By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Absolutely amazing” is how Chief Sealth International High School‘s second-year principal Chris Kinsey described the school year’s start, speaking last night to the Sealth PTSA, which is led by new president Ted Reed.
The principal’s assessment is in part thanks to the school’s continued enrollment growth. Kinsey said that as of right before the meeting, Sealth had 1,286 students enrolled – about 40 more than when he delivered the same report to the first meeting of last school year – but in a different context, “We were down to 800 a few years ago … this community has grown this school in a direction that’s pretty powerful.”
The enrollment also brings challenges. Sealth added portable classrooms this year, and announced last night that the assembly is finally complete; class sizes are still big (up to 35 students) and he said they’re waiting to find out how many additional teachers they will be able to hire, in addition to filling some openings they already had – including music, health, chemistry. The principal said he is advocating with this area’s executive director of schools Carmela Dellino to get some additional teaching resources.
Kinsey also had words of praise for the Link Crew upperclassmen-mentoring-freshmen program that Sealth is using as of this year (WSB coverage here); “We are off to an exciting start.”
Ahead, more reasons why he made that assessment – including college visits and after-school activities – as well as other information shared at the meeting:
ACTIVITIES AND AFTER-SCHOOL: Activities/athletic director Sam Reed spoke to the PTSA too, noting, “I was probably the happiest person on campus when the grant money came in to help us keep most of our after-school programs.” He brought up ASB (student government) president Yusuf Asphy and vice president Lisa Lam (photo right) to talk about their plans for the year. “I’ve got a lot of ideas I can’t wait to get started on,” said Yusuf. “For ASB, we actually meet up quite often,” including a daily class, he explained. He said the kickoff assembly was a big jumpstart to the year. The two leaders talked about the colleges to which they’re applying and how the leadership experience helped get them ready for that. They encourage all students to get involved — freshman-class elections are still ahead (application deadline for candidates is September 24th, we noticed on wall posters while walking to the library).
STAFF AND PROGRAMS: Longtime Sealth teacher Pamela Mushen talked about international-travel programs including an exchange program with China – “we both send students to China and have students come here to stay with host families,” she explained (the students from China are coming this year, the Sealth students will travel next year, and there will be a wreath-selling fundraiser this year). Also, she said, “There’s a possibility this year of a trip to Portugal around spring break … and Global Visionaries has trips to Guatemala.” Sealth students interested in any of these trips should look for a word of a meeting during the school year on Thursday.
The new fulltime YMCA worker on campus, Aurora, announced she’s taken over and said, “We are grant-funded for this year … with 21st Century Community Learning Center money.” Their programs include yoga, bicycling, authoring, cartooning, and more. “We try to offer what is interesting to students and helpful to students.” Students are invited to drop by the Y office in room 221 any time. She brought along community partners who are offering programs including Youth Venture, “creating a business approach to address a student need,” in a weekly after-school program, and the leader of an upcoming morning-yoga program that also will teach nutrition and life skills.
A rep from One World Now, which teaches Arabic after school at Sealth, talked about leadership teaching that is part of the program as well as language learning. The Arabic class starts in October, she said, and can be a gateway to a study-abroad program next year. And the Robotics Club mentor noted they have hardware and money, but what they need the most “is people – mostly adults who can direct their energy somewhat toward a goal.”
COLLEGE VISITS: Parent volunteer Larry Pierce, who’s been working with counselors to organize a college-visit program, said, “We have 17 colleges and universities coming,” and told parents he hopes their students will want to check out the visits. It’s particularly important at Sealth because of the International Baccalaureate program, which Pierce helped pave the way for (he says about 40 kids are going for the full IB diploma this year). Just a few years ago, he said, no colleges visited Sealth; he and other parents worked to change that, and this year, they will have the most ever. The visiting schools include even Harvard and Yale. He says he’ll get word out every week about the next week’s scheduled visits. They’re for juniors as well as seniors, he said in response to a question, noting that the junior year is when you really have to buckle down and start looking ahead. P.S. The list of upcoming visits is on the Sealth website now, including a Yale representative visiting September 27th (at 3 pm, which might be a bit challenging since that’s the second of two consecutive early-release days next week).
Also regarding colleges – Leslie Menstell, a former Sealth PTSA president who is continuing to volunteer even though her daughter is now two years post-graduation, is working to help parents find out what they need to know about colleges and the application process. She has been sharing information already this year via the PTSA e-mail list. And she’s looking for volunteers to help with the work.
SPECIAL PRESENTATION ON LIBRARY SERVICES: Ken Gollersrud, teen librarian from High Point Library, talked about West Seattle-wide offerings of special interest to youth, including Homework Help at South Park, Delridge, and High Point branches – for all grades. They also have online homework help, 1-10 pm daily year-round – “for your students OR yourself,” he grinned, drawing laughter from the crowd of (mostly) all-too-knowing parents. They’ll even give you feedback on an essay if you e-mail it, he explained. There’s gaming at HP and today (as noted in our daily preview) they even started a drop-in chess program. And he said that the recently approved library levy means that smaller branches will be open again on Sundays! Plus – if your student has racked up overdue fines, you can get them forgiven on a one-time-only “fresh start” basis, he said. “The students need to hear all this,” said one attendee, and Gollesrud noted he does come to the school and talk to classes – including one this Thursday. There’s even a program where you can apply to work in the library, if you are at least 16. Applications are available on the library website starting October 1st. You can also write book reviews and get service-learning credit for publication on an SPL blog-format website, he said. (We’ll be contacting Ken to see about an electronic version of his resource list, to add to this story.)
UPCOMING EVENTS: October 20th, “a big event of workshops helping families support and encourage student success” is planned at Sealth – for elementary- and middle-school families as well as those with high-school students – it was announced at the meeting. Also, the PTSA’s fourth annual fundraising dinner/auction is coming up November 9th – you can buy tickets here. In addition to attending/buying tickets, volunteer help is needed: Auction organizers hope to mentor their successors, since the three auction leaders this year are all parents of seniors. Needs include data entry, procurement, silent-auction and live-auction planning. The event also will include a dessert dash, which benefits the senior class’s graduation party.
PTSA BOARD OPENINGS: A secretary is needed, as is a co-treasurer or treasurer-in-training.