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Janice Sauve, Principal of South Ridge Elementary School
Janice Sauve, Principal of South Ridge Elementary School
Two Ridgefield schools receive School of Distinction Awards (Photo) - 10/30/14
Thursday, October 30, 2014-Ridgefield, WA-Two Ridgefield schools - View Ridge Middle School and South Ridge Elementary School - were selected by the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) in partnership with the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State School Directors' Association (WSSDA), and Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (WSASCD) as 2014 Schools of Distinction in an announcement made Tuesday, October 28.

This is the third consecutive School of Distinction Award for South Ridge Elementary School, having also won in 2012 and 2013, and the first for View Ridge Middle School. In order to receive a School of Distinction Award, schools must demonstrate outstanding improvement in reading and math scores sustained over a five-year period. Schools of Distinction represent only the top 5% of schools in Washington State for improvement at their respective levels.

"For these two schools to receive School of Distinction Awards demonstrates the dedication and hard work of our teachers and staff, district-wide, to increasing student learning," said Dr. Nathan McCann, Superintendent of Ridgefield School District. "Receiving these awards provides proof of the team effort put forth by every staff member throughout the district to creating an environment where students can excel."

The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) in partnership with the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State School Directors' Association (WSSDA), and Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (WSASCD) recognize schools in the top 5% of improvement for their levels to receive the School of Distinction Awards.

The 2014 School of Distinction award winners include 54 elementary schools, 22 middle / junior high schools, 17 high schools, and 8 alternative schools. Greg Lobdell, President of CEE noted, "These schools are from all regions of the state, all sizes of towns, with a range from 2.7% to 100% poverty and enrollment of English Language Learners as high as 40%. These schools demonstrate that significant improvement is occurring all across our diverse public schools."

Each regional Educational Service District throughout the state will be hosting an award ceremony to recognize the SOD award winners within their districts. Dates will be announced in subsequent, regional press releases.

Deputy Pete Olson and his K-9, Tau, help hunt down and arrest drug dealers
Deputy Pete Olson and his K-9, Tau, help hunt down and arrest drug dealers
Ridgefield's middle school students learn to say no to drugs and alcohol by celebrating Red Ribbon Week (Photo) - 10/27/14
Monday, October 27, 2014-Ridgefield, WA-Students learned the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse by celebrating Red Ribbon Week at View Ridge Middle School with dedicated classroom lessons and a visit from a Deputy Sheriff Pete Olson from Washington County's Sheriff's Department in Oregon.

Throughout the week, seventh and eighth graders learned about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in their classes. In math classes, students calculated percentages to analyze tobacco statistics and how tobacco is a leading cause of cancer. Students received lessons about methods they could use to help deny peer pressure and prevent the use of drugs, alcohol and risky behavior in the LifeSkills curriculum taught during Physical Education class, while students studied drug and alcohol advertisements in Language Arts and Social Studies classes to see how words can be used to manipulate the psyche of readers. Students signed pledges on a banner vowing remain drug- and alcohol-free which the school will display for the entire year in the commons area.

On Thursday, Sheriff's Deputy Pete Olson from Washington County in Oregon spoke to seventh and eighth graders about his role as a K-9 unit who helps close down drug manufacturers and arrest drug dealers. Olson is married to Vicky Olson, an English Language Learners (ELL) Paraeducator at South Ridge Elementary School, and their sons, Nathan and Dillon, are eighth and fifth graders in Ridgefield School District, respectively.

Olson spoke to students about the risks of drug use and the different types of drugs and their effects on the human body. Students asked questions including what breeds of dogs the department uses to hunt drugs, how officers train their dogs, how many drug cases Olson has helped close over his career, how difficult it is to interrogate someone, what is a gateway drug, and what is the best part of his job. Olson said chasing down suspects in his car is one of the best parts of his job.

Olson always wanted to become a member of law enforcement, "I want to be the guy who wears the white hat who makes a difference helping people." In order to become a member of the K-9 unit and manage a drug-sniffing dog, Olson had to serve in the department for five years and complete an intensive application process which took several months. "Everyone wants to work as a K-9 unit," explained Olson. "The dogs come home with their officers, and the dogs must receive constant training to remain vigilant and dedicated to what they do."

Olson offers tips for parents to ensure their kids refuse to use drugs:

* Parents should have open communication with your kids: talk about the dangers of drugs and how harmful they can be for users.
* Parents need to know the friends of their children. In surveys, students report their friends as the people who can most influence them to use drugs.

"With supportive parents and good decision-making skills, kids can always make the right move to not use drugs or alcohol," said Olson.

This is the fourth year View Ridge Middle School has celebrated Red Ribbon Week. "Students really like learning about the material and have come to look forward to it each year," said Kirstin Kunihisa, school counselor for View Ridge. "The students raved about Deputy Olson's presentation."

In 1985, the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth joined with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to create Red Ribbon Week in honor of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena who was killed in the line of duty fighting the influx of illegal drugs from Mexico. Each year, students and citizens worldwide celebrate Red Ribbon Week from October 23-31 dedicated to Camarena and all victims killed as a result of violence stemming from the illegal drug trade.

Logan Newman, eighth grader, received Student of the Month from View Ridge Middle School
Logan Newman, eighth grader, received Student of the Month from View Ridge Middle School
Ridgefield School District introduces new programs to recognize the excellence of its students, staff, and alumni (Photo) - 10/20/14
Monday, October 20, 2014-Ridgefield, WA-Ridgefield School District introduces two new programs to recognize the contributions and excellence of the district's students, staff, and alumni: the Student and Employee of the Month Program and the annual Ridgefield School District Hall of Fame.

At their most recent board meeting on Tuesday, October 14, the district's Board of Directors and Dr. Nathan McCann, Ridgefield School District superintendent, recognized one student from each of the district's four schools as Students of the Month and recognized one employee from the district as Employee of the Month. In addition, the Board of Directors approved a resolution approving the district's Hall of Fame program.

Each of the district's four schools will select a Student of the Month. Students of the Month are nominated by the teachers and staff members of their respective schools. Each Student of the Month receives a framed commemorative certificate as well as a "Ridgefield School District Student of the Month Lives Here!" yard sign to put in front of their home.

Employees of the Month are nominated by their colleagues. "Our staff makes amazing contributions to student learning every single day," said McCann. "Each month, we will spotlight a staff member as nominated by his or her peers for excelling at their craft."

Each month, the district will announce the Employee and Students of the Month at a board of directors meeting, on a blog located on the district's website, and through the district's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Friends, family, and community members are invited to attend the board meeting in order to congratulate the recipients.

Employee of the Month

Nam Nguyen, a math teacher at View Ridge Middle School, received the inaugural Employee of the Month Award which includes a framed Employee of the Month certificate, a commemorative coffee mug and a gift certificate to a local Ridgefield restaurant, the Historic Sportsman's Restaurant and Lounge.

Nguyen's coworkers complimented his teaching style and tech savviness. In addition, colleagues pointed out how he goes out of his way to ensure students receive the help they need, saying "he works tirelessly for both students and his colleagues and is always striving to make things better in new ways."

Students of the Month

South Ridge Elementary School
Madison Lee - Sixth Grader

South Ridge teachers and staff included several comments about Madison Lee including:
* Madison is an excellent example of a caring and responsible student.
* Madison repeatedly shows willingness to reach out to her classmates to offer help and assistance whenever and wherever needed.
* Madison's acts of kindness are sensitive and respectful - she never draws attention to herself - she simply steps in and supports her classmates however she can.
* Madison is an outstanding model for all of sixth grade.

Union Ridge Elementary School
Gabe Meadows - Sixth Grader

Union Ridge teachers and staff included several comments about Gabe Meadows including:
* During school, Gabe exhibits the life skills of effort, responsibility and perseverance.
* Gabe works hard to complete all of his homework, is helpful to his teachers and peers, and always seems to do so with a wonderful attitude.
* Gabe takes great pride in his work and we are equally proud of him.

View Ridge Middle School
Logan Newman - Eighth Grader

View Ridge teachers and staff included several comments about Logan Newman including:
* Logan is a hardworking student who truly enjoys learning.
* Logan helps others and works hard to do his best.
* Logan's warm smile and positive attitude makes him a role model for all students.

Ridgefield High School
Lily Grunstead - Junior

Ridgefield High School's teachers and staff included several comments about Lily Grunstead including:
* Lily is an incredible young lady - she possesses a great work ethic; is kind an respectful to all; and is very involved in school.
* Lily conducts herself with integrity, is kind and caring, and works extremely hard for her grades - she is a gem.

The Historic Sportsman's Restaurant and Lounge, a local Ridgefield business owned and operated by Terry Hurd, sponsored the Employee of the Month and Student of the Month programs by contributing funds to pay for the awards and other supplies for the program.

Hall of Fame Program

At the October 14 board meeting, the Board of Directors passed a resolution approving the district's Hall of Fame program. The first class of inductees into the district Hall of Fame will be announced near the end of the 2014-15 school year with subsequent years of Hall of Fame inductees announced in the fall of each year. The inductees for the class of 2015-2016 will be announced in the fall of 2015.

Any individual can nominate a Ridgefield High School graduate or Ridgefield School District employee for consideration as an inductee for the Hall of Fame. In order to be considered, nominees must have graduated a minimum of 20 years prior to the induction date or have worked for the district a minimum of 20 years prior to the induction date. In addition, nominees will be evaluated based on their achievements and contributions made over their careers.

"The Hall of Fame Program provides a method for the district to honor Ridgefield High School's exemplary graduates and Ridgefield School District's exceptional employees," said McCann. "The program will also serve to promote increased awareness and pride in the alumni and employees of the Ridgefield School District and their contributions to society at the local, regional, and even national levels."

Additional guidelines as well as nomination forms will soon be on the district and high school websites at www.ridge.k12.wa.us as well as paper copies made available in the high school and district offices.

Jordyn Davies (4th) appreciates the extra help she gets from having a second teacher in class
Jordyn Davies (4th) appreciates the extra help she gets from having a second teacher in class
Ridgefield School District's new buildings provide teachers the opportunity to use innovative teaching techniques (Photo) - 10/13/14
Monday, October 13, 2014-Ridgefield, WA-Fourth grade teachers at Union Ridge Elementary School use the functionality provided by the district's brand-new capital facilities buildings to utilize innovative teaching techniques in their classes.

Mindy Morris and Nani Mack team-teach fourth grade language arts thanks to a collapsible adjoining wall in their classrooms. "Initially, the plans for the new building included a solid wall between our classrooms, however we suggested the construction team use a collapsible wall instead and they fit the idea into the plan," said Morris.

The two teachers alternate who leads each lesson so the other one can ensure students receive extra help if they need it. For the students, they have two language arts teachers instead of just one. "The concept of team-teaching language arts stems from the new common core curriculum which combines reading and writing - having two teachers introduce the material makes us both that much more effective," said Morris. "In addition, since the students have more classmates, they are exposed to the additional perspectives their new classmates bring with them."

Morris previously taught as part of a team in a middle school and brought up the idea of team-teaching with Mack last year. "I love team teaching and would never go back," said Mack. "It's definitely a different experience since we spend a little more time planning, however we're able to manage class-time so effectively that students spend more time learning since there's always one of us who can help those students who are struggling without slowing down the rest of the class." In addition, when either teacher uses a substitute teacher, the lesson plan doesn't slow down. "When we have subs, the classes still have at least one teacher with whom they're familiar so the lessons proceed as planned," explained Mack.

Mack and Morris work well together thanks to their similar teaching styles. "Our personalities mesh very well so team-teaching comes easy to us," said Morris. "We're very lucky because it can be rare for two teachers to get along as well as we do." Mack agreed, "The biggest challenge of team-teaching is getting used to being observed by your teaching partner every day; you have to really trust your partner and appreciate giving and receiving feedback."

Students really enjoy the team-teaching concept, too. "It's nice getting to try something we're not used to which is also so new to us," said Cameron Jones, a fourth grader. "Team-teaching is more fun because you get more time with the teachers and each one has their own style - they help each other and communicate very well together."

Jordyn Davies, a classmate, agreed with Jones, "I really like language arts and now we have more than one teacher to help us with things we don't understand," she said. "The two teachers are really fun to learn from and it's fun watching them both teach."

Sheila Davis hands a Chromebook laptop to a student, allowing the project to be completed paperless
Sheila Davis hands a Chromebook laptop to a student, allowing the project to be completed paperless
STEM students at View Ridge Middle School use Chromebooks to diagnose foodborne illnesses (Photo) - 10/06/14
Monday, October 6, 2014-Ridgefield, WA-Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) classes at View Ridge Middle School use Chromebooks and the power of cloud computing to diagnose mystery foodborne illnesses as one of their class projects.

Sheila Davis, one of View Ridge's two STEM teachers, teaches her classes the causes, symptoms and cures for five different foodborne pathogens: Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria, Shigella, and Staphylococcus.

After the lesson, Davis splits students into teams, each of which receives a patient with a mystery illness. Each team must use the patient's history, symptoms and vital signs to diagnose which of the five pathogens the patient may have contracted. Following diagnosis, the teams use Chromebooks, special laptop computers which access Google Apps over the district's wireless network, to create a slideshow presentation which they present to the class documenting their patient's illness as well as including ways of preventing the contraction of the illness as well as methods to self-diagnose the illness.

Although Davis has taught this lesson before, this year she taught the project completely paperless. "The biggest challenge has been teaching students to become more familiar with looking at the Google Classroom App for handouts and guidelines instead of having it printed on paper in front of them," she said. "However, just over the course of this project, the students are becoming more comfortable with using the Chromebooks, and soon using the cloud for research and resources will become second nature for them."

Going paperless has presented an unexpected challenge for Davis, too. "The students are finishing their projects faster than I expected they would because the Chromebooks are enabling them to be more efficient," she said. "The quicker completion rate has given teams more time to be more creative with their slideshow presentations and explore the different features offered by the Google Apps."

Students really enjoyed diagnosing their patients. "I want to be a surgeon or medical biologist when I grow up, so medical science is really fun for me," said Payton Kautz, an eighth grader. "I like group work because you can get more work done faster and you also get to socialize with your friends while you're working."

Students appreciate the benefits that come from working with the Chromebooks. "The Chromebooks are particularly helpful because you don't need to carry books and papers around with you," said Josh Reef, a classmate. "All of your materials are safely stored in the cloud so you don't have to worry about losing anything."

STEM classes often focus on group work in their lesson plans since many professionals will use teamwork to get work done, too. "I like working teams because you can have fun while you're working," said Justin Lindsay, an eighth grader. "I also find that you can be very creative in STEM classes because interacting with other people can help you open your mind to other ideas you might not have come up with yourself."