Inslee visits and plugs programs at Garfield Elementary

EVERETT — Two days after being sworn in for a second term, Gov. Jay Inslee came to Garfield Elementary School on Friday to talk about programs he’s hoping to expand.

The top priority in Olympia this session is going to be fully funding public education to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. Inslee’s budget proposal does that using new taxes, and also increases funding for a number of programs.

Several of those programs were on display Friday. The Beginning Educator Support Team provides in-school mentors to new teachers.

Right now, the program is only funded with a grant from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and not available in all districts. Inslee’s budget proposal includes $50 million to take the program statewide, and $7.5 million more to expand it to new principals, too.

Jade Crisler, a first grade teacher at Garfield, said when she started teaching her first class at Garfield in 2015, having a mentor in the school was invaluable.

“She was in my room quite a bit,” Crisler said. “There was still so much to learn. Having that extra support, it was a really good way to keep on moving.”

“Well, the Seahawks have coaches, so you should have coaches, too,” Inslee said.

“We want every district to be able to do this without having to depend on a grant,” he added.

Everett School District officials also talked with the governor about the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. Inslee wants to increase the number of openings and the amount of money allotted per child in that program.

Inslee met with a panel of four students from Mary Ouedraogo’s fifth grade class, who talked about how they were using technology to help with their assignments, including online math games and conducting research for writing pieces.

When Inslee asked what would help in their studies, Alex Miles made a pitch for more Chromebooks, because right now they have to share a cart of the mobile computers with other classes.

The line of questioning was a bit simpler with Joanne McCandless’ kindergartners. The governor asked the kids what they were doing in class that day.

“I was drawing a snowflake and a snowman and … I forgot what else,” Denia Ramirez Sierra said.

The governor then read a story to them and asked the kids if they had any questions.

“Do you have a question?” he asked, pointing to one girl.

“Today’s my birthday,” she said.

Garfield’s second grade on-time graduation team met with the governor to demonstrate how they review the progress of kids with special needs.

It’s a new pilot project at one of the district’s poorest schools, where 75 percent of the kids are on free or reduced lunches and 18.7 percent are classified as English Language Learners.

Teams composed of school principals, counselors, and reading and math specialists review the progress of at-risk students, identifying needs and bringing in outside services.

While the high school on-time graduation program is geared toward academics, the elementary school pilot puts the focus on students’ emotional and social issues only, Deputy Superintendent Joyce Stewart said.

“That’s what’s keeping them out of school,” Stewart said. “We know already in elementary school if kids are struggling to graduate.

“If children can come to school consistently, we can get them to graduation,” Stewart said.

“This is golden,” Inslee said. “Kids need this support outside of that chalkboard.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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