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Battle Ground High School drama students Avarie Rhyasen and Maria Wetzbarger perform in John R. Carroll's
Battle Ground High School drama students Avarie Rhyasen and Maria Wetzbarger perform in John R. Carroll's "Oh, What a Tangled Web"
Battle Ground High School drama students return to the stage with original play - 06/07/21

For the first time in over a year, the Battle Ground High School drama club returned to the stage last week with the words, “Hello, my name is Edward Deadman and I am dead.”

So begins an original sketch written by Battle Ground High School senior Andrew Ovall and junior Lorelei Hunsaker. The simply named “A Radio Play” reads like a murder mystery from the days of Old Time Radio, with fast-paced banter and witty wordplay aplenty.

“Mere moments ago I was dancing with a few friends in my ballroom and, as it goes, I died,” Ovall reads on stage as the recently deceased Deadman. “Icepick through the neck. We’ve all been there.”

The drama club held three shows at The Lair inside Battle Ground High School last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, entertaining a total of 160 people.

“Being back in the theater space was life-affirming,” said drama teacher and director Stephan “Cash” Henry. “It was so wonderful to share a communal, creative experience with a live, in-person audience again, to be together, to share laughter, to share life.”

The original play by Ovall and Hunsaker took around a month to write, but much longer to finally make it in front of a live audience after the pandemic shut down schools last year. “It was a huge relief for me just knowing that it's out there,” Ovall said after the final rehearsal. “We’re doing it.”

The senior was set to appear in a stage version of Romeo and Juliet last March when school buildings were closed and learning turned remote due to the pandemic. Hunsaker was also part of that production. “It was hard for me because a lot of seniors didn’t get their sendoff and we had an all-star cast. But it’s in the past. I can’t wallow in it or I’ll just never stop hurting.”

Henry said he was “heartbroken” for last year’s seniors when that play was shut down. “The students have shown me such maturity and resilience this year,” he said. “We have organized Zoom play readings and have been able to connect remotely throughout the year, but it just isn’t the same as working together in person.”

Henry said after the state eased restrictions on youth sports he felt the new guidelines were not aligned across activities. “I began writing letters and calling the arts department of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,” he said. A few weeks later, the state updated its guidelines and the drama club was able to hold auditions and begin preparing for their first shows in over a year.

In addition to Ovall and Hunsaker’s original play, the drama club also put on a stage production of John R. Carroll’s “Oh, What a Tangled Web,” which involves yet another misunderstanding over a death; only this one is imaginary rather than real.

Ovall calls it “incredibly bittersweet” to be finishing up his time on stage as a Battle Ground High School student. “I’m so sad to leave,” he said, “I love this place.”

Hunsaker and Ovall said they hope to be able to flesh out their play a little further, and perhaps expand it to a stage production with props and costumes. Until then, they’re hopeful their own experience over the past year helps future thespians to appreciate the time they have in the nurturing confines of high school. “Four years sounds like a very long time at the beginning, but it really is not,” Ovall said. “Just take what you have and make the most of it."

Prairie High School senior Hannah Hollenbeak poses under a poster she made as part of Inspire Week at the school
Prairie High School senior Hannah Hollenbeak poses under a poster she made as part of Inspire Week at the school
Prairie High School students turn Inspire Week focus to thanking staff - 06/04/21

Now in its third year, Inspire Week at Prairie High School has become a popular event for students and staff. This year, however, the event took a bit of a different approach.

Originally started in 2019 by the Crimson Crew, Inspire Week is now part of a brand new class at Prairie known as Applied Psychology, led by social studies teacher Dawn Rowe. “It's part of the curriculum now, so I don't have to try and figure out how to make Inspire Week work,” Rowe said. “Now the kids can all do it. They come up with all the ideas and then they do it, and I just coach them along the way.”

In a normal year, Inspire Week is focused on students uplifting other students. This year, they turned the focus on saying thank you to the high school's staff because they've done so much work in an incredibly difficult year, Rowe said.

Some students greeted staff at the door, others plastered encouraging sticky notes to bathroom mirrors or hearts on doors (what they’ve dubbed a “heart attack”), and some headed outside with sidewalk chalk to write messages of positivity. Others created cards and gifts to give to counselors, secretaries, security workers and people doing attestation before school.

In the cafeteria, a giant banner says “thank you” to nutrition support staff who’ve made extra meals, including during school breaks and over the summer. Another is for custodial staff who’ve worked extra hard to clean and sanitize the school throughout the year, especially after students returned to buildings. Other students have taken on the role of “secret pal” for staff members, leaving them encouraging messages. Students also created a video for staff that is filled with messages of support from students all over the school.

Inside the building, senior Hannah Hollenbeak poses under the banner she created. It reads “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Outside, junior Lily Wilder finishes a giant chalk drawing congratulating the graduating class of 2021. On Thursday, another student brought dozens of flowers from her own garden to be handed out to teachers in their classrooms. Others passed out watermelons or Subway gift cards to counselors and other staff members throughout the week.

The ideas all came from the students themselves, Rowe said, with each period creating a schedule of things to do. “Leaders pop up and creativity pops up and I just help organize it and make sure it all gets done,” she said. “I feel like if you give them ownership, they can do it.”

Or, as a paper heart on one door puts it, “YOU are capable of amazing things.”

Battle Ground Public Schools' 62nd annual District Art Show is all online this year
Battle Ground Public Schools' 62nd annual District Art Show is all online this year
62nd annual Battle Ground School District Art Show online - 06/02/21

Now in its 62nd year, the Battle Ground Public Schools’ District Art Show showcases the creative talents of students from across the district.

In a virtual format for the second consecutive year, anyone can visit the district website to enjoy many pieces of art—drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures and even video—from every grade level. 

The art show was founded in 1959 by the late Bob Peck, who taught art classes and shaped the art program at Battle Ground High School for more than 37 years before he retired. He collaborated with Battle Ground city librarian Frances Rieck to share students' artistic talents with the community.

The District Art Show has morphed and grown over the years and remains a favorite event for students, parents, teachers, and community members alike. Pieces will not be judged this year, but participants will receive a Certificate of Participation. 

“I’m very proud to be able to continue the tradition of the Art Show in Battle Ground,” said Allison Tuchardt, Peck's daughter and a Battle Ground Public Schools Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

With students beginning the school year in remote learning, art teachers worked to get supplies to them at home including sketch books, art pencils, markers and more.

“As art teachers, we are very creative,” said Barb Holterman, an art teacher at Pleasant Valley Primary and one of the organizers of the art show. “The arts support social and emotional learning in all of our students, and this year that was very, very important.”

Rebecca Broyles, who teaches art at River HomeLink, said the ability for students to have access to the arts, especially during such a stressful year, “has really saved a lot of these kids.”

The public is invited to view students' art on the district website at

Chief Umtuch Middle School students Tova Orth (left) and Ava Dhanens finished sixth in the Washington History Day competition for their documentary on the use of radium in advertising
Chief Umtuch Middle School students Tova Orth (left) and Ava Dhanens finished sixth in the Washington History Day competition for their documentary on the use of radium in advertising
Battle Ground students' History Day projects win at state - 06/01/21

Even the theme of this year’s National History Day competition, “Communication in History: the Key to Understanding,” became a lesson in and of itself for Battle Ground's History Day competitors. While Pleasant Valley Middle School eighth graders Kaylie O’Lear and Lilly Roman-Myers’ project focused on Cesar Chavez and the fight for workers’ rights, they also had to learn a lot about their own communication in the process.

“The project really tested me and Lilly’s friendship,” said O’Lear after presenting their display to the Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors at their May 24 meeting. “We had to learn to really communicate.”

What is normally a time-consuming and difficult process was made even more so by the difficulties of remote communication, the girls said. They were able to return to their classrooms just a week before the regional competition and snag a first place finish in the regional event.

“For them to do as well as they did, with the initiative and perseverance, parents dragging them back and forth to school,” said Rene Soohoo, who teaches history and English at Pleasant Valley Middle School and has advised students on History Day projects for three decades. “I really appreciate that.”

A total of 21 students from Pleasant Valley, Chief Umtuch Middle Schools and River HomeLink moved on from the Southwest Washington regional National History Day competition to the statewide round on May 1. The top two finishers in each category go on to the National History Day competition in June.

Several Battle Ground teams finished just outside of the top two. A third place finish can move on to the national competition if one of the top two teams is unable to compete.

This year’s winners are:

Pleasant Valley Middle School

Junior Division - Group Exhibit: 

3rd Place - Lilly Roman-Myers and Kaylie O’Lear: Cesar Chavez: Strikes, Fasts, and Boycotts to Empower the Powerless

4th Place - Kirstina Goldinov, Abigail Dubinskiy; Layla Segovia; Alissa Huynh: The March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama: How the March Shamed the U.S. in World Opinion and Led to the Passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Bill

Junior Division - Group Performance:

3rd Place - Kira Wilson and Amelia DeMoss:Clarity, Quantity, Focus: Key to Understanding How the Federalist Papers Convinced the States to Ratify the Constitution

E Vitus Campus Outstanding local history award:

Judah Bullock: “Miscommunications in Word and Deed: Key to Understanding the Nez Perce Tribe’s Century of Loss

Chief Umtuch Middle School

Group Documentary:

6th Place - Tova Orth and Ava Dhanens: “Radium Advertising and Industry in the 1900s

Soohoo also noted that both the Chavez and Selma exhibits were up against more than 20 projects from students across the state. Finishing first and third in the regional contest, then third and fourth in the statewide competition, is an amazing accomplishment for any student; especially in a year when communication could be exceptionally difficult.

A video of the May 1 virtual award ceremony is available on YouTube.

Krishna Smith will become the next principal at Daybreak Primary, moving over from an assistant principal position at Amboy Middle School
Krishna Smith will become the next principal at Daybreak Primary, moving over from an assistant principal position at Amboy Middle School
Battle Ground Public Schools announces leadership and principal changes (Photo) - 05/28/21

Battle Ground Public Schools is announcing the following administrative changes for the 2021-22 school year.


Susannah Woehr will be joining Battle Ground Public Schools as the new principal of Prairie High School. Woehr comes from the Renton School District where she served as assistant principal at Renton High School. "I am honored and thrilled to be joining the PHS family as your principal,” Woehr said. “It is my intent to serve the staff, students and families of Prairie so that everyone feels seen and heard, and knows they are a valued member of the community. Go Falcons!" Woehr is replacing Stephanie Watts, who took a job in the district office.

Krishna Smith will take over as the next principal of Daybreak Primary School after Gerald Gabbard took a job outside of the district. Smith was previously assistant principal at Pleasant Valley Middle School before moving to Amboy this past year. Smith was a successful landscape architect before deciding to pursue education as a second career, becoming an 8th grade teacher prior to moving into an assistant principal role. “Her desire to make a difference in the lives of our youth has drawn her in,” said Shelly Whitten, Assistant Superintendent in charge of Human Resources for the district. “We are lucky to have her leading one of our buildings.”

Administrative changes

Current Deputy Superintendent Denny Waters will become the district’s new Superintendent on July 1, replacing Mark Ross who is retiring. Waters, winner of the 2020 Robert J. Handy Most Effective Administrator Award in a large size school district from the Washington Association of School Administrators, joined Battle Ground Public Schools as an assistant principal at Battle Ground High School in 2007. He became Executive Director of Special Services in 2012 before moving up to deputy superintendent in 2017. 

Shelly Whitten will take over as the district’s next Deputy Superintendent, replacing Waters. Whitten was previously the district’s assistant superintendent in charge of Human Resources. A Battle Ground High School graduate, Whitten was previously director of instructional leadership for secondary education. Before that she was an assistant principal and principal at the former Chief Umtuch Primary School, as well as an assistant principal at Glenwood Heights and La Center Elementary. She was also the first principal of Daybreak Middle School when it opened in 2007. Whitten holds endorsements in elementary education and special education.

Michelle Reinhardt becomes the new Executive Director of Human Resources, replacing Whitten. Reinhardt had been Director of Human Resources since 2019 after moving over from Maple Grove Primary School where she was previously an assistant principal and principal. Reinhardt also spent time as a 5th grade teacher and special education teacher in a variety of buildings including Chief Umtuch, Captain Strong and Daybreak Middle School.

Michelle Scott joins Battle Ground Public Schools as the district’s new Chief Financial Officer. Scott replaces Meagan Hayden, who relocated outside of the area with her family. Scott was previously Director of Business Services for the Hockinson School District, where she won a 2021 Circle of Excellence Award for Distinguished Business Official of the Year from the Washington Association of School Business Professionals for her work to increase transparency of the district's financial processes and transactions.

Stephanie Watts, the current principal of Prairie High School, will step into Reinhardt’s former role as Director of Human Resources. Watts became the principal of Prairie High School in 2019 after having served as the assistant principal there since 2012. Before that, she was a physical education teacher at Washougal High School. Watts’ husband is a 1993 graduate of Prairie High School and she has two sons that will graduate from PHS in 2022 and 2026. “I have been very fortunate to be the Principal, as well as a parent of this outstanding school,” Watts said. “The family and community atmosphere at Prairie is very special.” 

Mitch Thompson, Director of Business Operations and Risk Management for Battle Ground Public Schools
Mitch Thompson, Director of Business Operations and Risk Management for Battle Ground Public Schools
Battle Ground Public Schools financial leaders honored by their peers - 05/24/21

Two Battle Ground Public School district leaders were recently honored by the Washington Association of School Business Professionals (WASBO).

Michelle Scott, the district’s new Chief Financial Officer, was recognized with the Circle of Excellence Award for Distinguished Business Official of the Year, which recognizes outstanding business officials who implement innovative projects, improve systems and efficiencies, and/or forge creative partnerships with their community and improve student learning.

While serving as Director of Business Services for the Hockinson School District, Scott helped to spearhead a budget advisory committee that focused on transparency. She also helped to secure $100,000 in grant funding for an adaptive playground and conducted a district-wide energy audit, which helped to secure matching funds to replace HVAC systems and building lighting. Scott’s nominator noted that she is “meticulous in everything she does,” and “her attention to detail is astounding.”

“It's truly an honor to be selected,” said Scott, who joined Battle Ground Public Schools as Chief Financial Officer this month.  “I am thankful to the ESD112 Team, WASBO Leadership, and all the business officials who have supported my development as a Certified School Business Official over the last 13 years.”

Mitch Thompson, the district’s Director of Business Operations and Risk Management, was also recognized. He received the 2021 Award of Merit, which honors a WASBO member who has gone above and beyond to help others and serve within the WASBO organization. Mitch served as the Legislative Affairs Committee Chair this past year and sits on the WASBO SEBB Advisory Committee.

“I've always felt that one of the best ways to grow personally is to share knowledge,” Thompson said. “I was surprised and honored to receive this award for serving within the WASBO organization. I don't serve for recognition, I serve for growth.”

Battle Ground Public Schools is proud to be home to such an amazing group of professionals striving together to inspire excellence by connecting every student to a positive future in a competitive global economy.

Jolyn deBra, first grade teacher at Maple Grove Primary
Jolyn deBra, first grade teacher at Maple Grove Primary
Battle Ground educators earn National Board Certification - 05/21/21

(NOTE: A video of this year’s Board Certified teachers is available on the Battle Ground Public Schools YouTube channel)

Two educators in the Battle Ground Public School district have taken the challenging step of expanding their own education, earning certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). National Board certification is a rigorous program that takes one to three years, helping educators to hone their teaching skills and build student enthusiasm for learning.

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure.  Only about 40 percent of educators earn the certification on their first attempt. Battle Ground Public Schools currently has 48 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) working in the district.

This year’s recipients are:

Allison Brown, seventh grade ELA/history teacher at Chief Umtuch Middle School

Jolyn deBra, first grade teacher at Maple Grove Primary

“A National Board certification shows a real commitment to improving as an educator,” said Deputy Superintendent Denny Waters. “The effort helps our teachers grow as people and professionals and our students benefit from educators who care deeply about their craft and have a desire for continued improvement.”

National Board Certified Teachers are highly accomplished educators who meet high and rigorous standards set by the NBPTS. 

“It was one of those things that I felt like I always wanted to do,” Brown said. Now in her eighth year at Chief Umtuch, Brown feels like completion of the National Board Certification program has made her a better, more introspective educator. “I spend a lot more time now going back and thinking about ‘how did that lesson go, what did my students really learn?’” she said.

Board-certified teachers benefit the school district by sharing their information, knowledge and experience with other teachers who can then take the knowledge into their own classrooms. Most importantly, students benefit from the enhanced skills of board-certified teachers who make the most of their interactions with the children they teach. 

Now in her 17th year of teaching, deBra said she wanted to challenge herself to become better at reaching her students. “Board certification is all about learning. If your students aren’t learning, then that’s a you thing,” she said. “You have to set your ego at the door. You might think that you have these great lessons and you’re doing amazing; National Boards makes you question all of that.”

Both educators said they were grateful for the support of other teachers going through the certification process.

“We had teachers from all kinds of different subjects in our cohort,” Brown said. “It was interesting, because you got to bounce ideas off of each other, but there were also lots of things that were different for each of us.”

Washington and North Carolina led the nation with new National Board Certified teachers in 2020-21, according to the NBPTS.

“The pandemic truly tested the mettle of anybody working in a school setting — including teachers and their students, “said Peggy Brookins, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “There should be high standards for all professionals — and these professional educators have proven that they teach to those high standards during a year that was uniquely difficult.” 

Nationally, Washington ranks third with more than 11,000 National Board Certified teachers. The state provides an annual stipend of approximately $5,505 for K-12 NBCTs.

Computer science students at Battle Ground High School
Computer science students at Battle Ground High School
Help shape the next generation of computer scientists at Battle Ground High School - 05/20/21

Both Battle Ground and Prairie High schools in the Battle Ground Public Schools district will be offering Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A starting in the 2021-22 school year. Battle Ground High School is looking for a volunteer from the technology industry to help team-teach the class.

“Careers in computer science are blowing up,” said Rob Pollock, who teaches computer science at BGHS as part of the school’s Career and Technical Education program. “We have to prepare students by offering high-level rigorous courses and rewarding them with college credit, and people who work in the industry can help us do that.”

Battle Ground High School is partnering with Microsoft Philanthropies Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) to offer the course through grant funding. Today, the TEALS program serves more than 10,000 students at 455 high schools in the United States and Canada. TEALS students scored eight percent higher than the national average for AP Computer Science A.

One aspect of its program that TEALS attributes to student success is its requirement to pair passionate volunteers from the technology industry with teachers to team-teach computer science.

Battle Ground High School is looking for a computer science professional who is familiar with Java and topics such as boolean expressions, recursion, and inheritance and polymorphism. Classes at Battle Ground High School would be held during first period, allowing volunteers to team-teach and then go to work.

If you work in tech and would be interested in making a difference in our students’ future success, please contact BGHS volunteer coordinator Scott Yingling or apply at