Response To Community Questions
We begin by clearing the sidewalks and main entryways into the schools. We work our way out from there. The primary goal is to provide safe access from the bus drop-offs and parking lots into the buildings.
Fortunately, we don’t get the volume of snow that we had this winter on a regular basis. But that also means we are not as well-equipped as folks in parts of the country where they experience a high volume of snow on a regular basis. Nor are we as well-practiced. With the equipment and manpower we have, we did the best job we could with snow removal this past winter. However, we also made notes about things we can improve upon next time it snows.
The district sponsors a number of extra-curricular and co-curricular programs that take students out of regular classes and sometimes come with a cost to families. We believe -- and many of our families believe -- that classroom learning is enhanced and enriched by experiences that extend beyond the classroom and the schoolhouse. However, we are also deeply aware of equity issues that arise when such extra opportunities create a financial burden for families. And we continually strive to strike a balance.
Earlier this month, the district hosted a three-day workshop put on by The Young Americans. The program was here for the first time three years ago, and it was wildly popular with over 200 students and their families. It consists of a troupe of 45 college-aged performers from around the country working with school-age children and youth from our community to teach them to sing, dance, and act. The workshop culminates in a big evening program featuring the traveling Young Americans performing side-by-side with our students. This time around, even more Ferndale students participated, and the reviews were all just as positive.
The issue for some families is the $59 workshop fee. Because we are sensitive to this issue, we only agreed to host the program if scholarships were available for families to request as part of the online sign-up process. No student was turned away because of an inability to afford the fee. With that said, I suspect some students didn’t even begin the registration process because of the cost. In the future, we will continue to seek better, most respectful ways of preventing fees and finances from providing barriers to student participation in enrichment activities. (Suggestions are always welcome.)
We want your input and ideas about bond projects and are asking the question, “What is most important to you as we move forward with bond projects?”
One of the tools we are using to gather that input is a tool called Thoughtexchange. You can use this tool to tell us your thoughts and priorities AND to express your level of agreement with the thoughts and priorities of other people. All input is anonymous.
We will publish reports periodically so that the community can see what the exchange process is showing us.
Please visit HERE to participate.
In addition to the Exchange, we want you to know that we take your direct input and communication very seriously and encourage you to reach out directly via phone or email if you prefer. A good email for this is firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (360) 383-9200.
While the length of construction projects varies between projects, a good estimate is three to four years. That means that from the time that design begins to the time that a new high school building opens is approximately three to four years. If we apply that timeline in Ferndale, that would put us in the year 2023.
The cost of removing the 1938 building will be fairly expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars), since it will include the removal of hazardous materials.
The plan to remove the 1938 building is further complicated by the fact that we still need to maintain the boiler/mechanical room and the four classrooms adjacent to it that were built in 1968. Once the 38 building comes down, the former interior spaces of the boiler room and four classrooms will become exterior spaces that need to be enclosed.
This is all doable; and, when it is done, it will add a great deal of capacity and functionality to the North Bellingham Campus. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have funds to dedicate to the project.
We named David Rodriguez (current FHS Assistant Principal) as Co-Principal with Jeremy Vincent during the next 2+ years, beginning July 1, 2019. While we want Jeremy to stay connected with the FHS staff during the design and construction phase of the high school project, he will be taking on a number of new responsibilities and attending many additional meetings in his role as Planning Principal and member of the Executive Steering Committee. In his new role, David will be able to serve as the on-site principal, overseeing the day-to-day management of the building with the support of Assistant Principal Jen Rolie, CTE Director Edwin Elefson, Athletic Director Eric Tripp, and a new assistant principal we will be adding to backfill David’s position. Our HR Department has published a posting inviting interested candidates inside and outside the district to apply. That posting can be found HERE.
There are two major updates in this area:
- On March 20th, the Ferndale School Board and the Bond Oversight Committee met to discuss next steps. We published information about that meeting which can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1656340/ferndale-school-board-and-bond-oversight-committee-discuss-next-steps
- One March 26th, the Ferndale School Board voted to adopt a new policy that had the effect of officially authorizing the Bond Oversight Committee as an official advisory committee to the Board. The Board and the Oversight Committee will continue working together and plan to meet to discuss Committee bylaws and additional support that the Committee might need to begin work. We provided information in advance of the board meeting which can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1656340/ferndale-school-board-and-bond-oversight-committee-discuss-next-steps
We provide weekly updates to our Ferndale School District staff which are then sent externally through an opt-in email list. We post our updates on social media and to our website here: https://www.weareferndale.org/updates/
To opt into our weekly bond update, please see the following: http://eepurl.com/gkTrWv
The State has two separate minimum requirements regarding the length of the school year. One of the requirements is for a minimum number of days when school is held. The other requirement is for a minimum number of instructional hours. The school district must meet both requirements.
Under normal conditions, the State mandates that districts provide 180 days of school. Under unusual circumstances, the district can apply for a limited number of waiver days (up to three).
The State also requires a minimum number of instructional hours. We have to meet a district-wide average in grades 1-12 of 1027 hours per year. This minimum hour requirement cannot be waived, even if the number of school days is reduced. This means if we apply for waiver days, we will probably need to cancel some student early release days to make up the hours.
We are evaluating options now. We have decided to wait until the end of February to make a final decision so that we can (a) be fairly certain we won’t be faced with additional weather-related schedule changes; (b) get feedback from the School Board about various options at their meeting on February 26; and (c) check in with leaders of the unions who represent our impacted employees. Our community can expect a notice with more definitive information on Friday, March 1.
No. We intend to maintain the June 8 graduation date for FHS. We know families have already purchased airline tickets and made plans for celebrations. Changing the dates will disrupt such plans.
To maintain this graduation date, we will most likely need to hold classes for seniors on two (2) Saturdays this spring. We will announce the Saturday dates when we communicate the rest of our snow make-up plan.
That number -- $24,761 -- was the total amount spent during the 2017-2018 school year from the Capital Projects Fund, which is governed by a number of restrictions. During 2017-2018, we spent $434.94 on wetland mitigation monitoring as part of the Cascadia construction project. The rest was paid to Zervas Group Architects for pre-design work and bond planning.
We have way more than $3.7 million worth of work that needs to be done. The list of maintenance needs is far longer than what can be covered by the $4 million on the bond request combined with the $3.7 million in the Capital Projects Fund. If the bond passes, we will use these existing funds to work our way further down the list of necessary projects. If it fails, we will need to perform the critical work that is on the bond request.
In addition, not all of the $3.7 million currently in the Capital Projects Fund is available to address the projects on the bond list. For instance, $1 million of the $3.7 million is earmarked for Custer. It was part of the 2006 bond package, and it needs to be spent at that school. Approximately $120,000 of the remaining $2.7 million came from the impact fees paid by people who have built new homes in the district. These dollars need to be spent on projects that benefit the schools where the fees were generated.
We do have plans to address both of the issues at Vista. We have been awarded some money from FEMA to address the bus loop. However, we did not receive notice of the award until it was too late to do the work this year. Therefore, we are planning to have the asphalt repaired during the coming summer. The roof is part of the bond package. We know we need to make major roof repairs to ensure we don’t develop any secondary issues like mold.
Yes. Our district receives dollars from a federal government funding source called Impact Aid. In essence, the program pays the taxes for federal property that exists within the boundaries of the school district. All districts that contain military bases and/or Indian reservations get these funds. Through Impact Aid we receive equivalent revenue from the Lummi Nation, but we receive it through the federal government rather than local taxes.
Yes. Round trip transportation is provided between students’ homes and the North Bellingham Learning Center, where our four Jump Start Kindergarten classrooms are located.
We know sometimes it is more convenient for families to have their children transported to and from a daycare location rather than their homes. Whenever doing so is possible within the limits of our transportation resources, we accommodate those requests. Sometimes, however, we are unable to accommodate. Such was the case with a recent request to have Jump Start students picked up at a particular daycare where bus access is restricted. In all cases, we collaborate with families to try to figure out reasonable alternatives.
Our current football field is so fragile that we need to restrict its use in order to keep it viable for weekly football games and halftime shows in the fall. The football team doesn’t hold their daily practices in the stadium either. If they did, the field would be so muddy and torn up they couldn’t play there under the lights on Friday night. To accommodate band practices in the parking lot, the district has painted a football field on the asphalt.
Fortunately, when our new high school is built, it will include a stadium with all-weather turf, and many of these issues will be resolved.
The District invites the entire community to an event on March 9, 2:00-4:00 pm to celebrate the passage of our Ferndale School Bond and to get information about next steps. Members of the Ferndale School Board and the Community Bond Oversight Committee will be in attendance to answer questions.
In addition, as work begins, we will provide consistent and timely information on our website and through social media.
The School District is bound by law to inform voters about the school bond. We provide information to meet that obligation.
For printing and mailing to approximately 17,000 households our total was approximately $3800.
The bond will run for 20-22 years depending on market conditions at the time of the sale.
According to the Whatcom County Assessor, the total assessed value of real property within the Ferndale School District is $4,785,319,887. More information can be found here: http://www.whatcomcounty.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/14601
The Whatcom County Assessor works with taxpayers to facilitate discounts for senior citizens (low income) and disabled persons. For more information, call the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office at 360.778.5050.
The two elementary school buildings not currently being used as elementary schools are Mountain View and North Bellingham. Although neither building is currently used as an elementary school, both are being used for other purposes. North Bellingham is currently housing all of the District's Early Learning programs, our home school support program, and more. The Mountain View building is currently being leased to the Discovery School - a county-wide program. The lease arrangement brings in revenue and a partnership that requires that the tenant maintain the facility, thus saving District resources.
The School Board has decided not to sell the properties at this time because they are currently in use and because the District anticipates needing space for additional students in coming years. Additionally, it would be very difficult to purchase a comparable property in the future when we need it.
At some point in the future, we envision another elementary school on the North Bellingham site in a new building. We actually have blueprints. However, rebuilding North Bellingham did not make the top priority list with the 85 community members who spent five months studying all district facilities and coming up with the bond package that will be on the February 12 ballot (again).
The current California-style facility on the North Bellingham site was never ideal for our Pacific Northwest weather. In today’s world, where we have to be so much more concerned about safety and security, it is an even less desirable layout for a traditional elementary school.
The other issue at North Bellingham is that the wing built in 1938 has been “condemned,” or at least deemed unsafe to house students. We do use part of it for storage, but not for kids. The usable portion of North Bellingham can comfortably house 200-250 students – and we are using most of it.
This year, the programs housed at North Bellingham include the following:
Our new parent partnership (homeschool) support program. We realized two years ago we were the only district of the seven in Whatcom County that was not offering such a program. All six other districts not only had programs, but programs that were significantly growing – and some of their growth was due to Ferndale student transfers. If this was a service families wanted, we decided we needed to offer it. We started a small parent partnership last April (2018), and we now have about 30 students K-12 enrolled in the program.
Our developmental pre-school program. This is a compensatory special education program for 3- and 4-year-olds who are developmentally delayed. Prior to this year, we had four classrooms at four different elementary schools. Centralizing them all on the North Bellingham campus has (1) allowed pre-school teachers to collaborate and share resources; (2) allowed transportation to consolidate and make more efficient runs (since our preschoolers are on a different schedule than other elementary students); and (3) freed up one classroom in each of four elementary schools that can be used to meet new lower class size standards. (There are four classrooms of these students at North Bellingham.)
The Transitions program for Life Skills students, who are allowed, because of their special education status, to remain in school learning and practicing independent living skills until they are 21 years of age. (There are about a dozen of these students.)
Our Jump Start Kindergarten program, which will begin later this month and run through the end of the year. Jump Start during the school year is relatively new in Ferndale. We started the school year program last spring (2018). However, Bellingham has had the program in place for about five years. We will receive state funding to provide a semester of school readiness activities to students who will be going into kindergarten in the fall, but who have never had any pre-school experience. For several years, we have hosted a similar program for a shorter amount of time in the summer (without state funding) and the results have been very positive. The theory is that if we can close achievement gaps at a very young age, we will have to spend much less money trying to close them later. (We will have four classrooms of Jump Start at North Bellingham.)
Head Start. This is another pre-school program for low-income families run by the Opportunity Council. We rent two classrooms to OC, which helps set off some of our other costs.
Other. This past fall, while one of our local churches was under construction, we rented them a space (at a reasonable rate) to hold their preschool at North Bellingham until their new facility was completed.
At this time, this is how we are using the North Bellingham campus. By keeping the buildings occupied, we are able to protect this valuable asset better than if it were empty – and it is currently providing space for some important programs.
Some people ask why we don’t sell North Bellingham, but our School Board believes doing so would be short-sighted. Someday when the District needs the land for additional schools, such land may be much harder to come by.
Some people ask why we don’t tear down the 1938 condemned building. The reason is cost. The bid we got for taking it down in a way that meets all safety and environmental codes and disposing of the waste material was almost $1 million. We have so many other needs that have to take priority.
The District is renting part of Mountain View to Educational Service District (ESD) 189 for the Discovery program, which has been a very positive arrangement for the School District. The program paid for significant upgrades in the lower wing of that school – new flooring and paint, new cabinetry and countertops in some places, a number of repairs, etc. And Discovery has the added benefit of creating a small revenue stream into the District.
One future plan that will be accomplished by June of this year is to turn the Mt. View library into a meeting space, professional development area, or even a community rental, which we can accomplish with lots of elbow grease and a little bit of money. Since Mt. View closed, the library has been a storage space for all kinds of unwanted furniture and material. We’ve got most of it cleaned out, and we have a plan to get the rest of it taken care of soon. Another staff training space in the District – one that doesn’t impose on our school buildings, teachers, and students during the school day – is a major need for us, so we are excited to get this aspect of Mt. View operational.
We have also entered into negotiations with a local organization who wants to rent the upper wing of Mt. View from us to use it as a daycare facility. Like Discovery, this organization would pay for the necessary renovation and, once they are occupying it, also pay rent. If this negotiation turns into a concrete deal, the result will be good for the district and also provide a service to the community.
As with North Bellingham, we do not have a plan to sell the Mt. View site.
We have no plans for a second high school. This topic has come up fairly regularly as we have talked about a bond to build a new Ferndale High School. The Bond Task Force considered the possibility of two high schools briefly, but quickly dismissed it as a viable plan. Putting 1400 kids in two high schools is much more expensive than putting 1400 kids in one high school – because (1) Two of every space are needed and they all can’t necessarily be half as big; and (2) Overhead cost are doubled when hiring two principals, two football coaches, two office managers, etc. Since we are working to raise the money to fix one high school, getting taxpayers to agree to pay for two seems unlikely.
A large high school is much more cost effective. A large high school also provides students with more curricular options. You could not offer 5th-year world languages or ten different music offerings or a whole menu of CTE classes in a small high school. There wouldn’t be enough students to fill the classes. When people think about having two high schools in Ferndale, some may envision two mini Ferndale High Schools, both with winning football teams and celebrated marching bands and the best drama productions in the region. The reality is that two smaller schools would mean limited program options in each school.
Some people ask if we are going to run out of room at FHS soon. They are usually surprised to learn that our student enrollment in the Ferndale School District has not grown in ten years – despite all the growth in housing in our area. In fact, during the last ten years, our overall District enrollment has decreased eight of those ten years. One year it grew by about a dozen students and one year it grew by a couple of hundred. The high school currently serves about 1400 students. If we get to build a new facility, we will build it for 1600, with easy capacity for adding classroom space. We believe that will serve our community’s needs for quite some time.
The district purchased a 29-acre parcel of land over ten years ago. A 29-acre buildable plot could be big enough for an elementary school or possibly a middle school, but it is not large enough for a comprehensive high school with a gym and athletic facility. And the particular 29 acres we own contain a considerable-sized portion of unbuildable wetlands. We haven’t seriously talked about selling this parcel, for reasons mentioned above.
The Ferndale School District is audited annually by the Washington State Auditor. The school district is regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction and is audited annually by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO). For more information about the process and the results of the school district audit last year, please see the following: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1614950/ferndale-school-district-earns-clean-results-in-financial-and-accountability-audits
All rental fees go towards the cost of operating the building. The School District runs rentals at a breakeven not as a revenue generating enterprise. So, the funds go towards paying utilities, employee costs, and a small amount towards equipment replacement if specialty equipment is used. Most of the rentals are by groups that serve our students. We very rarely rent to for profit-enterprises.
The cost of a new FHS is based on square footage and is comparable to other local school construction projects. Fortunately, we have many comparisons to work with as many school districts in Whatcom County have built high schools in recent years. The Ferndale School District worked with an architect to determine requirements for space and then projected a cost based on that requirement.
The reason our project may look more expensive than other local projects is that our building is much bigger. We have only one high school in Ferndale, and a new building will be designed to house 1600 students. Other high schools are much smaller. For the sake of comparison Blaine High School’s student count was 674 in 2017.
“Walk Zones” are determined by the State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI has designated “One Mile Walk Zones” for all districts across Washington as part of the process for determining the transportation budgets they receive. That means districts do not receive funding for “basic” bus riders (meaning general education students, not students with special needs, students who are homeless, etc.) if they live within one mile of the school they attend. Walk zones for each school can be found on the Transportation page of the district website. Additional information and contact information for Student Transportation at OSPI can be found at http://www.k12.wa.us/transportation/
One additional note about the “Walk Zone” concept: In recent years, the method for calculating the walk zone changed and is now determined by “walking path” versus “as the crow flies,” which was the previous standard. This change added many new eligible bus riders.
Admission is charged for football, volleyball, basketball and wrestling events in the Ferndale School District. Ferndale School District high school students with valid ASB cards may attend games free of charge. Additionally, senior citizens may purchase an Annual Senior Gold Card for $5.00. Senior Gold Card holders receive free admission to all Ferndale School District home events including athletics, plays, concerts and any other program with charged admission.
For additional information: https://www.ferndalesd.org/athletics-activities/ticket-information
Community members may request the chance to rent the Ferndale Performing Arts Center. The space has been used during the past five years for:
- College and university presentations and special speakers
- Community dance recitals and performances
- Community music concerts
- Community safety forums
- Community teacher workshops
- Community theater group rehearsals and performances
- FSD middle school dramatic rehearsals and productions
- Eagle Scout projects – concerts, fundraisers, etc.
- National drama tour group workshops and performances
- Funerals and memorial services
- Graduations of local educational institutions
- Political informational forums
- Annual meetings of local businesses
- NWC athletic director conferences/trainings
NW youth leadership conferences
If the proposed bond is successful in February 2019, the Performing Arts Center will be refurbished, and the community will be able to continue renting and using the facility when it is not in use by the Ferndale School District.
The new school will be constructed on the same site as the existing Ferndale High School next to the old building. This will allow students to occupy the existing building until the new facility is ready for them.
The school was originally built in the 1930s and has had a series of upgrades and additions throughout the years. The last major renovation and addition was completed in the 1970s. Minor improvements (the addition of a new weight facility and some classroom conversions) were completed as part of the 2006 bond.
If the proposed bond projects come in “under-budget,” the Community Oversight Committee will review budget and make recommendations to the School Board for best use for the remaining funds. (NOTE: All of the funds will be used for facilities improvements at one of the district’s buildings. They cannot be used for textbooks or salary increases or other general fund expenditures.)
As with anything that is used and loved for years, Ferndale High School has reached a point beyond ability to repair. Current conditions affect and limit student learning.
Safety is also an ever-increasing concern. Ferndale High school has 80-100 different access doors, a situation that makes it virtually impossible to create a campus that meets today’s security standards.
We have stewarded the Ferndale High School Facility for many years, and we are now asking the community to help us build a new space that will provide a great start to every student’s future.
Prior to 2016, the School Board used to hear public comments at the beginning of their meetings only about items on the agenda, and then again at the end of the meetings about any topic of the speaker’s choosing. Dissatisfied with the way the public comment process was working, Board members devoted time at two different meetings in October 2015 and November 2015 to consider how they could improve their communication with stakeholders through the public comment process. To this end, they instituted several new practices in December 2015. These included:
- Allowing patrons to speak at the beginning of their meetings about any topics of their choosing, not only those topics reflected on the agenda, thereby eliminating the need for them to sit through an entire meeting to have their say.
- Removing the public comment period at the end of the meeting in favor of allowing Board members time to interact one-on-one with those audience members who were still present.
- Providing written responses, posted on the website at the end of each month, to questions and concerns received from stakeholders during the previous month, including those that were expressed as public comments at Board meetings.
- In addition to the forms available at Board meetings for stakeholders to leave written questions or comments for School Board members, providing a portal on the district website for such communication (originally called “Let’s Talk,” now called “The Listening Post”) In addition to The Listening Post, the board also established its own online form to receive comments and signups for folks to speak at meetings. It is located at https://www.ferndalesd.org/school-board/school-board-public-comment-form.
- Redesigning School Board study sessions to allow more interactive dialogue between the School Board and the public.
In Washington State, municipal bonds are required to reach a “Super-Majority” approval rate. That means that the proposal must achieve 60% approval + 1 vote to pass. While our proposal was close at 58.64%, it was not approved by a Super-Majority.
Students have a right to protest. The walkout in November was planned during a time when students were expected to be in class. Absences were unexcused unless parents called to request the absence be excused.
As a School District, we did our best to let staff and families know what we knew about the students’ plans. We encouraged families to talk with their students. We also encouraged families to attend a community Town Hall about the Bond for information and discussion of next steps. We were glad to see many students at that Town Hall meeting.
The Ferndale School Board will consider this option during the regularly scheduled School Board meeting on November 27. The answer to this question will be updated when the Board makes its final decision.
Yes. If the Board chooses to put the proposal on the ballot in February 2019, it will be the same proposal as was considered in November 2018.
Active since October 2017, the Ferndale Community Bond Task Force group logged hundreds of individual volunteer hours analyzing maintenance needs and condition reports on existing buildings. All totaled, more than 80 people participated in the process. The result of their work is a package of recommendations they believe will address current needs and plan for the future.
Information about Ferndale High School athletics can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/ferndalehigh/athletics-activities
Game and match schedules may be found at http://www.nwcathletics.com.
The first girls' basketball game at home is Tuesday, December 4 at 7:15 pm. The first boys' basketball game at home is Thursday, November 29 at 7:15 pm.
The 2018-2019 Winter Break begins December 20 and runs through January 2. School begins again on January 3, 2019. A complete school calendar can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/calendar/monthly/2018/12
The safety features of the new propane buses meet the same high standards as all school buses in Washington State. Each new bus is inspected by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) before it leaves the factory in Pasco in order to receive our operating permit. All of the buses in our fleet, including our newest acquisitions, are inspected by WSP on an annual basis to ensure they continue to meet all safety standards.
The following link provides more information about propane bus safety, along with a list of FAQs about various aspects of alternative fuel buses: https://www.blue-bird.com/alternative-fuels
During the winter of 2006-2007, major storms occurred in our area. As a result of heavy snow, extensive water damage occurred in the 1938 building at North Bellingham Elementary School. Repair of that damage brought to light significant seismic issues, which led to the District’s decision to close the 1938 building beginning with the 2007-2008 school year to protect the safety and welfare of students and staff.
At that time, the Ferndale School Board directed the formation of a Citizens' Advisory Committee to recommend options for resolving the challenges at North Bellingham. In August and September of 2007, five portables were placed on site for temporary use by students and staff while the Citizens’ Committee completed its work.
In December 2007, the Citizens' Advisory Committee recommended to the School Board that the 1938 building be rebuilt and the other buildings be renovated to provide for enclosed interior space between the buildings. The School Board accepted their recommendation and placed a bond measure to renovate North Bellingham and replace Custer Elementary school on the March 11, 2008 ballot (which failed). Since the measure was close to passing, we decided to run the same proposition again on the May 20, 2008 ballot (which also failed).
Without a good alternate solution, the School Board decided to move North Bellingham students and staff into Cascadia Elementary, which was nearing completion. Their decision was based on students' safety, welfare, improved learning environment and a declining district enrollment. From 2008 to 2013, North Bellingham area students were housed at Cascadia Elementary. In the fall of 2013, when Mt. View was closed, all of the District’s elementary school boundaries were redrawn, North Bellingham area students were reassigned to Central Elementary as their new home school.
In the Spring of 2012, the Ferndale School Board voted to close Mt. View Elementary School at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year.
This decision came at the end of a long, arduous, emotional process for many people. The School District had for several years been suffering from severe budget challenges resulting from the economic recession. These challenges were exacerbated by a gradually declining student enrollment and the rapidly increasing needs of aging facilities.
The Facility Advisory Committee (made up of staff and citizen volunteers from across the district) was formed in November 2009 to help the School District make decisions about the most effective and economic ways to utilize and care for aging facilities. When that group started, no one envisioned where it would ultimately lead. However, as FAC members undertook a thorough analysis of all of our District campuses, they realized three things: (1) Some of our buildings were inefficient to operate and in need of significant maintenance in the near future. (2) Some of our buildings were not being utilized to their maximum capacity, which means we were spending money to operate more schools than we actually need. (3) Our school boundaries did not create the most efficient routes to school.
Based on these conclusions, the members of FAC presented three recommendations to the school board at its April 2011 meeting: (1) They recommended moving sixth grade to middle school in order to strengthen the middle-level educational program for students in all three grades. (2) They recommended closing an elementary school in order to divert limited funding from building overhead and maintenance to retaining instructional staff and student programs. (3) They recommended redrawing district boundaries in order to consolidate six elementary school areas into five and, in the process, improve logical neighborhood groupings and transportation routes wherever possible.
For 13 months, the School Board processed these three recommendations. We sponsored five public forums. We wrote dozens of communications and encouraged local newspapers to do the same. We surveyed the entire Ferndale community, and carefully read every one of the 1,345 responses we received. We entertained comments at School Board meetings. We attended the meetings of other community groups. We even stood in the middle of Main Street during Ferndale's Street Fair handing out flyers and asking people to give us their input.
In short, we did everything we could to make the process as open and democratic as possible; and, as is almost always the case in a democratic process, we did not achieve consensus on a single right answer. Some people were unhappy about the decision to close Mt. View. However, our research over two-plus years suggested that: (1) sixth graders in middle school made good educational sense; (2) closing a high-maintenance-need facility and redrawing attendance boundaries would save money that could be spent on people and programs; (3) Mt. View was the most high-need elementary facility; and (4) there was no outcome that would have met with everyone’s approval.
At the bottom line, we stood on these three truths: (1) The members of the Facilities Advisory Committee, the School Board, and everyone else closely involved in this process ALWAYS had the best interests of Ferndale students at the forefront. (2) The decision makers made the best choice they could, given the data and input they had at their disposal. (3) The School Board and the Superintendent chose to prioritize people and programs over facilities.
We did receive word about a student threat on October 22 and then another rumored threat on October 24. We took both of these threats very seriously and worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement to investigate. We also made sure to communicate as much information as possible throughout the process. We know that our community wants information as quickly as possible. That is why we created the following resource: https://www.ferndalesd.org/emergency-communications
We believe students are safe at school. The known threats made toward Ferndale High School were quickly acted upon and resolved by the Ferndale Police Department. The Ferndale School District treats every threat as a serious incident. We always involve the Police. We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
Ferndale Police were sent to Vista Middle School and Horizon Middle School on Wednesday, October 24, as a precaution. There were no known reported and verified threats specific to Vista or Horizon. The Police presence at the middle schools was a measure aimed to reassure students and staff.
When it comes to school safety, our community has told us that they don’t want a filter. They want information as soon as possible. We know providing timely information and regular updates goes a long way in helping staff, families, and our community feel safe at school. Ultimately, that is our goal. We want to teach our students to report threats. We want to encourage our parents to report threats. We want to support law enforcement as they investigate. And we want to let the community know what is happening with as much verified detail as we can share without compromising an ongoing investigation.
This is our protocol: Whenever we receive word of a threat, we work directly with our Ferndale Police Department Team to move the investigation and verify as many facts as possible early on, so that we can begin providing accurate updates and communication with staff, families, students, and community. We want the district to be the place people go to learn the facts.
We followed our protocol in dealing with the recent threats at the high school. We began communicating information as soon as it was verified.
When we talk about safety at school, we include social, emotional, and physical safety. When any of those are threatened, we want our students and families to have additional support.
If you or your student is looking for support, we want you to know the following:
Our school counselors are available at all times. We recently expanded the number of Ferndale School District Counselors. We have a four-person counseling team at Ferndale High School and a designated counselor based at each of the other schools in the district.
As always, administrators at each of our schools are available to talk with you and to connect you with resources. Please reach out if you or your student(s) are struggling.
- For parents who may want to talk with kids directly about their feelings around school safety, we offer the following article from the National Association of School Principals: http://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/talking-to-children-about-violence-tips-for-parents-and-teachers
- We will continue to make resources available as we collect them.
We are very pleased to share that we grew our counseling staff from six to eleven this year. A growing body of research confirms what we already know. We need to pay attention to the whole child. Children and youth can’t master academics effectively if they don’t have a set of foundational skills in self-management, decision-making, and relationship-building.
We recently shared a story about the increase in school counselors: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1616009/ferndale-school-counselors-grow-in-number-from-six-to-eleven
We have not published an official date for completion partly because there are so many contingencies with construction.
Our optimistic “unofficial” target is Fall 2021 if the bond passes and all goes as planned.
Members of the Bond Oversight Committee include:
- Riley Cornelsen
- Anya Milton
- Bo Smith
- Dan Cornelsen
- Adam Rustad
- Sandi McMillan
- Mark Harting
You can find additional information about the Oversight Committee here: https://www.weareferndale.org/committee/
CTE – which stands for Career & Technical Education – refers to all of the courses offered in our secondary schools that are specifically designed to prepare students for success after high school by helping them develop the skills, technical knowledge, academic rigor, and real-world experience for high-skill, high-demand, and highly successful careers. Ferndale is known for its excellent CTE programs.
Each CTE pathway (defined by the type of careers it supports) has a Program Advisory Committee made up of members representing business and industry, the District teaching staff, labor organizations, special populations, community, students, parents, and building or District administration. A majority of the members on each committee possesses a working knowledge of the skills and competencies required for the particular occupation(s) they represent, current needs of the labor market, and the kinds of coursework necessary to prepare future workers to meet these needs. As such, the Advisory Committees provide advice to educators about the design, development, delivery, evaluation, and continuous improvement of our Career & Technical Education programs.
The goals of Ferndale High School’s program-specific CTE Advisory Committees include the following:
- Review skill gap data for Whatcom County and the State of Washington to ensure alignment between community needs and CTE programs offered at FHS.
- Conduct and/or audit annual program evaluations.
- Identify and prioritize program gaps and needs.
- Maintain a five-year program improvement plan.
Stay up-to-date on State budget allocations for CTE programs and provide input into budgeting at the local level.
Anyone interested in serving on a CTE Advisory Committee should contact District CTE Director Edwin Elefson at email@example.com.
All district staff complete required online training on concussion protocol every year. Through this training, they are remined that any student who is observed or suspected of suffering a significant blow to the head may have sustained a concussion. They learn that symptoms of a concussion may appear immediately, may become evident in a few hours, or may evolve over a few days.
A district staff member who (a) observes a student hitting his or her head or (b) notices a student displaying signs of a concussion or (c) learns about a head injury from the student in question or someone else should have the student accompanied to the school nurse. If there is not a school nurse on duty, school personnel should contact the parent/guardian. Any student suspected of suffering a concussion will be removed from athletic activity and/or physical activities (e.g., PE class, recess) until an evaluation can be completed by a medical provider.
Students near Eagleridge and Horizon reported seeing an animal that resembled a cat or a cougar in recent weeks. The reports were investigated by school administrators who determined that the animal in question was actually a cat.
Yes. Wall calendars will be distributed through your student’s school this fall.
In the interim, our full District Calendar can be found here:
Our At-A-Glance calendar can be found here:
The District and FEA (teachers and other certificated staff) reached a tentative agreement with the District on August 28. FEA members ratified the new contract on August 30, and the Ferndale School District took a vote to approve it on September 20.
The District has not yet achieved a tentative agreement on a 2018-2019 contract with the principals. As with all other groups, the principals’ 2017-2018 contract will remain in place and operational until a new contract has been agreed upon.
The Homecoming Football Game is scheduled for Friday, October 12. The Golden Eagles will face off against the Marysville-Pillchuck Tomahawks. The Homecoming Dance is scheduled for the following evening, Saturday, October 13. Both events will occur on the Ferndale High School campus.
At some point early in making schedules for 2018-2019, Homecoming was recorded on an FHS draft calendar on October 5-6. After the league had finalized the 2018 football season and before the start of the new school year, the FHS administration changed Homecoming weekend to October 12-13. They did so for several reasons, which included (1) providing increased time for event planning and preparation, (2) maximizing gate revenue for the season, and (3) selecting the most suitable opponent for a Homecoming game.
When they made the change, the FHS administration was unaware that the FHS Marching Band had already scheduled themselves into an out-of-town competition on Saturday, October 13. Once they learned of this conflict, the FHS administration worked with the band director to cancel the October 13 competition and get the band into an alternative competition on October 6.
No. Overall, District enrollment is down a little from last year, which continues a decade-long gradual decline. Our total district enrollment on the “official count day” this year, which is the fourth day of school, was 4,454. That’s 36 fewer students than last year’s average total enrollment of 4,490.
Here is a picture of our District enrollment over time:
|Total District Enrollment||5,003||4,930||4,898||4,822||4,812||4,721||4,495*||4,520||4,487||4,490||4,454|
*2014 was the first year that the Lummi Nation School became a separate entity with the State, which accounts for the substantial enrollment drop in that year. Prior to 2014, the Ferndale School District’s reported enrollment numbers included the students at the Lummi Nation School. Since 2014, they have not.
Overall, our class sizes are good. Of our 92 elementary classrooms, 32 of them have 20 or fewer students. All kindergarten classes except one have 20 or fewer students; the one outlier has 21. At the larger end of elementary class sizes, we have 7 classrooms at 28, two classrooms at 29, and only one classroom district-wide at 30. Interestingly, four of the 10 largest elementary classrooms are at Central in the 3rd and 4th grades.*
*This information is based on enrollments on the fourth day of school. They may have gone slightly up or down since then.
Skyline Principal Bill Tipton requested a short-term medical leave, and, as a result, Mr. Bud Larson has agreed to serve as Interim Principal. Mr. Larson was a Ferndale teacher for 32 years, many of those years spent teaching at Skyline. Mr. Larson was also an elementary school principal in three different districts, including Ferndale, where his spent his last year in education as principal at Cascadia.
Students, staff, and families have welcomed Mr. Larson to the Skyline Team, and they are looking forward to the year ahead.
If you live within the Ferndale School District boundaries, you can vote on the upcoming school bond. The election date is November 6, 2018, and ballots will be mailed to you approximately two weeks prior to that date.
The Ferndale School District is larger than the City of Ferndale. It extends into the County and includes Lummi Island, Lummi Nation, Custer, and even areas of North Bellingham. For a full School District map, see here: https://campussuite-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/prod/1530651/06c11be8-7bab-11e7-bf32-124f7febbf4a/1651346/4475c622-befb-11e7-a404-0a1e98289924/file/School_Attendance_Area_Boundaries_Final.pdf
Community Bond Task Force Members met to review applications for the Bond Oversight Committee on Monday, September 24. They had a strong list of candidates to consider, and they worked hard to choose Oversight Committee members who could represent various aspects of the construction process. An announcement regarding their decisions will be made sometime during the week of September 24.
A Community Pep Rally is being planned at FHS on October 5, before the Golden Eagle Football home game, to introduce the Oversight Committee to the general public.
Beginning on Wednesday, August 29th, schedules for Ferndale High School students will be available through the Skyward online School Information System (SIS). All District secondary students and parents have access to Skyward.
A District negotiating team has been meeting with an FEA negotiating team for several months to develop the best possible new contract for Ferndale teachers. All of the changes in rules and funding formulas that came from the legislature in response to the McCleary decision have made the process particularly complex this year. We don’t want to rush something so important. However, we are hopeful we will have a settlement prior to the beginning of the new school year.
As soon as FHS Principal Jeremy Vincent found out that one of his teacher’s names was included in graffiti defacing the railroad bridge that runs through downtown Ferndale, he contacted Superintendent Linda Quinn, who joined him at FHS. They next reached out to the Ferndale Police Department, the City of Ferndale, and BNSF (who owns the railroad bridge). Mr. Vincent made personal contact with Mayor Jon Mutchler, who assisted in coordinating the graffiti removal from the BNSF bridge that same day. Mr. Vincent and Mrs. Quinn both called the teacher whose name had been used to offer support. Mr. Vincent also sent an email to his entire staff soliciting their help in identifying the perpetrator.
Decisions about adding new CTE programs – to expand the existing selection of Career & Technical Education classes offered at FHS -- have not yet been made. CTE Director Edwin Elefson says, “There are some exciting programs we could provide our students if we had more modern facilities. However, before we decide which programs to develop, we want to get lots of input from the members of our Community Advisory Committees and other local employers.” To start the process of getting input, Elefson hosted a tour of the current facilities on August 23. “We had 12-15 people join us representing a wide range of local businesses and agencies,” reported Superintendent Linda Quinn. “Edwin did a wonderful job of explaining our current CTE programs, sharing strengths and successes, and pointing out some of the limitations imposed by our facilities. We ended up in the Foods classroom in a discussion about where we go from here to help our kids become college and/or career ready.” Anyone interested in learning more about Ferndale’s CTE programs or joining one of the Advisory Committees should contact Mr. Elefson at Edwin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
An independent citizen group is coordinating the selection process for the Community Bond Oversight Committee. They are looking for people who are (a) Ferndale School District residents; (b) not FSD employees, vendors, contractors, or consultants; (c) not current City of Ferndale employees or consultants; (d) willing to commit to the Committee throughout the scope of the bond spending process; (e) preferably experienced in one of the range of professions specific to the 2018 bond projects lists; (f) in good standing in the community with a positive reputation for fairness and transparency; (g) active in the community. For more information, visit https://www.weareferndale.org. To request an application contact Riley Cornelsen at email@example.com.
Yard signs are intended to convince a citizen to vote a certain way on an issue or a candidate. As such, they are part of a “promotional” campaign. The School District has an obligation to inform citizens about the bond. However, the School District is prohibited from using public funds or paid time of public employees to promote the bond. In other words, we cannot try to persuade people to vote yes or no – for instance, by putting up yard signs.
An independent citizen group has organized in Ferndale to support the bond. Members of this group have solicited private donations to pay for “Vote Yes” promotional yard signs. They plan to get the signs out in the community within the next few weeks.
The District Maintenance Crew is working hard to take care of our facilities and also to create the kinds of welcoming entrances that let students, parents, and community members know we care about them and we take pride in our work. The Vista project has created a big impact for a relatively small investment. The plan is to implement similar beautification projects at our other school sites as well.
You can find your student’s bus route by plugging your address into the INFOFINDER app on our District website.
Follow these steps:
- First go to the website at https://www.ferndalesd.org.
- Look at the drop down menu under “Departments and Programs.”
- Click on “Transportation.”
- Click on “Bus Routes.”
- Enter your address and zip code in the Search form and view the results.
The first day of school for the 2018-2019 school year is September 5th. For more information on the Ferndale School District calendar, please see the 2018-2019 Calendar.
No. We want families to look forward to the start of school without worrying about purchasing school supplies. That is why we announced that the Ferndale School District is covering school supplies for all elementary students. All those supplies will be available in classrooms when students show up for school in September.
In addition, the District is happy to be able to provide supplies for secondary students who qualify. Supplies will be distributed to secondary students who qualify on August 28th, 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM at the Vista Middle School Gym. A recent blog post provides more information, HERE.
The School District is very pleased to have a wonderful new resource available to the Ferndale community. A new website is our “one-stop-shop” for questions about the process, tax impact, and construction. The website is www.weareferndale.org . Take a look and let us know what you think!
We want to provide as many positive activities for young people as our resources will allow. The reason we don’t offer middle school boys baseball is a resource issue. In this case, it is due to lack of facilities. The Whatcom County middle school baseball season occurs in the spring, and this creates a facility issue for Vista and Horizon. Since we do not have baseball fields at our two middle schools -- like all (or most) or the other middle schools in the county -- the middle school team would have to share the high school field. That, however, is nearly impossible since we are running three competitive high school teams during the same season.
The reason we can participate in the girls softball middle school season is that it runs in the fall, whereas our high school girls compete in the spring. This allows us to transport Vista and Horizon students to the high school to use the fields there during their season. We are required by Title IX to offer the same number of athletic activities to girls as we do to boys. Softball counts as one of the girls’ activities.
Vista has not had art elective classes for several years for two reasons: (1) the number of students choosing art was small when compared to other elective offerings; and (2) we did not have a person on staff at Vista to teach art. In response to increased student interest in this subject area, we have developed a plan to add eighth grade art into the schedule at Vista for the 2018-2019 school year.
No. This is a rumor, not a fact.
The only time middle school students can earn high school credit for middle school courses is when the curriculum and learning standards of the middle school courses are directly aligned with the curriculum and learning standards of the high school courses.
Currently, there are only two middle school courses in Ferndale that meet these criteria. They are Spanish 1 and Algebra 1.
All of Ferndale’s developmental preschool classes will be relocated to the North Bellingham campus beginning in Fall 2018. The rationale for these moves include the following:
• Having all of the preschool programs on one campus will give preschool teachers the opportunity to engage in more collaboration, participate together in a meaningful Professional Learning Community work, jointly address problems related to individual students, and learn from one another.
• The North Bellingham site will provide larger classrooms than two of our three preschool programs have had in their previous locations, and this enlarged space will better accommodate the needs of the students. In addition the classrooms the preschool program will be using at North Bell all have easy access to appropriately sized bathroom facilities.
• The North Bellingham site will give preschoolers greater access to gym facilities.
• The North Bellingham site will allow the eventual expansion of the number of preschool classrooms the district operates. Currently, we have maxed out the capacity to add preschool classrooms at Custer and Eagleridge.
• A common location for all our developmental preschool students will reduce travel time between sites for service providers and, conversely, increase the time they are providing direct service to students and families.
• A common location will allow the district to improve leadership, supervision, coordination, and support for all early learning programs. We can more easily, for instance, sponsor targeted programs like preschool open houses, curriculum nights, and parent engagement activities.
• Moving preschool programs out of Cascadia, Custer, and Skyline will give each of these schools additional classroom space for accommodating growing populations and/or reducing class size.
• A single location for all preschool students will make transportation more economical and efficient. While some students’ may experience a slightly longer bus ride, others will have shorter rides.
At this time, metal detectors are not considered a best practice for school safety and violence prevention.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-2012 school year, 2.7 % of public schools required students to pass through a metal detector every day. That number increased following school shootings like the one in Sandy Hook in 2014. However, many districts that installed metal detectors have subsequently taken them out. Most safety experts do not recommend metal detectors because:
• Due to practical reasons like cost and required manpower, they are unsustainable.
• They can give a false sense of security or be seen a replacement for better strategies. (Shootings have occurred in schools where metal detectors were in use.)
• In order to do its job, a metal detector must be coupled with other measures that are not realistic. First and foremost, they must be in use around the clock, 365 days a year, to prevent someone from stashing a weapon. They require that all ground-floor windows remain permanently shut so no one can pass anything into the building. They prohibit anyone from opening any door, even temporarily. They require every entrance and exit to be constantly manned any time the building is in use.
• Some of these measures violate local ordinances and fire codes.
• Maintenance problems, down time, and associated costs reduce the value of the detectors.
• Investing in long-term strategies focused on people have been shown to get better returns. If a student or adult is determined to get a weapon into a school, they will find a way to bypass a metal detector.
• The first and best line of defense is a highly alert and well-trained staff and student body. Finding out about a weapon in school is more likely to be the result of building relationships with students and making them feel comfortable reporting it to a trusted adult.
If the capital bond passes in November, we will be implementing safety and security enhancements in each of our buildings. We will consult with safety experts to plan the specifics of this work. If best practice research changed, and/or if new metal detector technology makes them a more viable option, we will reconsider this strategy for enhancing school security.
We checked with the Fire Inspector to get an answer to this question. He told us that deadbolts are not allowed on classroom doors according to IFC (International Fire Code) Section 1010.1.9. Doors must be equipped with single-action, paddle-style handles that unlock with one press. Round door knobs are also prohibited.
It is possible to fence Ferndale High School. Like anything else, fences are not the only solution in the safety picture, but we are looking at options for fencing some areas of the Ferndale High School campus.
If the proposed 2018 Bond package passes in November, we anticipate being able to build a school that better supports school safety standards including fewer exterior doors and entry points. Any fencing we do until that time will be a short-term solution.
Yes. On Friday evening, May 25, the administrative team at Horizon became aware that a threat had been made. The Ferndale Police Department was contacted to provide assistance per School District policy.
The Ferndale School District treats all threats of violence as credible. School administrators and staff at each of our schools are trained to treat such threats with full attention and urgency. Our response includes activating a “threat assessment.” A threat assessment includes:
• Contact: Engaging with outside law enforcement. In most cases the Ferndale Police Department.
• Investigation: Initiating a full and thorough investigation of both the threat and the individual making the threat. Law enforcement professionals conduct the investigation, which generally includes interviews, background checks, and searches of the individual’s person and home. It generally also includes a mental health assessment.
• Plan: Creating a course of action based on recommendations from law enforcement and mental health professionals.
• Consequences: Applying penalties and/or supports appropriate to the individual situation.
In this case, an emergency expulsion was initiated and a threat assessment was implemented as described above. Given a recommendation from the Ferndale Police Department and outside mental health professionals, a safety plan was developed which included clearing the student to return to school.
While the student was cleared to return to school –and did so briefly during the week of June 4 -- it became clear that his presence at Horizon was causing disruption for other students. Given that, the Ferndale School District and the family made the decision that the student would be under supervision off school campus and not return to Horizon for the final week of the year.
Although we believed our school was safe, we requested heightened police presence during the last week of the school year to reassure students and families.
The District recently agreed to lease a portion of Mt. View Elementary to ESD 189 to house the Whatcom Discovery Program beginning in July 2018. Discovery is a special education program that serves behaviorally challenged students from all seven Whatcom County School Districts. Currently, there are a total of 38 students enrolled, nine of whom live in Ferndale. The program has been housed in a leased facility in south Bellingham for the past several years, and we have been busing our nine students to and from that location every day.
The principal of Discovery is a former Ferndale teacher, Anita Tromp, who taught special education classes at Skyline Elementary and Ferndale High schools, and completed her principal internship at FHS.
Mrs. Tromp approached us several months ago about the possibility of moving Discovery to the Mt. View site. Since that time, we have been involved in discussions and negotiations.
On May 29, the School Board approved a lease agreement between our district, ESD 189, and the Whatcom Discovery Program. The duration of the lease is 37 months. We do not want to tie up the building for too long, since we expect we will need to use it in the future. On the other hand, we had to grant a long enough lease to make it worthwhile for the Discovery Program to pay for the needed improvements to the facility.
The advantages of this agreement include:
• Discovery will pay for repairs to the building that we do not have dollars to pay for ourselves at this time.
• Regular tenants in the building will reduce vandalism and other unwanted activity on the Mt. View campus.
• Once the building is opened up, cleaned up, and fixed up, the district will be able to use sections of it (like the library) for meeting space, thereby reducing the need to use our schools during the school day. (Discovery is only going to inhabit the classrooms in the office wing of the school.)
• The District will realize revenue from the lease agreement.
• The District will save both dollars and bus driver hours by not having to transport nine Ferndale students to and from south Bellingham every day.
The recent activity at Mt. View is a combination of our staff cleaning the building and contractors hired by Discovery making repairs.
The Ferndale School District may install a generator to support Beach (or any school) if that purchase is warranted and the cost can be justified. At this point, the purchase of a generator at Beach cannot be justified.
While the School District supports and participates in community preparedness activities, we are not in a position to prioritize the purchase of equipment that is not specifically intended for School District work.
Ferndale voters are being asked to consider a bond in November 2018 for several priorities, including a new Ferndale High School, modernization of the Performing Arts Center, safety and security, and critical maintenance projects. The Community Bond Task Force that recommended this bond package also recommended that a Community Task Force be established in the future to evaluate our elementary school buildings, including looking into the feasibility of putting generators at each site. We anticipate this question will be considered at a later date.
The 2018-2019 school calendar was completed and approved by the School Board in March 2018. A copy is available on the district website at
Yes, it is true.
- Students were dismissed for a scheduled early release day on Wednesday, May 8.
- After the majority of campus had cleared, an unnamed student waved a handgun at another student while leaving the FHS campus.
- The incident was immediately reported to Ferndale High School Campus Safety and Administration.
What we did about it:
- As soon as the incident was reported, Ferndale High School administrators contacted the Ferndale Police Department.
- The Ferndale Police Department began coordinating an investigation, which included arresting the student who allegedly brought the firearm onto the FHS campus.
At this point, the legal process will move forward. Appropriate school discipline has been applied and there will be consequences for this minor student above and beyond the jurisdiction of the Ferndale School District
We relocated students from two classrooms at Skyline this last week. After discovery of water damage in a classroom at Skyline, we wanted to make sure that the classrooms were empty while we evaluated environmental quality.
We brought in third-party air quality experts right away. Those experts came in, identified the problem, and repaired water damage from a faulty window seal in Room 16. That repair work included opening a wall, cleaning, drying, and repairing all affected areas. We then asked for another round of environmental testing in Room 15, Room 16, and other areas throughout our school. Those tests came back clear.
Because tests came back clear, classes were returned to Room 15 and Room 16 on Wednesday, May 16.
The purpose of an Oversight Committee is to provide accountability for 2018 Bond spending.
Anyone can apply to be on the committee with a few qualifications:
- Committee members must be Ferndale School District residents.
- They cannot be a current FSD employee, board member, vendor, contractor, or consultant.
- They cannot be a current City of Ferndale employee or consultant.
- They should be active community members.
- Experience in a range of professions specific to the 2018 bond projects (building design/construction, project management, accounting, real estate, finance, education, etc.) is preferred.
- Good standing and reputation in the community for fairness and transparency is critical.
If you are interested in applying to be part of the committee, you can pick up an application form from any member of the Bond Committee or at the District Office. Once you return it, you will be contacted.
During their meetings, Community Bond Task Force members discussed several options for the high school. They considered the affordability of each option, the desire for facilities to support “Ferndale Pride,” and concerns about whether updating existing facilities (e.g. gym, cafeteria and the PAC) instead of building new ones would create more maintenance needs down the road.
Regarding FHS, Task Force members considered three main options: (1) building a whole new high school, on the existing site; (2) keeping and modernizing the performing arts center, gym complex, and cafeteria and building the remaining areas of the high school new; or (3) building a whole new high school on a different site, which would need to be purchased. After much discussion about these three options and several variations, Task Force members ended up recommending that we build all new high school buildings except the performing arts center, which should be modernized.
The main reasons for their recommendation include the following:
Cost: The estimated cost for the partial renovation/partial new option (maintaining the three buildings that are in good enough shape to be brought up to code) is $97 million. The estimated cost for a whole new Ferndale High School, except for a renovated performing arts center, is $107 million (which includes $2 million for upgrades to the PAC and $4 million for the stadium, track and field). Task Force members reasoned that, for $10 million more, we could (a) end up with a much better facility and (b) prevent taxpayers from having to deal with more critical maintenance needs in 10-20 years.
Design: New construction will provide the flexibility to create an energy-efficient two-story facility that supports current and future educational programs, whereas a renovation would require “working around” old buildings to integrate them with new ones and compromising in the process on program needs.
Safety: New construction will increase the ability to limit access to the high school building and implement other modern safety features.
Site Improvements: New construction will also address drainage issues on the current high school site.
Student Convenience: Building a new facility adjacent to the existing one will allow students to stay in the old building until the new one is complete, whereas a renovation would require them to move several times during the construction project.
Performing Arts Center: The decision to keep the current performing arts center is based on the fact that (a) it is larger than most districts can afford to include in new construction at today’s prices; (b) it was state-of-the-art when it was built and remains an excellent high school facility; (c) upgrades to electrical, mechanical, and sound systems can correct most of the current deficiencies in the building; and (d) moving some classes out of the performing arts center and into the new high school can free up additional space needed for the performing arts.
All the options the Task Force discussed, along with their reasons for rejecting or selecting them, are explained in more detail on the Bond Task Force website. See pages 7-8 of the Final Recommendations Report (https://fsdbondtaskforce.participate.online).
School bonds are funded through property taxes. Considering the increase everyone in Ferndale saw on their most recent 2018 property tax statement, that could understandably be cause for alarm. However, the tax story for the 2018 Bond is a much happier one.
Taxes went up significantly in 2018 for one year only. This one-year increase resulted from the McCleary decision made by the State Legislature to shift more of the funding of basic education from the local level to the state level. For one year only (2018), we are experiencing an overlap as both new state education taxes and old local education taxes are being collected. This will change in 2019 resulting in a significant decrease in education taxes overall.
So what will the bond cost if it passes?
In 2019, the school taxes on a $300,000 house will be $45 less per year than they were in 2017. (We are leaving 2018 out of these comparisons since, as explained above, it is an anomaly.) Taxes for 2020 through 2022 on a $300,000 house will be $45 more per year than they were in 2017. From 2023 on, taxes on a $300,000 house will be $36 per year less per year than they were in 2017. (This decrease will occur in 2023 because the school district’s one existing bond will be paid off in 2022.)
It’s true Custer is getting a new principal beginning in July 2018. Mrs. Kim Hawes, currently serving as half-time principal of Windward High School and half-time Early Learning Director, will be moving into the leadership role at Custer.
Kim started her career in Ferndale as a primary teacher. She served as principal of Eagleridge Elementary and principal of Vista Middle School before moving into her current position – so she brings with her a wealth of excellent experience spanning pre-school through grade 12. She requested the move to Custer when the principalship there became open, and we are thrilled to have her in this new role.
The principal position at Custer opened up because the current principal, John Fairbairn, has been selected to serve in a district-level capacity as Executive Director of Human Resources. John will be replacing Paul Douglas, currently leading the HR Department, when Paul moves down the district office hall into the role of Executive Director of Student Services. Paul will be replacing the current leader of our Student Services Department, Jill Iwasaki, who is retiring on June 30, 2018.
Again this summer, our school district is planning to run five summer learning programs for students. Classes will begin on June 25 and run through July 20. Tuition for the district’s summer programs is free to students who qualify. Free transportation and a healthy snack will be provided as well.
Jump Start is an early learning readiness program for incoming kindergartners who have had limited exposure to formal school settings.
The Elementary Summer Success Program serves students in grades K-4 who need additional support in reading or math.
Summer Trek is a middle-to-high-school program that engages students to be community problem-solvers by involving them in service learning projects.
Credit Retrieval is a high school program that allows students in grades 9-12 to make up the credits they need for graduation by completing online coursework.
Extended School Year serves special education students in grades K-12 who need continued learning support in the summer to maintain gains made during the school year.
The Credit Retrieval and Summer Trek prorams will be based at Ferndale High School. The elementary programs will be based at Skyline Elementary, which is also where our Summer School Coordinator, Melissa Solorzano, will locate her office.
The Lummi Nation School is also running summer school programs this year. So Ferndale students who are enrolled members of the Lummi Nation may also take advantage of summer learning opportunities provided on the reservation. Any high school credits earned through the Lummi program will be honored by the Ferndale District.
We intentionally started our new Ferndale Community Connections (homeschool support) Program small this spring so we could work out all the logistics before a full-scale launch in September 2018. Opening on the North Bellingham campus on April 10, 2018, we have been serving 13-15 students in grades K-8 with two wonderful teachers for the past seven weeks. We definitely plan to continue the program in the fall, expanding our enrollment and also the grades we will be able to support from K-8 to K-10.
The Ferndale Family Connections Program is available to any K-10 student living within the boundaries of the Ferndale School District. It is also open to students from other places who obtain the required release from their home district.
For more information about Ferndale Family Connections, contact Lea Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-383-9200.
Kindergarten registration for the 2018-2019 school year began in February 2018, although it is never too late to get your new little student signed up for school. The best people to help you do so are the principal and his/her assistant in the main office of your home school. (That means if you live in the Eagleridge attendance area, you should register your student in the Eagleridge main office. If you live in the Custer attendance area, you should register your student in the Custer main office. And so on.) If you are not sure which school is your home school, contact Lea Morris at email@example.com or 360-383-9200. She will gladly assist you.
Our District DOES have a great CTE (Career and Technical Education) program. In CTE we strive to educate the whole student through academic rigor and hands-on learning. We use industry standards as our measure whenever possible. We believe in learning through doing and strive to give students relevant experiences that solidify their plan for after high school.
Areas of CTE study that we offer at Ferndale High School include:
- Business & Finance
- Family & Consumer Science
- Media Technology
- Photo Design
- Sports Medicine
We do have students on “flexible” schedules on a case-by-case basis.
The bottom-line is that being chronically absent or having attendance challenges does not automatically put a student on a flexible schedule. Attendance is usually a side effect of something deeper whether it is health or family issues or other behavior concerns.
We do what’s best for students and try to meet them where they’re at. Nonetheless, they are still required to meet the graduation requirements in order to receive a FHS diploma.
The Ferndale School District is regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and is audited annually by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO).
The State Auditor’s Office just completed their audit of our District for 2017, and we earned clean audit results in the areas of accountability and general financial practices. We are celebrating this news and also the members of our Business and Accounting Team who work so hard every day to achieve these kind of results.
The Citizen Bond Task Force recommended a package of projects for Ferndale School Board’s consideration. The School Board accepted the package as presented. The projects include:
FINAL FERNDALE BOND PACKAGE:
Community Oversight Committee: to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package, and that all projects are implemented as planned.
NEW Ferndale High School: $105 Million
Modernization of existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale HS: $2 Million
Critical Needs (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
Safety & Security at all FSD buildings: $1 Million
Total Recommendation: $112 Million
Yes. Free & Reduced lunch applications must be filled out every year.
The District currently has over $60,000 in unpaid school lunch debt. Much of that would have been covered had an application been completed.
If an application for Free & Reduced lunch is not completed by October lunch debt begins to accumulate. The balance that is accumulated in the absence of a Free & Reduced lunch application is applied to a student’s account; and, unfortunately, any debt incurred before the completed application has been received and processed cannot be erased once the application is in.
That is why it is so important to fill out those applications early in the fall of every school year.
As part of the District’s safety program we have encouraged and supported law enforcement training at our schools. We share a belief with our local law enforcement agencies that law enforcement personnel who are familiar with our schools will be better prepared to come to our aide when we need them.
While we have not had an increase in training events, we are working to communicate with our community in advance when we know that law enforcement will have a presence at our schools.
The County SWAT team was using Vista after school hours on April 19 for Tac Med class, which is the professional version of “Stop the Bleed.” As part of our partnership with local law enforcement, the School District allows them to use our facilities for classes as well as tactical trainings.
No. No Ferndale teachers have been pulled out of class this year to train for the administration of state assessments. All training has occurred during non-student time. The assessment itself does occur during the school day, as required by the state, and teachers monitor the tests.
The District works hard to minimize the amount of time we pull teachers away from their students for meetings or trainings. The purpose of student early release days is to provide collaborative work time and professional training for teachers on a schedule that is predictable for families and that minimizes the impact of the current shortage of substitute teachers.
The District administration published a statement saying they do not favor arming teachers, but some citizens asked specifically about the School Board’s position on this topic.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board does not intend to put in place a policy that contradicts the law.
The School Board discussed the concept of arming teachers with Ferndale Chief of Police Kevin Turner at their Study Session on April 18, 2018. The Chief shared pros and cons but ultimately indicated that he feels the dangers of arming teachers outweigh any safety benefits. Therefore, he is not in favor of arming teachers. This conversation reinforced the position of the School Board and the District administration against arming teachers in our school buildings.
The Police Department is helping the District train staff and students. Some parents and other local citizens have asked where they can get training as well.
To the extent that they have the necessary manpower, the Ferndale Police Department will put on active shooter response trainings for groups – churches, businesses, civic organizations, etc. – upon request. They also offer periodic trainings for individuals. A schedule of such trainings is posted on their website.
We do not have routers on the ceilings of our classrooms. Wireless networks use low-powered Radio Frequency (RF) transmitters called wireless access points to communicate with other low-powered transmitters in our students’ computers and other portable equipment like cell phones. The amount of Radio Frequency energy is very low and falls off significantly when individual students are not using their computers.
International research has failed to show any connection between Radio Frequency energy and health issues, especially when the RF fields fall below international safety limits, as ours do. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a statement recently saying that "no health effects are expected from exposure to RF fields from [cellular] base stations and wireless networks (WHO 2006).”
No. Officers of the law are exempt from the School District’s “no guns at school” policy. They are allowed to bring their guns onto our campuses.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board has not to date put in place a policy that contradicts the law, so right now a teacher would not be permitted to carry a gun in a school building.
The School Board has not had a conversation about changing its policy on guns. However, members of the executive administration have talked about this idea with the Ferndale Chief of Police. The Chief indicated he is not in favor of arming teachers. Based on our conversation with law enforcement and other members of our Safety Advisory Committee, the Ferndale School District administration does not support teachers with guns in our schools.
The Task Force’s recommendations for the bond include the following:
- Build a mostly new Ferndale High School (everything except the Performing Arts Center): $105 Million
- Modernize the existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale High School: $2 Million
- Address the most critical needs across the District (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
- Enhance safety and security in all District buildings: $1 Million
- Run a total bond package of $112 Million
- Form a Community Oversight Committee to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package and that all projects are implemented as planned
As a whole, I want to be careful not to speak for the Task Force. The citizen group is an independent body. I can, however, report regarding some of the discussions I observed on this point.
The Task Force did not come to consensus on the issue of renovating North Bellingham to reopen it as an elementary school. The group went back and forth about how to balance overall cost, value, and long-term need across the entire bond recommendation package.
A strong majority of Task Force members asked the full group to consider withholding the renovation or North Bellingham from its recommendations for the 2018 bond out of respect for overall cost. In addition, there were lengthy discussions regarding enrollment projections for our elementary schools. At this time, enrollment does not show immediate need for more space.
The short answer is “yes.”
Our student athletes in multiple sports, including track and soccer, are no longer able to use our facilities for home games and meets. Other athletic facilities, including the football stadium, are in real need of repair and/or replacement. Upgrades to all our student athletic facilities will be achieved through investments from the bond package, if it passes in November 2018.
Earlier this month (March 2018), the School District was notified by Whatcom County Health Department that we had one diagnosed case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at Ferndale High School and one case at Horizon Middle School. (The two diagnosed students are siblings.)
The District’s practice related to infectious diseases is to follow the directions of the Health Department. In this situation, the Health Department directed us to send a letter to all families and individuals who may have had possible exposure to the students with the diagnosis. On March 15, we sent such a letter of notification to all parents and guardians of FHS and Horizon students. The Health Department did not direct us to exclude anyone from any of our schools.
As part of the District’s commitment to ongoing maintenance at Mountain View, we removed the portables recently. The portables had outlived their useful life and we want to make sure that we are great neighbors and caretakers of school district property.
The District plans to continue to maintain the Mt. View property, including the existing play structure. We are open to the possibility of hosting programs and/or long-term tenants, and we will be caring for the buildings with that in mind.
Safety is on everyone’s mind. District administrators have held several meetings recently to talk about how we can enhance our safety programs. Plans resulting from those meetings include the following:
- Working in conjunction with our building leaders and community first responders, we are initiating a process of reviewing, re-assessing, and revamping all our building safety plans looking specifically at evacuation plans and best practices related to emergency response.
- We are scheduling trainings at each school and worksite between March 27 and the end of the year to make sure all staff are briefed on any changes in safety plans and/or procedures.
- We are planning to start a monthly safety newsletter for all district staff.
- We are amplifying our efforts to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Two strategies we are looking at for accomplishing this work are: (1) expanding the scope of the District Safety Advisory Committee (SAC) to focus on prevention as well as response; and (2) pulling all the various pieces of this work together (PBIS, Second Step, the Ferndale Community Coalition, etc.) under one director beginning summer 2018.
- In the spirit of relationship building, we are implementing a new program called “Bite with a Buddy.” In order to get more first responders into our schools and interacting with our students and staff in non-crisis situations, Sodexo (Ferndale’s food service provider) has agreed to provide free breakfast or lunch to any of them who will come into school lunchrooms to sit down and eat with our students.
In 2017, 80.4 percent of high school seniors at Ferndale High School graduated on-time.
Beginning with the graduating class of 2011, the State of Washington began mandating the use of an adjusted cohort method for calculating graduation rate in all state high schools. To calculate graduation based on this method, we track a “cohort” of first-time 9th graders in a particular school year, and adjust this number by adding any students who transfer into the cohort after 9th grade and subtracting any students who transfer out.
The on-time graduation rate is the percentage of the students in this cohort who graduate within four years.
This question was first raised in our community in the summer of 2016. As a result of the question, our Assistant Superintendent, Scott Brittain, decided to join a state-wide review task force with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia to become better informed about the piece of legislation that governs the new health standards, the content of the standards, and the state’s plan for implementing those standards.
Through this work, Mr. Brittain learned that the health standards are broad statements with which very few of us would disagree. They include assertions such as “Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.” There is little controversy about the standards themselves, but questions have arisen about some of the suggested grade-level outcomes, especially as they relate to gender identity and orientation.
Mr. Brittain learned that the state is clear about learning standards, but less prescriptive about outcomes. The following text is directly from the state:
The state determines learning standards. Standards are broad statements about what students should know and be able to do. They are required to be taught in public schools.
Districts, schools and teachers determine grade-level outcomes. Grade-level outcomes (or student learning outcomes) described in the standards are optional for schools and teachers.
Districts, schools and teachers select textbooks and other teaching materials (curriculum and instructional materials). The choice of textbooks and other teaching materials, the development of lesson plans and grade-level instruction, and the use of grade-level outcomes are all up to each school district.
The only state legislative requirements for health education topics are CPR and AED instruction, suicide prevention and mental health, and HIV and STD prevention (annual HIV prevention education beginning no later than fifth grade).
Sexual health education is optional. If a district chooses to offer sexual health education, it must be medically and scientifically accurate, age appropriate, appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status, and consistent with the Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease Prevention. These are requirements of the Healthy Youth Act, which was passed by the state legislature in 2007.
Parents may opt their students out of all or part of sexual health education classes.
Since we last responded to questions about the new health standards, we have worked with stakeholders to make decisions about grade-level learning outcomes that are aligned with the values of our Ferndale schools, families, and community. As a result, we have decided not to teach sexual identity/orientation in any of our Ferndale elementary schools.
Further questions on this topic may be directed to Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the core elements under consideration by the Bond Task Force is creation of a Citizen Oversight Committee separate from the School District and the School Board that would oversee the use of bond funds throughout the capital construction and renovation projects. The Oversight Committee would be charged with reporting to the community on a regular basis about how their tax dollars were being spent.
District administrators and members of the Bond Task Force share a strong interest in building trust within the community by creating transparency and accountability throughout every phase of the bond process. Other communities have successfully utilized a Citizens Oversight Committee for this purpose.
At the administrative level, we have reviewed research about the benefits of starting school after 8:30 am for teenagers, and we have discussed the possibility of altering our current school schedules in Ferndale. However, we have not to date made any concrete plans to change the start time of our high schools and middle schools from the current 7:40 am.
Beginning in Fall 2017, the Bellingham School District changed its school start and end times. This year, Bellingham elementary students are attending classes from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm (in the past, elementary hours were 8:30 am to 3:00 pm); and Bellingham secondary students are attending classes from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm (in the past, secondary hours were 7:45 am to 2:15 pm). Availability of buses requires that elementary and secondary times be staggered in Bellingham, as it does in Ferndale.
Making this schedule change was a lengthy process in Bellingham. The administration proposed several options before they came up with a plan that wasn’t rejected either by parents or one of their unions. We hope we can learn from their research and experience to avoid some of the pitfalls they encountered, should we decide to start down the road of making such a change in our district. To this end, we plan to request information from Bellingham at the end of the current school year about the pros and cons of their transition.
Although the conversation about changing start times has been ongoing at the administrative level in Ferndale, we have received very few inquiries about this topic from our staff or parents, and we have heard no significant community support for the change.
In order to work from a common definition of “overcrowding,” the district and the teachers’ union have worked together to determine class size targets at each grade level. When class sizes exceed those targets, we have also outlined in contract language the process for addressing the overage.
Elementary class targets are as follows:
- Kindergarten…20 students
- First Grade…23 students
- Second Grade...25 students
- Third Grade…25 students
- Fourth Grade…27 students
- Fifth Grade…27 students
Since student enrollment numbers change throughout the year as some students move in and others move out, we get a new report of our class sizes across the district on the 10th day of each month. At our last report, we had 22 elementary classrooms over the targets out of a total of 93 elementary classrooms districtwide. They were as follows:
- 8 Kindergarten Classrooms: three at 21, three at 22, one at 24, and one at 25
- 4 First Grade Classrooms: one at 24, one at 25, and two at 26
- 0 Second Grade Classrooms
- 2 Third Grade Classrooms: one at 26 and one at 27
- 2 Fourth Grade Classrooms: both at 30
- 5 Fifth Grade Classrooms: one at 29, three at 30, and one at 31
- 1 Fourth/Fifth Grade Combination Classroom: at 29
As per our contract with teachers, when a classroom exceeds its target by one or two students, we increase the teacher’s pay. If the number grows larger than two over the target, the principal works with the teacher and district administrators to determine some kind of additional assistance. As outlined in the contract, such assistance might include adding planning time for the teacher, para-educator support in the classroom, or another teacher at that grade level. In some instances, remedies have also included closing enrollment at a particular school or even moving a student from one school to another when doing so works for the family.
We also have target numbers in our contract for secondary schools, and they work similarly. However, the secondary targets are more complicated and harder to capture in a simple chart, since teachers teach multiple classes, subjects, and grades.
In Ferndale, our schools already serve as hubs of community activity. Large crowds gather under the Friday night lights of the stadium to cheer on the high school football team. Concerts and plays draw huge throngs. Local sports clubs use our athletic fields and gyms. We give space to service providers whose mission is to serve children and youth. Recently, both the Ferndale Food bank and the Ferndale Public Library have contacted us about placing distribution and drop-off services on our campuses.
We are very excited to be welcoming the community in a new way beginning in March when we will begin offering adult ELL classes at Ferndale High School. We know that families of our ELL students need English language support in order to best support students and we look forward to using our high school library for this purpose.
We would welcome the chance to implement additional ways our high school in particular could be used by the community, and we believe a new and improved high school facility would support us in doing so. In fact, we envision a school that is deliberately designed to be a center of our community and serve a wider variety of community needs in some or all of the following ways:
- Helping to meet the community’s leisure, recreational, and wellness needs. (School facilities can be used for the kind of enrichment programs – festivals, theater performances, concerts – that enhance a community’s cultural assets at a fraction of what it would cost to duplicate the same types of spaces elsewhere.)
- Being accessible to people of all ages. (An onsite daycare facility could help fill a growing shortage of such services and also provide a learning lab for future teachers. A school building designed to be open later or longer could permit senior citizens to use the gym and health facilities during non-school hours or take evening classes in a computer or art lab.)
- Encouraging more active parental involvement. (A parent resource center built into the school could send a powerful message that we want parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.)
- Supporting relationships with local businesses that are productive to students and supportive of the local economy. (A school facility should also be welcoming to community mentors and local businesses. We have even seen high schools designed to house branches of certain businesses, like a sponsored student store or a small bank where students can apply their learning.)
- Allowing creative space and time configurations to expand the concepts of “school day.” (We believe we need schools that support learning after hours, at night, and on weekends, and where school-to-school partnerships and collaborations with higher education are encouraged and supported.)
The mission of the Ferndale Community Coalition is to build safe and healthy communities by providing leadership, promoting prevention, and building partnerships that mobilize youth, families, and neighborhoods to promote healthy relationships and consent, and reduce substance abuse, and other destructive behaviors, among youth and the broader community.
The Ferndale Community Coalition (FCC), established in 2012, is a group of Ferndale School District staff and community partners who share a common mission to promote youth health, safety, and resiliency. Meeting monthly, the members of the FCC are focused on creating the type of community in which we want our young people to work, live and play. They understand that, what no single organization or agency can do alone, we can accomplish together.
The FCC was born out of a STEP grant our district received from the U.S. Department of Justice. We were of one of nine communities in the country selected to receive this grant seven years ago. Recently we were the only one of the original nine grantees to be given a second grant by the Department of Justice (called Safe Futures). The reasons for the continued funding have everything to do with the diversity of our community coalition and the willingness our group has shown to come together around youth and families.
The Ferndale Community Coalition has become recognized as a model in the state for supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.
We are proud of students for taking action about something they believe in. We think it is our responsibility to protect and support their First Amendment rights, so long as we can do so without jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others. We want to help them exercise their voices in respectful dialogue and debate about issues that matter to them, especially since we know that passion and advocacy can lead to powerful learning.
At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that all students feel safe and respected no matter what side of a particular issue they are on. To this end, our schools and classes operated on normal schedules during the county-wide student protest/walk-out on February 21.
We also respect the role of parents in these activities. We informed our high school students know that we expected them to stay on campus on February 21 unless they had permission from their parents to participate in the off-campus protest. We demanded that our middle school students stay on campus unless they were physically picked up and transported by a parent or guardian. In a letter we sent to all parents, we asked them to talk with their older children about the protest that took place or February 21, whether or not they participated in it. Because we are aware that additional student-led events are being planned across the state and country for the weeks and months ahead, we encourage parents to help prepare young people for similar situations they may face in the future.
During the week of February 20-23, two concerning online communications were brought to the district’s attention.
The first was a hoax involving a school safety threat that was widely communicated online. The threat was investigated by the Ferndale Police Department and other police departments across the country. For more information please see a statement from the Ferndale Police Department. Although this incident turned out to be a hoax, we encouraged our community to assume all threats are credible and to continue to report all safety concerns.
The second concern brought to our attention centered on a Snapchat conversation from an unidentified user that was shared with multiple Ferndale High School students. The conversation, which contained a statement that could be interpreted as a threat, was reported to Ferndale High School administration who in turn shared it with the Ferndale Police Department. An active investigation ensued immediately, along with enhanced security and support on the high school campus.
We are always hyper-vigilant when it comes to student safety. We know the best way to ensure our children’s safety is to work together. We applaud the students, staff, and parents who have shared their concerns with us.
If you have information, tips or concerns about a safety issue, we encourage you to contact one of our schools or our district office directly. You can also report through our anonymous portal online at https://ferndale-wa.safeschoolsalert.com/ or by calling or texting 360.383.5353 or emailing email@example.com.
Windward High School has always been a school of choice. For the past 14 years, it has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it. During the past few years, however, fewer students have elected the Windward option. Last spring only seven freshmen enrolled. When this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school. Sadly, that means we have had to decide that 2017-2018 will be Windward’s final year.
We didn’t make this decision until after the 2017-2018 school year had already begun. Last spring, the WHS staff and district administration put more effort into recruiting than ever, and right up until the last minute, we hoped more students would enroll. When they did not, we were forced to realize that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation.
With closure looking like an inevitability, we decided to make the decision final sooner rather than later. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to work with students and families to ensure each makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
While our main goal is to provide care and support for students as they go through this transition, we also want to support our Windward staff. All of them are guaranteed continued employment in the Ferndale School District next year. However, just as we need time with students, we need time to confer with each staff member about a future assignment that best fits his or her needs and desires.
On Thursday, January 25, Windward students and families, along with other secondary students in the district, were invited to an evening event on the WHS campus to provide information about the following high school options that will be available next year:
The Soar Program was created by the Ferndale School District several years ago as an option for students who have had barriers to success in a traditional high school setting but desire to graduate. One of its primary purposes was to provide an option for students to obtain Ferndale School District diploma by earning Washington State’s required 24 credits, just as Windward students do, rather than the 30 credits required of students at Ferndale High School. SOAR operates as a small school-within-a-school program at Ferndale High School. It provides a blended model with some online courses, some direct instruction, and access to a variety of Ferndale High School curricular and extracurricular programs. Its flexibility is designed to accommodate students who have outside commitments such as employment, medical needs, or family responsibilities.
Ferndale Virtual Academy will provide a personalized, flexible approach for students who want either a blended or fully online, anywhere, anytime approach to learning. Coursework at Ferndale Virtual Academy will be provided through the well-established and accredited Spokane Virtual Learning system. The menu of classes includes: 47 core courses, 7 Advanced Placement College Board approved courses, and a number of credit retrieval and elective courses. Students will be supported in their learning by Ferndale teachers through regular weekly check-ins and tutoring as needed. They will also have access to the virtual learning instructors who work in Spokane’s Virtual Learning system, all of whom are Washington State certificated teachers assigned to specific courses in which they are qualified.
IMPACT!, run by Bellingham Technical College on the BTC campus, is a flexible route to academic and career success. In addition to core academic subjects, students get support with such college and career readiness skills as time management, stress reduction, study skills, and accessing campus and community resources. They also get to take advantage of BTC’s career-focused programs leading to a two-year degree or technical certificate at no cost to them or their families.
Running Start gives 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to get an early start on their college careers by attending all or some of their classes at a local community college and earning credit for those classes at both the high school and the college levels. Running Start is available to Ferndale students at both Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College.
Ferndale High School remains another option for Windward students for part or all of their day.
In addition, the district is willing to work with families who want to design a completely new option (like a small evening high school) if enough interest exists for doing so.
We are working hard to create transparency at the School District. This means opening up, sharing our story, and answering questions. It also means finding new ways to reach people.
Over the last few months we have taken a long hard look at how we get information out to our community, and we are trying new things including an increased focus on social media; a brand new E-newsletter we published at the end of January; a new “We Are Ferndale” blog series; a trial run with Facebook Live (to communicate about Windward); and a general increase in opportunities for the community to interact with the school district.
At a recent Bond Task Force meeting, a question was raised by a community member about why the district no longer offers summer school programs.
Actually, the district offers five different summer school programs:
- Jump Start is an early learning readiness program for incoming kindergartners who have had limited exposure to formal school settings. Last summer we had 80 little Jump Starters in the summer program.
- The Elementary Summer Success Program serves students in grades K-4 who need additional support in reading or math. Last summer nearly 120 students participated.
- Summer Trek is a middle-to-high-school program that engages students to be community problem-solvers by involving them in service learning projects. Last summer approximately 30 students worked on projects dealing with water quality and hunger.
- Credit Retrieval is a high school program that allows students in grades 9-12 to make up the credits they need for graduation by completing online coursework. Last summer more than 90 students took advantage of this program.
- Extended School Year serves special education students in grades K-12 who need continued learning support to maintain gains made during the school year. Last summer, about two dozen students were enrolled.
What we don’t have in Ferndale that we used to have (more than a decade ago) is a summer program strictly for enrichment classes aimed at developing or extending students’ interests, like painting or robotics or creative writing. When such a summer school did exist in Ferndale, it was financially supported by community partners. The district would be willing to facilitate such an enrichment program again in the future. However, we do not have funding for teachers or supplies.
Every absence is a learning opportunity lost.
Studies show that missing just 10 percent or more of school (defined as chronic absenteeism) – whether absences are excused, unexcused, or due to suspension – predicts lower levels of numeracy and literacy for students by third grade, class failure in middle school, and higher levels of suspension.
Ultimately, missing school can lead to a greater likelihood that students will drop out of high school and/or have lower levels of persistence in college. Every absence, excused or unexcused, can have significant impacts on a student’s success in school and life.
With that said, we know some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances, and we are not suggesting parents should send sick children to school. We just want to make sure they are armed with good information about the impact of attendance, which is the reason we are focusing so intently on this topic across our district.
Over the years, drainage problems have buckled the track’s surface making it uneven and unsafe for student use.
In 2009, the district paid a contractor $50,000 to make repairs to the track. He was reluctant to do so, because the only thing possible was a one-year emergency fix. We went ahead with the work despite the lack of a warranty because we didn’t want to deny our students or our community the use of this part of our facility. However, the fix didn’t last. Within two years, the track surface had returned to its previous unsafe state. Even if we wanted to continue to invest in temporary fixes, we would not be able to find contractors who would take on the work. According to their expert opinion, the only remedy is to rebuild the track completely above the water table.
Depending on the recommendations of the Bond Task Force and the decisions of the School Board, a new track may be part of the bond package offered to voters in November 2018.
A rat was discovered in our 400 Hallway on January 19, 2018. Maintenance staff trapped and removed the rat that day. School District staff also contacted rodent exterminators that day and requested an extensive inspection of our buildings with action as needed.
There has been at least one other sighting of a rat in an FHS building this fall and also some evidence of rat droppings. We take health and safety seriously and are committed to addressing this problem through a thorough process.
As part of our process, the Health Department inspected our buildings at Ferndale High School. The health inspector gave us a general thumbs up saying that the district is doing the right things to address the rodent problem. When we get his official report, we will be sharing it with the community.
Our community has been engaged in healthy dialogue about student safety and bullying. This conversation has given us the opportunity to listen to concerns and share our policies and practices.
Bullying is never ok. We are adamant on this point and principals in every Ferndale School District school are committed to supporting students who report bullying behavior. All of them have created procedures for reporting and dealing with bullying. All of them have also implemented teaching programs specifically designed to prevent bullying altogether and/or to stop it quickly if it occurs. Such programs include PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), Second Step, and Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
As part of our effort to bring the community into this conversation about putting an end to bullying, we are hosting an upcoming Facebook Live session with our secondary principals on this topic. More information will be forthcoming.
Yes. At their meeting on January 22, the members of the Technology Advisory Committee decided to change our current practice regarding internet filtering on student devices.
All of our student devices are equipped with a filtering system called iBoss, which is a firewall that denies access to internet sites that may be inappropriate for school-age users including many social media sites. The iBoss is activated on all student computers all the time they are at school. However, when secondary students have taken their devices home, they have no longer been covered by the iBoss filtering system unless parents or guardians have requested that it be extended to cover all internet networks at all times. In other words, we have been operating our out-of-school filtering as an opt-in system with the default being no filtering except that which parents themselves impose. The decision to set things up this way was made by the Technology Task Force when we first started one-to-one and was based on input from parents.
This practice has been under review; and, as a result of that review, we are going to change from an opt-in to an opt-out system for all middle school students. Starting on February 2, the beginning of the new semester, iBoss will be turned on 24-7 unless parents or guardians request that it be turned off when their student(s) leave school. The reasons for this change have to do with online safety and student supervision.
The Community Bond Task Force is made up of approximately 50 volunteers and is run by a neutral outside facilitator. So far, the Task Force has met to evaluate school building conditions, prioritize needs, evaluate future plans, and provide input regarding a potential bond package recommendation. The work of the Task Force is not done. If the Task Force remains on schedule, members will deliver a recommendation to the School Board at the end of February. The School Board will then create a resolution to put before voters in November 2018.
Here are a few examples of the types of questions the Task Force is asking:
- How much space does each school need to accommodate future growth?
- Should we build “new” or “renovate?"
- What do our buildings need to better safeguard our students and staff?
- Are there educational needs we cannot meet in current buildings?
- How much of our building infrastructure is obsolete?
The members of the Bond Task Force have launched their own website to share the work they are doing and also gather input from citizens. It is not too late for any Ferndale citizen to add his/her thoughts to the conversation. Visit the Bond Task Force at https://fsdbondtaskforce.participate.online.
For the past 14 years, Windward High School has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it.
Windward has always been a school of choice. During the past few years, fewer students have chosen the Windward option. Currently, there are fewer than 70 students enrolled, and 25 of them are seniors who will be graduating. Last spring only seven freshmen chose to attend Windward and two of them have left or are planning to leave. This tells us that we need to develop new options.
The current School Board and the district administration have always supported Windward. However, when this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school.
We discovered last spring that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation. The staff and administration put more effort into recruiting than ever and fewer students than ever signed up.
Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close the school at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The School Board and district administration are still deeply committed to providing a variety of options for students. They know one size does not fit all. To this end, they have begun to develop several new options which might be offered beginning in 2018-2019 if students let us know they are “the right options” by choosing them. Such options include: (1) a small evening high school; (2) a virtual academy; (3) a blended learning school-within-a-school with some digital courses and some traditional courses; and (4) a partnership program with Bellingham Technical College that could lead to a technical degree or certificate. This is neither a guaranteed list of options or a comprehensive list, just the beginning of our planning process which we intend to continue with input from students, families, and staff.
The Windward staff, supported by the School Board and district administration, pledges to work with each individual Windward student to ensure he/she makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
The Windward staff are highly valued members of the Ferndale School District team. Their continued employment in the district is guaranteed. Just as we work to find the best possible next placement for each student, we will be conferring with each staff about a future assignment that best fits their needs and desires.
Vista Room 16 has been reserved as a conference space and is regularly used as a meeting space for district and community meetings. Its proximity to the district office and its outside entrance onto the shared parking lot make it ideal for this purpose. However, it does mean that a number of people are entering the Vista building each week without checking in at the main office, which is located on the other side of the campus.
This situation has raised questions about what measures we are taking to ensure appropriate security at Vista. Such measures include:
- Ensuring the Vista main office staff is aware of the meeting schedule in Vista Room 16.
- Requiring everyone who attends a meeting in Vista Room 16 to wear an official school district identification badge or an authorized visitor badge.
- Requiring meeting attendees to use only the staff restrooms at Vista, not the student restrooms.
The district owns a 29-acre piece of land on Church Road. However, this parcel is not big enough for a comprehensive high school with numerous CTE (Career & Technical Education) offerings, a very popular performing arts curriculum, a large athletic program, and all the parking required by these activities. Such a high school would require a minimum of 40 acres.
We provide laptops to all our students because they are important learning tools in today’s society, and they will continue to be so in the future in which our children are going to live and work. They are the textbooks of this era. We have decided to issue them to students to use full-time for all the same reasons we used to issue textbooks to students to take home with them. Our motivation is aimed at ensuring equity. Some students have their own devices at home that they can use for doing school projects or other kinds of learning. Some students do not have their own devices. By giving a school device to everyone, we are trying to level the playing field.
The question has been raised about whether students can use their laptops for non-school-related uses. Although the initial Technology Use Agreement we drafted for students and parents to sign specified the devices were only for schoolwork, we are coming to realize that a hard line about school-only use is very hard to maintain for students and staff, and we are rethinking that part of our contract. If a student wants to check weather patterns on his or her device to see how warmly to dress tomorrow, do we want to prohibit that? If they want to check movie times or email a friend in the evening or at lunchtime, should that be against the rules? We think the internet is so ubiquitous and our students are working on assignments that are so diverse, it becomes difficult to draw a box around what is school work and what is not. Therefore, our approach is moving toward a hard line between what is appropriate and what is not, rather than what is schoolwork and what is not.
We have implemented a filter system within the school district that prevents students from accessing websites that have been deemed inappropriate. We also provide guidance to parents and guardians about how they can manage and/or block their children’s internet use at home. With that said, we realize we can never do enough blocking or filtering to keep students from misusing technology. We must also teach them to be ethical and critical consumers of the information they find on the internet. We must – and we do -- provide Digital Citizenship education in our classrooms, and we also offer this education to parents and guardians so they can reinforce the concepts at home. Among the topics included in our Digital Citizenship curriculum are digital footprint, safe social media use, cyber bullying, digital etiquette, and health & wellness.
Use of devices by our students is constantly evolving inside and outside of school. Inside school, we used to block Facebook. However, now we are using Facebook as one of our primary district communication tools. Therefore, we allow students access. As things change, neither teachers nor parents alone can be internet patrols all the time. We have to work together.
When students misuse their laptops, our responses vary according to the severity of the misuse. If a student is on a wrong site during a class period, the teacher might just redirect him or her. If a student is using the device to access inappropriate content or to engage in bullying or harassment, the same consequences will apply as they do when these offenses are committed without technology. In addition, students may lose internet privileges.
The district’s improvement goal for behavior states that "in every school, the total number of students assigned Exclusionary Discipline will decrease by 50% or more when compared to the number who were excluded during the 2017 school year." The question was raised about whether this means we will ensure students are “50% better behaved” or we will “reduce our expectations by 50%.” The question is a valid one.
In retrospect, our goal would have been more aptly stated as a desire to reduce the number of students who act in a manner that requires them to be excluded from their classrooms or schools, since it is not our intention to lower our standards for behavior. In fact, we have been working very hard to improve student behavior through more direct teaching of our behavioral expectations. This is a foundational piece of the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) philosophy our district has been working to implement for the past five years. The behavior goal in our district improvement plan is intended to measure the success of that work.
A question was also raised about the second part of our behavior goal, which addresses our desire to eliminate the disparity in the number of disciplinary sanctions applied to various subgroups of students. The questioner referred to the American value that “justice should be blind,” and inferred that all interventions should be applied equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other distinction.
We are committed to fairness and equity, which requires us to take off our blinders and look carefully at what the data might suggest about disparities and inconsistencies in our system. If, for instance, we notice that the subjects of 75% of our discipline referrals are boys and that 75% of our dropouts are boys, we need to ask ourselves whether the behavior of boys is inherently worse than the behavior of girls, or whether our system is not set up to meet the needs of boys as well as it meets the needs of girls.
Our ultimate goal is to meet the needs of all children so they can learn at the highest levels possible, progress successfully through school, earn their diplomas, and become contributing members of our society. We believe it is our responsibility to adjust our system in ways that support this goal.
Our goal is to make the work of the Bond Task Force as transparent and accessible as possible. To this end, we have taken the following steps:
- Instituted a practice of emailing weekly updates on the work of the Bond Task Force to all district staff and School Board members.
- Formed a Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee that will be meeting for the first time on Thursday, November 30. The committee’s agenda will include: (1) developing key messages; (2) communicating the work of the Bond Task Force; (3) exploring online participation channels; and (4) seeking community input.
- Hired a Communications/Social Media Specialist to assist us in getting the word out.
- Committed to creating and maintaining a separate Bond Task Force website, which will be launched by the end of the first week in December, to share information about the Task Force work with the broader community as well as to collect comments and suggestions. Names of Task Force members and dates of all Task Force and sub-committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with agendas, minutes, and supporting materials.
Questions about the work of the Bond Task Force can be directed at any time to Superintendent Linda Quinn (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Assistant Superintendent Mark Deebach (email@example.com).
When the 2017-2018 school year started, the Custer playground was partially but not completely fenced. In September, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, committed to getting this work done by the end of the 2017 calendar year. On November 16, Mr. Plenkovich reported that the fencing project had been completed. The Custer community is grateful for this safety upgrade at their school.
Last school year (2016-2017), we experienced a record number of school days missed due to weather. As one snow day followed another, we realized what a hardship multiple closures can cause for families who have built their work schedules around our school schedules; and we began devising a plan for mitigating some of that impact.
Our goal is to be able to provide a free "day camp" style child care program for district elementary students on snow closure days – should there be any – during the winter of 2017-2018. A survey of elementary parents conducted during fall conferences indicated that such a service would be much appreciated by families.
The planning process for our “Snow Day Camp” is currently underway. The one obstacle the district has encountered, however, is staffing. So far, we have not been able to identify staff members who feel certain they could get to work on snow days to run the camp. (If you know anyone who might be interested in this type of part-time work, please encourage him/her to contact Mark Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When/if our plans are finalized, we will advertise this daycare option to parents of district elementary students. The one requirement for taking advantage of Snow Day Camp will be signing up in advance.
This situation occurred on Friday, November 3. Snow and ice on the roads in parts of the district prevented us from transporting students at the regular start time. Such weather conditions demanded a two-hour delayed start. However, November 3 had already been scheduled as an elementary early release day for parent-teacher conferences. Since it is impossible to run a late arrival and an early release on the same day, we canceled the early release. Although we realized this decision would likely create challenges for some families and would require parents and teachers to reschedule some conferences, we believed it was a better option than canceling the whole day and having to make it up in June.
In the future, any time inclement weather requires a late start on a day that has been previously scheduled for early release, we will cancel the early release and run classes until the regular dismissal time.
Last spring, the Ferndale School District received a school website accessibility complaint from OCR, the Office for Civil Rights. We subsequently learned that school districts and other educational agencies across the country have been similarly notified that their websites are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
The complaint brought to light issues that we were not aware we were neglecting. We learned that school websites – just like other parts of our school campuses – need to be accessible for everyone. We learned that some of the most universal problems are lack of appropriate tagging of pictures and closed captioning of videos, insufficient color contrast, and failure to properly label online forms.
In August, we began taking steps to make all our websites – at the district level and at each school -- more responsive and more accessible to all our audiences. This was a complex process that involved rebuilding each site from the ground up. We contracted with a company called Campus Suite to help us do this work. With their assistance and support, we were able to go live with our new ADA-compliant websites on Friday, November 3. Users may have noticed changes in the appearance of our websites.
We want every student, staff member, parent, and member of the school community at large to be able to utilize fully all the important content on our website. Therefore, we are pleased to have been able to make these necessary improvements.
Currently, we are in the process of training key staff on making sure all future website posts are fully accessible as well.
One of the many winter events we planned last year that was foiled by inclement weather was a holiday-themed community sing-a-long. So, we are going to try again this year.
On Wednesday, December 20 (the day after students are dismissed for Winter Break), the district will be hosting a community holiday event from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Ferndale High School. During the first 90 minutes of the event (5:30-7:00), we are inviting parents to drop off elementary-age students to participate in playing games and decorating cookies while Mom and Dad use the time to shop, hopefully locally, since we are partnering with the Chamber’s “Shop Local” campaign.
At 7:00 pm, parents can bring their gifts back to FHS to take advantage of wrapping services and also to take part in a community sing-along in the FHS gym.
All of these events will be free to the participants.
The first meeting of Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force was held on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Approximately 40 people attended, about one-third district staff and two-thirds community members.
Membership on the Bond Task Force is voluntary. For the past four months, we have published information in various formats through various venues inviting people to take part. We intentionally reached out to community members, since they have historically been an underrepresented voice. The people who showed up at the first meeting were those who responded to the invitation.
All Bond Task Force meetings are open to the public.
Ferndale School District is committed to offering every member of our community a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience. When we fall short of this ideal, we need help in bringing problems to our attention. When someone experiences something that offends or insults, whether it was intentional or unintentional, there are three groups of district staff who are always ready to listen and address concerns: (1) our building principals and assistant principals, (2) our school counselors, and (3) our district office staff (see contact information below).
When we learn about specific incidents that do not meet our standards, we respond. Usually, we begin by collecting as much background information as possible, typically engaging those involved in thoughtful dialogue so that we can better understand how their words or actions may have been inappropriate or hurtful. If the problem is complicated or the behavior is repetitive, we can assign formal retraining. If this does not resolve the problem, we can elevate the case to include some type of formal discipline. This would be true for staff as well as students.
As an example, a parent recently shared with us her concerns about a PTO fundraising message that included as an incentive the school principal’s “becoming an Eskimo and sitting on blocks of ice for 10 minutes.” The parent rightfully deemed this characterization as perpetuating racial stereotypes, oppressive behaviors, and cultural appropriation. The immediate reaction from the school principal (on behalf of both himself and the PTO), the president of the School Board, and the superintendent was to acknowledge the blunder, apologize, and began to apply corrective action. The principal’s responses to the parent included the following statements:
I completely agree with you that this should have never gone out as it is. I will be working with our PTO today to amend the literature and ensure that the rewards that are earned meet a high standard of cultural sensitivity. Please feel free to contact me directly anytime you have concerns. When we all work together, we can do our very best for our children. I apologize that we fell short in this instance and I assure you it will be rectified today.
Thanks again for alerting me that this had gone home so we could fix it. I am sorry that you had to, but glad that you did. I invite you to join our PTO and get involved, as we could really use your perspective and your help. Once again, please accept my apology for any hurt that we caused.
As noted above, our organization is fully committed to honoring, celebrating, and embracing our diverse community. This is a long-term effort that we take very seriously, knowing that we have not yet arrived. We work with all our buildings and departments regularly to build knowledge and understanding about our students’ cultural backgrounds and ways we can serve and elevate them. We monitor programs and student performance to address opportunity and achievement gaps (see our District Improvement Plan) in an effort to provide every child in our care with the highest levels of learning. Finally, we work to engage the broader community in this critical work through events such as our annual Culture Fair.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent, 360.383.9207
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, 360.383.9203
Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9210
Mark Hall, Executive Director for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9211
Jill Iwasaki, Executive Director for Student Services, 360.383.9221
Paul Douglas, Executive Director for Human Resources, 360.383.9206
At the beginning of this school year, we experienced a number of issues with our district instructional technology. Recently, however, our technology is working better in most classrooms and throughout the district.
The district hired a new technology support vendor in late summer, so we anticipated some challenges with our conversion protocols. When we decided to upgrade our Microsoft Office products on 2500 student devices, which we were deploying during the first two weeks of school, we encountered our first major issue. The upgraded Microsoft Office program conflicted with the product that was previously installed on the devices, thereby essentially “crashing” the entire Microsoft Office Suite. In an attempt to repair the problems, we had to slow the network down to inoperable speeds for a period of time, which definitely created a hardship.
In the end, the problem was solved, but not before our entire district was impacted.
Since we recovered from the Microsoft issue, we have been working hard to provide daily service in a more timely fashion. We have not experienced further network or application issues of any great consequence. While we continue to have some “growing” pains with our new service provider, our technology support program is getting better every day.
When we received feedback that the Print Shop was not performing at a level that matched staff expectations, we sought anecdotal information and asked for samples of jobs that were not completed as expected. Staff was very good about providing specific examples, as well as sample jobs, that we were able to pass along to the Print Shop.
Our second step was to conduct a survey open to all staff to get more quantitative information about how the Print Shop was performing and to inform us of specific areas that needed improvement.
We then shared survey results and sample jobs with Ricoh management staff. Ricoh (the vendor who is overseeing this initiative) committed to develop a plan that would get the Print Shop performing at a level that matched our expectations. The action steps they came up with are outlined below in the message from Ricoh’s Print Shop Manager.
Ricoh staff have collaborated on implementing action items that we believe will improve the performance of the Print Shop by addressing concerns about accuracy and timeliness. In the meantime, district staff have stepped in to help complete both printing jobs and the corrective action items they could take care of themselves.
Ferndale Print Shop production improvements and actions developed by Ricoh in early October 2017 include:
- Tyler (Print Shop Manager) returned to work September 29. At that time, there were 56 jobs in the production queue representing 12,619 impressions. We are keeping up with current job flow.
- Kevin will work on site Wednesday afternoons until further notice.
- We will train a new FSR for the site.
- We will work with Mark Deebach on re-appropriating teacher device(s) to prevent production equipment backup.
- We will add the capability of an instructor-accessed device to 3-hole punch and staple.
- We will better organize the space to reduce clutter and define specific work areas: production prep, in production, quality check, pick-up/delivery.
- We will use a checklist system for quality control.
- We will continue to work with instructors to plan and have their academic materials printed well in advance of need, especially projects requiring considerable prep to print, such as scanning and assembly of files or other documents.
- We will continue to train instructors on how to use the PrintNet tool through Lunch & Learn presentations and other meetings. This can be done in a one-on-one setting as well.
- We will add a second employee, starting with part time if necessary.
- Per the item above, we will stagger shifts when volume dictates.
- With the assistance of a second employee, we will implement a quality control process involving one person’s reviewing the other person’s work.
The district’s next step will be to conduct a follow-up survey to make sure the performance of the Print Center is improving.
When concerns about using actors with simulated injuries in the Iron Viking exercise were brought to our attention, we decided to offer two variations of the training. In addition to the originally planned moulage version, we added a non-moulage version, giving staff members a choice about which they would attend.
The non-moulage training was conducted in the Vista library and focused on a review of the first aid techniques taught in the TICS (Teacher Initiated Care System) class that staff attended last spring, as opposed to the practical application of the techniques during the Iron Viking simulated emergency situation.
Feedback was positive about offering the two variants of the training exercise, and members of both groups reported worthwhile benefits from their experiences.
When the district recognized the need to augment the gravel under and around the playground equipment at Eagleridge Elementary, our Maintenance Department tilled the existing gravel and filled in with some additional gravel, After this process had been completed, we were informed that several screws had been found in the gravel. The area of the Eagleridge playground impacted by this problem was closed to children, while the district maintenance crew used shovels, rakes, and magnets to locate and remove the screws. We believe the problem has been eradicated. The Health Department has also assessed the Eagleridge playground and verified that it is free from any unwanted debris.
This fall we found evidence of a rat in the Culinary Arts room at Ferndale High School. Personnel from the District Maintenance Department responded by locating the probable entrance point being used by the rat, setting out traps, monitoring them closely, ultimately capturing and removing the rodent, and continuing to monitor for any rodent friends. At this point, they have patched all the holes they have detected that might be used for critters to gain access to the building. They are implementing best practices regarding non-chemical pest control and continuing to watch the situation closely, taking all necessary actions to ensure our high school building remains free of rodents.
The Custer playground is mostly, but not completely, fenced. This past fall, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Therefore, we took the request to our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, who committed to moving forward to get this work done. He immediately went to the campus to assess the situation and then scheduled Northwest Fence to come out and give him a bid on October 12. We anticipate we will have the Custer fence project completed by the end of the current calendar year.
A district staff member who was learning the ins and outs of our complex student data management system believed she was working in a practice mode. She was not. As a result, she inadvertently sent out a batch of practice email letters to real families. The letter in question, which happened to be written in Spanish, informed the families that their children did not have up-to-date immunization records on file with the school district and were thus in jeopardy of being excluded from school as per Washington State Law. Understandably, this caused distress in the parents who erroneously received the letters.
The district staff member responsible for the mistake felt terrible about it, although we assured her that we understood her error was neither malicious nor a reflection of her competence. Mistakes are a part of the learning process, a fact that is foundational to our core business as educators.
At the same time, we are very sorry that we caused needless worry to some of our families. As a district, our response to these families included the following:
- We sent a notification to all district families via our student information system and district Facebook page letting them know we had made this mistake and apologizing for it.
- We identified the specific families who had mistakenly received the letter in question and sent them a written explanation and an apology both in English and in Spanish.
- We adjusted our training protocols to prevent this kind of error from happening in the future.
The district takes several steps to ensure volunteers have been vetted. First, as a basic precaution, all volunteers are screened using the WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History).
If a volunteer is chaperoning an overnight activity where he/she is supervising students through the night, we also require that he/she submits to a fingerprint screen, which allows for in an in-depth criminal background check through the national data base. Chaperones for high school overnight trips, where students are paired together in hotel rooms and chaperones have their own rooms, do not require fingerprinting.
When the district discovers that a volunteer has a criminal history, we conduct a review to determine the type of offense, the date when the incident occurred, and whether the incident involved children. Not every offense is deemed sufficient reason to deny a person the opportunity to volunteer.
However, any volunteer with a criminal background is required to disclose this on his/her volunteer application. Failure to disclose could result in disqualification from volunteering. When a potential volunteer does not disclose, he/she may be contacted and given the opportunity to provide further information.
The district maintains a database to keep track of all volunteers. This year we have moved to requiring all volunteers update their information annually to ensure our records are accurate and current.
Starting on August 16, 2017, the district sent out the first letters to parents whose students were on the free or reduced meal program during the 2016-2017 school year.
In August, Food Service Staff attended school meetings in order to answer questions about the application process as follows: Vista open house on August 31, Community outreach night at Horizon on August 29, Orientation for Freshmen and Upperclassmen at FHS on August 29 and 30, Custer Ice Cream Social on September 5.
In August, a reminder notice was posted on the District Food Services webpage that the free and reduced applications were being accepted and were due on October 18. In addition, hard copies of the reminder and application were made available at the student’s school. Families were informed that they could submit their applications online or on paper.
On the first day of school, every elementary school student received a hard copy of the free and reduced application along with a letter containing instructions for filing out the application.
Another set of letters (approximately 400 this year) were mailed between October 7 and October 9 to families who had previously had students qualify for the program but had not yet filed out a new application.
On October 10, an automated phone call was placed to all households in the district stating:
If your family is on the free and reduced meal program and you have not submitted a new application for the School Year 2017-2018, please do so prior to October 16, 2017. Last year's applications will expire on October 18, and after that date your child or children will no longer have benefits for free or reduced meals unless you reapply. The cost of any meals incurred by your child/children will be your responsibility.
October 24, approximately 150 letters were mailed to households that qualified for the program last year and did not submit a new application prior to the October 18 deadline.
We are continuing to accept applications at any time. There are no time restrictions on when new applications can be accepted. Unfortunately, charges incurred prior to the new eligibility are still the responsibility of the parent since the date of the eligibility is not retroactive.
Whenever we receive an anonymous complaint or concern, we assess the content and follow up on anything related to the safety of our students, staff, or families. However, anonymous complaints are more difficult to deal with because they do not allow us to get the whole story, even though there is generally more than one side to a controversy. Our goals are to address wrong-doing and solve problems to the greatest extent possible. When the information we are working with is anonymous, and therefore one-sided, we feel hampered in our ability to achieve these goals.
Anonymous messages are harder to investigate because we are limited to whatever information was submitted. We do not have the ability to follow up or ask clarifying questions.
We encourage people to submit complaints with their identity known so we can work collaboratively with them to address concerns. The district has a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation, because we do not want fear of reprisal to dampen anyone’s willingness to report wrongdoing.
Over the last 15 years, the celebration of Halloween has been gradually phased out of schools across the United States for a number of reasons. In the Ferndale School District we have chosen to minimize rather than eliminate the impact of Halloween and other holidays on the school and classroom environment as part of our ongoing effort to stay focused on our core mission of educating all students.
On the other hand, where there is a clear overlap between what is happening in our community and the curriculum we deliver to our students, we make every effort to highlight and build upon those connections. This could mean that our younger students who are learning about calendars and celebrations would make reference to Halloween in books or art projects. It could also mean that different afterschool groups choose to offer activities that are tied to a particular holiday such as Halloween.
With all that being said, there are two primary reasons why the Ferndale School District has deliberately moved away from allowing Halloween costumes and parties in our classrooms during the school day: (1) To preserve and protect limited time for instruction pointed directly at the state learning standards. (2) To follow our district’s food policy, which limits sharing food in classrooms because of nutrition and food allergy concerns.
The law is still very new and interpretations about how it is to be implemented are still somewhat vague. We anticipate over the course of the next year, the specific impacts will become more clear. With that said, we offer the following answer to this question based on what we know at this point.
During the last legislative session, the Washington State Legislature passed what has commonly been referred to as a “levy swap,” which means they renamed the local M & O (Maintenance & Operations) levy money that the Ferndale taxpayers voted to pay through their property taxes as state levy money. In other words, we are talking about the same money (from local property taxes), but in the future it will be considered state money as opposed to local money. In addition to this “swap,” the state will be allowing individual school districts to run local levies (as soon as their current ones expire) for a smaller amount to fund the “extra” items that are not part of the state’s definition of basic education (such as art, music, and a large portion of special education).
The new state levy replaces the old local levy at a reduced dollar amount.
There will be a new smaller local levy so that we can continue to fund programs that the state does not include in its definition of basic education.
It should be noted that a capital bond, which is also funded from property taxes, is a separate standalone proposition which is not covered by the new legislation pertaining to school levies.
Like FFA and DECA, Jazz Band at the middle school level in Ferndale is a co-curricular program that occurs outside the regular school day. It is not a class. As such, we need to recruit an advisor/coach to run the activity. In the past, the middle school band director, who was a veteran with lots of experience, took on this extra duty.
We have allocated a stipend to continue the middle school Jazz Band program, and we have advertised for an advisor through our Extracurricular Coaching and Advising selection process. We are hopeful we will be able to find someone who is able and willing to take on this extra task so that we can continue to offer the program.
Less than half of the country’s public schools employ a full-time nurse. In most school districts, including Ferndale, nurses rotate among schools,
This situation isn’t new. The majority of Washington schools have never had full-time nurses. When budgets tightened heading into the Great Recession of the early 2000s, many districts were faced with hard choices between maintaining lower class sizes and keeping nurses, counselors, librarians, and other certificated support staff.
As it stands now, each Washington school district decides how to utilize its nurses in much the same way it determine how many teachers are needed — by enrollment and budget. That usually means a school nurse might work in more than one building, with a trained staff or volunteer available for certain duties when the nurse is out.
According to data maintained by OSPI, only one of Washington’s 295 school districts (Shoreline) has committed to assigning one full-time nurse to each of its schools. However, unlike Ferndale and most other school districts who classify nurses as certificated employees similar to teachers and counselors, Shoreline categorizes nurses as classified employees, in the same category as instructional assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, and they are thus subject to a different pay scale.
Across the country, you are more likely to find students of color than staff members of color in our public schools. The diversity of the educational workforce does not represent the diversity of the children they serve. Recent statistics show 40% of the nation’s students are students of color, while people of color make up only 17% of all teachers and principals.
The current composition of the Ferndale School District reflects this disproportionality. However, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Douglas, we are taking steps to close the gap. We have, for instance, rewritten our interview questions to focus on candidates’ strengths and highlight differences. We are working to build stronger relationships with colleges and universities, and we are offering more internships with the goal of attracting more diversity. We are supporting alternative routes to certification for some of our classified staff members. We are keeping data and regularly tracking our progress in this area.
In addition to monitoring data about our workforce for our own use, Dr. Douglas reports annually on the make-up of our employee groups to OSPI. Some recent statistics look promising. The percentage of administrators of color in Ferndale has risen from 0% to nearly 10% in the last two years. According to county utilization data, we have a higher than average percentage of teachers of color at both the elementary and the secondary levels.
Diversifying our workforce matters to us. Without educators who represent the students they serve, we aren’t going to get the best results from our school systems. Greater diversity will sharpen our competitive advantage and improve our organizational performance. In recognition of the School Board’s fourth Strategic Commitment (to honor, celebrate, and embrace our diverse community), we are committed to achieving a more diverse staff in Ferndale’s schools.
As is the practice in most school districts, the Ferndale School Board evaluates the performance of the Ferndale Superintendent annually and then takes an official vote on whether to renew her contract.
This year, Superintendent Quinn’s evaluation was conducted in an executive session before the July 25 School Board meeting. For this purpose, Dr. Quinn prepared a report on the accomplishments and shortcomings of her work during the previous year, which the Board received and reviewed in advance.
During the executive session, which Dr. Quinn did not attend, School Board members discussed her performance. At the open public meeting following the executive session, they voted unanimously to renew her contract. They also voted unanimously to give her a 2% raise.
By law, a superintendent’s contract in the state of Washington cannot exceed three years in duration. However, when the members of a School Board renew such a contract, they have the option of restarting the three-year period. This option was exercised by the Ferndale School Board when they approved a new contract for Dr. Quinn for 2017 through 2020
In September, a letter about a sexually transmitted disease was inadvertently sent home with elementary students. This was a mistake on the part of the school district, and we are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Most of the information the district provides to students and parents is generated within the district. However, some information the state or federal government requires the district to provide students and parents. The letter in question was among the latter. The state requires us to send the letter to all 6-12 grade students and/or their parents.
The letter was included in a packet of beginning-of-the-year information sent electronically by the superintendent’s office to all district principals for distribution. The letter should only have been sent to secondary principals. At several of our elementary schools, the mistake was caught before the information went home. Some elementary schools sent the information electronically to parents, so students never had access to it. At one or two elementary schools, the information, including the letter on sexually transmitted disease, was printed and sent home in backpacks where students were able to see it and possibly read it.
To ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again, we are:
- more carefully scrutinizing information sent from the superintendents’ office to schools in order to make sure it is age appropriate; and
- asking the principals and administrative assistants in our schools to double check everything before sending it home.
We apologize for any distress caused by our mistake.
The district covers all normal wear and tear on the computers they provide to students and all accidental damage that occurs at school. However, students’ families are responsible for computers that are lost or damaged due to vandalism, exceptional roughness, or inappropriate use. This is no different than age-old practices regarding school textbooks.
In many cases, school computers damaged at home are covered by parents’ homeowners’ insurance. However, generally such policies carry a significant deductible. Therefore, some parents asked the school district to look for an inexpensive insurance policy that just covered a student’s computer.
We looked and we found one. For $46 per year, families can purchase computer insurance with zero deductible that will cover anything that might happen to the device, regardless of whose fault it is. Parents are not required to purchase this insurance. It is offered as a service.
The first meeting of the Bond Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm at Ferndale High School.
On September 25, Mark Deebach sent out the following letter of invitation to everyone who volunteered to serve on the Task Force:
Thank you for volunteering to be part of the Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force. We are encouraged by your interest and look forward to collaborating with you on this important work.
We have spent the summer searching for the right facilitator to help guide us through the process of developing a bond package, and we have narrowed the field to three finalists. We will be meeting with all three during the next two weeks and selecting one in time to have him or her on board for our first meeting.
We have scheduled the first meeting of the Bond Task Force for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm in the Ferndale High School Library.
Once again, please accept our gratitude for your willingness to take part in this critical school district/community project. We anticipate an educational and enjoyable experience with positive outcomes for the children of Ferndale.
We look forward to getting started on October 24. Please let us know if you will be able to attend. RSVP to Tammy Longstaff at email@example.com.
If you know someone else who would like to participate, let Tammy know that as well. Or if you have any other questions or concerns before October 24, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we go…
During the public comment section of the August 29 Ferndale School Board meeting, a community member reported being told by a colleague at work that he didn’t want to participate on district committees or task forces because when he came to a meeting of the Facilities Committee, he was required to sign a non-disclosure document declaring that he would not to share the content of discussions at committee meetings with the public and that he would support the recommendations of the majority even if he did not agree with them. He said he was not comfortable signing something that didn’t support clear, honest, and open dialogue with the community so he quit participating on the committee.
After researching this concern, we determined that the document in question is a Social Contract that was developed by members of the Facilities Advisory Committee. At an early meeting of the FAC in 2010, the committee’s facilitator asked all participants to engage in a process of developing some mutual understandings about how the committee would operate.
- She began by asking several questions, such as: What kind of environment do you need to be able to work effectively? In your opinion, how does a good committee function? What do you think we should do when we disagree? And so on.
- Everyone shared thoughts, which were recorded and compiled.
- A draft document was taken back to the group for discussion and revision.
- Participants were asked if their ideas had been captured correctly and revisions were made accordingly.
- When committee members felt a good draft reflecting their combined ideas had been achieved, they were asked to indicate their approval by signing around the edge of the “final” document.
We have used this Social Contract process with many of our groups. The School Board has created its own Social Contract, as has the Administrative Team. The School Board chose at one time to put their Social Contract on a poster and all sign it.
The guidelines on the resulting FAC Social Contract came from group members, not from the district. The items that have anything to do with sharing or not sharing information, or with supporting a position whether or not you agree with it, are as follows:
- Be honest and open-minded.
- Try to put personal agendas aside to focus on the common good.
- Try not to take opinions and decisions contrary to our own as personal affronts.
- Do not be afraid to question data that is presented, and do not be offended if your data is questioned.
- Seek inclusive processes for collecting input and feedback.
- Honor requests for confidentiality when they are made.
- Avoid dominating conversations or debates.
- Work for the good of all students, not just those we most closely represent.
- Allow for differences of opinion.
- When making major decisions, allow for both majority and minority reports.
- When reporting out decisions, avoid ascribing them to individual committee members unless there is an explicitly agreed upon reason for doing so.
- Once a decision has been made, honor and support it in public spaces.
The entire Facilities Advisory Committee Social Contract is attached at the end of this document.