalized teaching in a focused learning environment.

Students who enroll at TEAM range from those who have full-time jobs to those looking for a more flexible high school experience. “TEAM High School exists to help students who need an alternative to the traditional classroom model of high school education,” explained Jillian Domingo, TEAM High School’s English and Social Studies teacher. “Many of our students work, have different learning needs or have busy home lives which necessitate the flexible schedule TEAM offers.”

The staff of TEAM constantly works to change what people think of when they think of alternative high schools. “Many people hear ‘alternative school’ and think it’s a place for ‘troubled’ kids and we want to change that,” said Elizabeth Vallaire, Math and Science Teacher for TEAM. “Although we do accept students from a variety of different backgrounds, we also serve students who want to graduate early; students who struggle socially with the myriad of issues at traditional high schools; students who work full-time and can’t dedicate eight hours a day to the classroom; students who are homeless and don’t have the support they need; and a large population of students who desire more independence in their learning than a traditional high school can offer.”

At this year’s Washington Association for Learning Alternatives (WALA) conference, the organization’s executive director singled out Woodland’s TEAM High School as the model school in Washington for site-based alternative schools. “Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) schools can sometimes have a reputation for being a place where students can slack off, but that couldn’t be farther than the truth for TEAM,” said Vallaire. “Our school is held to statewide alternative education standards and we undergo regular audits to ensure these standards are being met; we have policies in place to ensure students attend all of their classes each week as well as rules to minimize cheating and enhance respect, just as you would find in any traditional high school.”

Woodland Public Schools bases TEAM out of a dedicated portable building featuring a full computer lab and other classroom resources for students. “The setting is often less intimidating for students; students call teachers by their first names and teachers dress down more than they would in a traditional high school setting to make the environment less formal and intimidating,” said Domingo. “TEAM empowers students to take control of their own learning, and, with hard work, students can make up missing credits or even graduate early.”

TEAM’s students use a computer-based curriculum called Apex Learning to select classes from a full range of core academic subjects and electives. Each student completes a minimum of six credits per year, working on two classes during each six-week marking period. Students choose one of five two-hour daily sessions to attend while also completing an additional 22 hours of study each week. “Students have the flexibility to work on the classes they want to at the times they want to with more one-on-one time with their teachers than a typical classroom can support,” said Vallaire. “By attending TEAM, students who need extra leeway receive the freedom they require to succeed, even if it takes an extra year to graduate, while others can finish an entire year of credits in a single month – our program is completely individualized to each student’s needs making TEAM a place where practically any student can be successful.”

TEAM partners with local community organizations to offer more learning opportunities for students including a recent partnership with the Woodland Public Library which allowed students to take home free books. “Several new students enrolled this year who love reading and were so excited to have free books they could take home and keep,” said Vallaire. “I placed donation boxes in all of our other schools, asking employees to donate books, and, now, TEAM High School has a small library of nearly 100 books students can borrow or keep.”

TEAM’s alternative environment provides a unique teaching experience for teachers, too. “I love being able to get to know my students and their interests in a more in-depth way than I would in a traditional learning environment,” said Domingo. “My greatest moment is watching my students receive their diplomas during graduation – these are students who could have dropped out of school but chose instead to persevere which makes that moment of recognition for their accomplishment so much more special.”

Vallaire agrees with her colleague about the small class sizes and personalized attention she’s able to provide her students. “Working at TEAM has been the most rewarding teaching position I’ve ever had,” she said. “I get to know my students incredibly well; we have inside jokes, secret handshakes, traditions, and, most importantly, the ability to speak honestly and openly with each other.”

Graduation remains the top priority for both students and staff. “We focus intensely on helping our seniors complete their requirements – even those who came to us with just freshman credits,” said Vallaire. “Along with Mary Burnett, our Program Specialist who is a true jack-of-all-trades, we create planners we call ‘Grad Maps’ for each student to reach their current and future enrollment goals which include specific weekly goals in order for students to finish all their requirements in time for graduation.”

TEAM High School’s hard work will pay off this Wednesday, June 13, during this year’s commencement ceremony. “Our graduating class of 2018 will be one of the largest in the history of TEAM High School and we love spotlighting each graduate, talking about their individual strengths and accomplishments during the ceremony itself which makes for an even more meaningful moment when graduates receive their diplomas in front of their friends and family,” said Vallaire. “At TEAM, we get the ability to bring our own personal strengths and create a learning environment that is dynamic, respectful and just plain fun.”

Student Spotlight: Destinee Navarro, Class of 2018

Destinee Navarro, 19, will graduate from TEAM High School this Wednesday as a member of the Class of 2018 after dedicating herself to her studies. She elected to attend TEAM after relocating to Woodland with her family from Arizona. “I needed this kind of transition program because Woodland High School was so much bigger than where I’m from,” she explained. “In addition, I’m the oldest of five children so I need to do whatever I can to help my mom take care of my siblings.”

In addition to finishing her studies at TEAM, Destinee works at Papa Murphy’s Take-and-Bake Pizza in Woodland while also taking classes at the Northwest Skills Academy in Vancouver where she discovered a love of the culinary arts. “I learned a lot about cooking from my grandmother who was a head cook at a restaurant, and discovered how much I love cooking, particularly baking, after I took classes at the Skills Academy,” she said. “Now, I’m planning to get my baking certificate, go to college to earn a business degree and, one day, open and run my own bakery.”

Destinee’s goal of opening her own bakery stems from her self-guided nature and the calming qualities she finds in making bread. “I want to be able to run my own show by running my own bakery, possibly focusing on different kinds of bread,” she said. “I love kneading bread – it’s so therapeutic to knead it with my hands, and I also like creating the more complicated breads which use interwoven braided dough to look so beautiful when baked.”

TEAM’s flexible schedule gave Destinee the freedom she needed to finish her studies at her own pace at the times she prefers to study. “I take the morning session at the Skills Center so I’m able to work and still finish my studies at TEAM, too,” she said. “I’ve always been used to self-guided learning but having the dedicated teaching staff and other support made TEAM the perfect fit for my learning style.”

TEAM’s staff made the biggest difference for Destinee. “Students can go to them for whatever they need, even if it’s just for help with something emotional we’re going through at home,” she said. “I love the teachers at TEAM – I’m actually going to miss them the most after I graduate.”

You can learn more about TEAM High School and how you can help by visiting the Woodland Public Schools website at www.woodlandschools.org.

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D'Ann Horrocks discovered her passion for working with special needs students after taking an adaptive health class in college which inspired her to go back to school for additional certification in special education.
D'Ann Horrocks discovered her passion for working with special needs students after taking an adaptive health class in college which inspired her to go back to school for additional certification in special education.
Woodland Public Schools' Partners in Transition program teaches special needs students the skills they need to succeed in life and work (Photo) - 06/04/18

Monday, June 4, 2018-Woodland, WA-This spring, special needs students enrolled in Woodland Public Schools’ Partners in Transition (PIT) program learned important job procurement skills including writing a letter of interest, developing a resume, filling out job applications and participating in mock interviews by working with the Woodland Action Center, school staff, and local businesses.

Students practiced interview skills by taking part in 20-minute mock job interviews one-on-one with Woodland Public Schools staff including Vicky Barnes, Human Resources Manager; Stephanie Patterson, Procurement and Apprenticeship Coordinator; and Stacy Brown, the district’s Business Manager. “Seeing our students dress up and get outside of their comfort zones for their interviews was a truly excellent experience,” said D'Ann Horrocks, PIT's Transition Teacher. “Each student has different strengths and weaknesses that they had to investigate in order to succeed in the project.”

As a special treat for their hard work, Horrocks and her team, which includes paraeducators Ann Ingraham and Nancy Thibodeaux, purchased and designed t-shirts which Ingraham silkscreened with the class motto: "Works Hard to Play Hard." Students concluded the unit by giving presentations on their career choice research using an informational slideshow they each developed.

Woodland Public Schools started the Partners in Transition (PIT) program in 2010 to offer special needs students from Woodland and other area high schools between the ages of 18 to 21 who have completed their state testing the opportunity to learn additional life skills when transitioning from school to adulthood. “One of the most difficult challenges about working with this population of students is how society often feels they need to be catered to,” said Horrocks. “We turn that around and teach the students to find their skills, their values and how they can contribute to their community to lead successful, independent lives.”

The PIT program is headquartered in a home operated by Woodland Public Schools located near the district office where students spend half of each day honing their functional academic, social and life skills. For the other half of their time, students participate in job study programs at six different job sites each year where they gain valuable work skills by working at local businesses throughout the area.

By working in many different settings, students discover possible career options allowing them to develop the necessary skillsets to prepare for their future. “We try to find as many relevant real-world job opportunities as possible including hotels, supermarkets and more,” said Horrocks. “We’re always looking for more businesses to partner with in order to offer our students opportunities to develop a broad range of career skills.”

Sometimes, those opportunities can be incredibly close to home. This year, the district’s Information Technology (IT) department offered a job study position to Ian Mcmurrick, a PIT student. After seeing his aptitude for computer repair, the IT staff helped Ian prepare for and pass an intensive proctored certification test, the CompTIA A+ Certification. This fall, Ian will start working to pass his second, more-advanced certification test. “Our IT department has just taken our job study program above and beyond,” said Horrocks. “I can’t express my gratitude enough for their work with our program – it’s just fantastic!”

In addition to working at job sites, students operate a variety of small class-based businesses developed by the PIT program including car detailing, making dog treats, grocery shopping and selling crafts at local markets. “By working in these small businesses, students learn the skills needed to provide high-quality and valuable services in real workplace environments,” said Horrocks. “The funds raised from our businesses help support our community activities and field trips which the students participate in throughout the year.”

Horrocks discovered her passion for helping students with special needs at the very end of finishing her degree in Physical Education Health. “I took an adaptive health course which made me realize I needed to specialize in special education,” she said. “Being able to develop one-on-one connections with individual students and making a specific difference for them inspires me, especially since I spend almost as much time with my students as my own family.”

After returning to school for her special education certificate while working as a paraeducator, Horrocks worked for Vancouver School District. When an opportunity opened up at Woodland Public Schools, she jumped at the chance and has worked for Woodland for 30 years. “For me, the biggest draw to Woodland was the small size of the community where I’m able to make a bigger impact,” she explained. “Other districts don’t have programs like ours for students who need additional skills – I’m so thankful for how supportive our district is to us.”

Local businesses interested in partnering with the Partners in Transition program by offering job opportunities or community members interested in seeing how they can participate can contact D’Ann Horrocks via email at rockd@woodlandschools.org">horrockd@woodlandschools.org or by calling (360) 841-8540. You can learn more about the Partners in Transition Program by visiting the district website at www.woodlandschools.org.

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By working together, the four school districts receive better transportation options while saving taxpayer money for use in schools and classrooms when compared to running their own independent transportation programs.
By working together, the four school districts receive better transportation options while saving taxpayer money for use in schools and classrooms when compared to running their own independent transportation programs.
The KWRL Transportation Cooperative drives more than one million miles each year to get students to and from school safely (Photo) - 05/21/18

Monday, May 21, 2018-Woodland, WA-Woodland Public Schools along with Kalama, Ridgefield, and La Center School Districts celebrated the dedicated school bus drivers and support staff of the KWRL Transportation Cooperative serving each of the four districts and recognized the team’s powerful contributions to public education during a special appreciation luncheon.

Asha Riley, Assistant Superintendent for Woodland Public Schools, kicked off the celebration with an introductory speech highlighting the important contributions of the KWRL staff to the districts they serve. Woodland Public Schools’ food services team prepared a lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers and side dishes along with a selection of fruit and desserts.

Students at Woodland’s schools made posters thanking KWRL’s bus drivers and support staff. The superintendents from each district along with Shannon Barnett, KWRL’s Transportation Director, donated personal funds to purchase door prizes and gifts for a raffle.  

School bus drivers submitted some of their favorite memories driving students to and from school:

  • “Former students bring their new children to the bus to meet me.”
  • “I was moved when some of my students’ parents ask me not to retire.”
  • “A former student told me they stopped using drugs because of my concern for them.”
  • “I was incredibly touched when one of my students cried because I was reassigned to another bus.”
  • “My favorite moments from being a bus driver are quite simply all of them.”

School bus drivers serve an integral part of public education transporting students safely to and from school as well as extracurricular activities each day. Safety remains a top priority; collectively, KWRL drivers have driven nearly 16 million miles without a single at-fault accident. “A student’s school day begins and ends with their safe transportation to and from school,” said Barnett. “If we can make meaningful change in improving a student’s educational experience through our happy bus drivers and staff, we’ve done a good job.”

The KWRL cooperative transports thousands of children to and from school each and every school day. “We serve just over 9,000 students each day with home-to-school and extracurricular transportation,” explained Barnett. “Our drivers travel more than 5,500 miles each day equaling in excess of one million miles each year.”

The four school districts established the KWRL cooperative in 1978 to provide flexibility and efficiency by sharing transportation operations rather than having each district maintain its own fleet of buses and drivers. “Operating as a cooperative also allows for options such as emergency evacuation response capabilities in a far more timely and responsive fashion than would be possible if an independent district needed assistance from a neighboring district,” explained Shannon. “In addition, we recently hired a Behavior Specialist who will help ensure students practice the same behavior expectations on their rides to and from school as they are expected to practice while at school, an option that may not be affordable for a single district to take advantage of independently, but the cooperative can provide collectively to all four districts.”

The continued operation of KWRL results from the cooperation of the four partnering school districts and allows for more taxpayer funds to flow into classrooms rather than transportation costs. “Through the forethought and planning of our four member district Superintendents as well as their predecessors, we are able to offer safe and efficient transportation services allowing taxpayer funds to provide programs and additional education options instead of going to transportation infrastructure and operations,” explained Barnett. “By working together, the four districts have more effective SPED transportation, extended extracurricular transportation, and better emergency response capability than what would be possible if they were to each run their independent transportation program.”

You can learn more about the KWRL cooperative including how you can receive your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) free-of-charge to become a school bus driver by visiting the KWRL website at www.kwrl.org, calling (360) 841-2023 or by dropping by KWRL’s main offices located at 989 Frazier Lane, Woodland, WA 98674.

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