Lake Stevens to focus on students who live in poverty

LAKE STEVENS — Teachers, bus drivers, office staff and other school employees are gearing up for school to start, but took time Thursday morning to hear a message administrators say will be key this year.

It was about poverty, and what it looks like for the families and children affected. Education often is cited as the most powerful tool for overcoming poverty, yet students from low-income families are less likely than their peers to graduate on time and go to college, and more likely to drop out or have discipline problems, according to state data.

A few months ago, the Lake Stevens School District reviewed academic performance among different groups of students. It was no surprise to see that those living in poverty were less likely to do well in school, Superintendent Amy Beth Cook said.

“We’re no different than any other district that way,” she said.

The goal is to make education fair and accessible for those students. To kick things off this year, a speaker from Oregon shared her story of growing up in poverty.

Donna Beegle told educators that she remembers not understanding the words her teachers used. She came from a family of migrant workers — her mother and grandmother picked cotton, the kids picked fruit — and most of her loved ones didn’t read or write. Teachers would tell her to look up words she didn’t recognize.

“I’d go to the dictionary and find five more words I didn’t know, that no one living in my war zone of generational poverty would know, and I had no one to ask,” she said.

She stressed to her audience that people gravitate toward others with similar backgrounds. It’s easy to make assumptions about people when you rarely interact, she said.

“I grew up believing that people didn’t care,” Beegle said. “But I learned that it’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they don’t know.”

Angry kids might be seen as bad students, when the root of their anger is a family’s struggle. Parents who don’t come to school conferences might be perceived as not loving enough. She remembers how her mom never went because she was uneducated and didn’t want to make a fool of herself. Yet there was no one more proud of her children, Beegle said.

Poverty teaches people they’re not good enough, she said.

“We’ve got to change that statistic that kids in poverty are least likely to get an education,” Beegle said.

In Snohomish County, more than 43,000 students in elementary through high school qualified for free or reduced lunches in 2016, a program based on income and often used to define or track poverty in Washington schools. That’s about a third of students.

In some local districts, nearly half of students received free or discount meals.

Lake Stevens had nearly 2,400 students in the program, or about 28 percent. A decade ago, that number was 22 percent.

Karen Coulombe teaches at Cavelero Mid High. She tries to make her classroom a level playing field, but Beegle got her thinking about lack of access to public resources.

Coulombe once told a student that he could go to the library for free. He had no idea, she said.

“The things you and I think are free, they’re not free if you don’t have a ride or you don’t know about it,” Coulombe said.

She knows what poverty is like. Hers was situational, when she was in high school. She now understands how that differs from generational poverty, which is lifelong rather than a sudden shift in circumstances. Still, her experience helps her relate.

Cook worries about lack of opportunity for students from low-income families. She’s glad the district eliminated “pay-to-play” athletics and added buses for after-school activities. She wants employees to have a deeper understanding of poverty, she said.

“We’re a little sheltered in Lake Stevens, but I do work with students who come from difficult home lives,” said Kathy Holder, who teaches fourth grade at Glenwood Elementary and serves on the Lake Stevens City Council.

Beegle’s message about not judging hit home.

“As a teacher, we have to be understanding of our students’ life circumstances, and that those circumstances are beyond their control,” she said. “We just need to be more aware of how they’re feeling when they walk in the classroom, and what they’re carrying on their shoulders through that door.”

School for most students starts Wednesday in Snohomish County districts.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Bothell
Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Providence to pay $200M for illegal timekeeping and break practices

One of the lead plaintiffs in the “enormous” class-action lawsuit was Naomi Bennett, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot  on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Voters to decide on levies for Arlington fire, Lakewood schools

On Tuesday, a fire district tries for the fourth time to pass a levy and a school district makes a change two months after failing.

Everett
Red Robin to pay $600K for harassment at Everett location

A consent decree approved Friday settles sexual harassment and retaliation claims by four victims against the restaurant chain.

A Tesla electric vehicle is seen at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station at Willow Festival shopping plaza parking lot in Northbrook, Ill., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tesla driver on Autopilot caused fatal Highway 522 crash, police say

The driver was reportedly on his phone with his Tesla on Autopilot on Friday when he crashed into Jeffrey Nissen, killing him.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.