West Seattle HS PTSA kickoff: School year off to ‘smooth’ start

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Busy year ahead at West Seattle High School – and some accomplishments already.

That was the bottom line of Tuesday night’s first general meeting of the WSHS PTSA, with more than 30 people in attendance, including, true to the name, parents, teachers, and students.

Administrators too, like second-year principal Ruth Medsker and assistant principal Michael Kelly.

“It feels a lot nicer to be starting the second year and have some systems in place,” Medsker said, declaring that the new school year had opened “smoothly” – thanks in part to the Link Crew program deployed for ninth-graders and upperclassmen mentors (here’s our September story about it). “The ninth graders this year are much more confident, no really ‘lost’ kids, they started the year off well.”

As of Tuesday night, WSHS had 998 students enrolled, according to Medsker. She said that’s even more than the total number of potential high-school students in its “collection area”; Chief Sealth (which had 1247 students as of a week earlier) has a “collection area” potential-student population twice the size of the one available to WSHS. Medsker said they recruited students from outside their region. Activities are booming too – a freshman football team has been added and some of the clubs are “huge.”

She and Kelly noted two numbers have dwindled to almost nothing, and that’s a point of pride too – the number of “kids under the influence at school” was 1, compared to 46 the first month of last year; “violent confrontations” among students have virtually evaporated this year. Medsker also offered praise to her staff, which she says “really does want to engage and do hard work.”

“It feels good,” observed Kelly.

“It does feel good,” Medsker agreed. Her next “coffee chat” for interested parents, by the way, will be November 20th, and they will discuss results of the WSHS “climate survey.”

Many more time-specific events were announced during the meeting:

HOMECOMING: With the homecoming game on Saturday, October 15th, but no school on the preceding day, Spirit Week will start this Friday, October 7th. Daily themes, according to student-body leaders, are blue/gold, pajamas, tie-dye, “nerd,” and “color wars” on the last day (Thursday, October 13th, which also will include the homecoming assembly). The big game is at 5 pm, vs. Ingraham at WS Stadium, and the homecoming dance will follow – in the school commons for the first time in years; the theme is “Jungle Boogie.” They’re still looking for chaperones, and hoping some parents will help – not to snoop on their kids while they dance, but more to hang out in the hallways. A wristband system is planned for security; tickets are now on sale. (For freshmen, the game is a “Link Crew” event.)

WSHS FOUNDATION FUNDRAISING AUCTION: Interim athletic director Kim Depew (above) was among those who discussed the upcoming October 20th West Seattle High School Foundation auction/dinner to raise money for athletics, which are “not funded well,” according to principal Medsker. The costs of getting to playoff and tournament games, getting new uniforms, all start to pile up. And this year, several teams are doing well, it was noted – volleyball undefeated in league play as of Tuesday night, a soccer team leading its division, the biggest crosscountry in recent history. Besides the auction, a craft fair and flower sale are expected in spring. (For tickets to this month’s fundraiser, contact rjlee@seattleschools.org .)

FALL DRAMA CLUB PRODUCTION: Drama teacher Andrew Finley briefed the PTSA on “The Desperate Hours,” a suspense-thriller drama, running Oct. 26-28 and Nov. 2-4. He noted proudly that since it’s a drama, the students “get to do some serious character work,” and he asked everyone to get the word out so they’ll play to full houses – ticket sales fund much of the drama program. “That’s how I buy lumber to build sets,” Finley offered. Ticket information is now available on the westsidedrama.com website. A book sale is planned in conjunction with performances, too. Looking ahead: The always-popular spring musical hasn’t been chosen yet, but in the winter, the student-directed “Year of the Duck” is planned. Finley explained that the productions are put on by the Drama Club; drama-class students only have “to perform in front of each other.”

STUDENT HEALTH CENTER: As was the case with last week’s Chief Sealth PTSA meeting, this one also got a primer on the student health center, which is operated by Neighborcare Health, not the school district. Care provider Beth Upton said she’s there three days a week and another provider is there the other two, in addition to serving at Madison Middle School three days weekly so “she gets to know the kids over a 7-year time period.” She listed some of the services the center offers – from sports physicals to immunizations to reproductive care. And as was the case with the Sealth clinic workers’ briefing, she also mentioned the Families and Education Levy on the November ballot, which provides funding for the center, and explained the concept of “confidential care” – the services that teens can access without their parents having to be notified, such as birth control, mental health, and drug use. “I just try to get the kids to stay healthy one more day, to let their brain grow one more day, so they can make the best decisions they possibly can,” Upton said. (She did add that confidentiality might be broken “if the kids say they’re going to hurt themselves, hurt somebody else, or that somebody’s going to hurt them.”)

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Counselor Marcia Berenter said help would be appreciated with various services that used to be handled by people whose positions no longer exist, such as a fulltime career-counseling person. “We are on a very thin line of support here,” she explained, asking for volunteer help with tasks such as maintaining an e-mail list used to send out scholarship information. She’s hoping someone who “loves to sit on the computer” can help. They also need help managing visits by colleges that are interested in coming to the school to talk with students. One attendee wondered aloud if some kind of West Seattle-wide college night might help.

GRAD NIGHT FUNDRAISING: The all-night, no-booze party for graduates is in the planning stages for the Class of 2012, and early registration is under way – $100/student (though organizers say it costs $155 to stage it). They’ll be fundraising in a variety of ways, including the new Bartell Drugs “caring cards,” Sally Foster gift-wrap sales, and this Saturday’s car wash at West Seattle Produce, 11 am-3 pm. A poinsettia sale might be in the works for the holidays. About a third of the graduating seniors participated in last year’s Grad Night, PTSA meeting attendees were told.

WEST SEATTLE 5K: Next spring will be the fourth edition of the ever-more-popular fundraising walk/run on Alki. PTSA vice president for fundraising Denise Lathrop said it’s tentatively scheduled for May 20, 2012. It’s been adding about 100 registrants a year – this past May, 1,200 signed up. For next year, Lathrop said, they will be looking to increase the number of “upper-level sponsors”; listen up for a planning-kickoff meeting sometime this fall.

WHAT’S NEXT: The next general meeting of the WSHS PTSA will be in February.

3 Replies to "West Seattle HS PTSA kickoff: School year off to 'smooth' start"

  • Mitch October 6, 2011 (8:51 am)

    As the father of a 14 year old son who attends WSHS I want to thank you for taking the time to write this story, Tracy, despite knowing that very few people will read it, let alone comment. Had it been about a lost dog there would no doubt be dozens of maudlin and pointless comments by this point. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again anyway, people in Seattle seem to care more about pets than kids. So again, thank you for covering this very important story.

  • LS October 6, 2011 (12:00 pm)

    Tracy, I have to echo Mitch’s thank you in covering the WSHS PTSA meeting. Your prior coverage of WSHS was instrumental in helping us decide to send our 9th grader to WSHS this year.

    I was one of the parents at Tuesday night’s PTSA meeting and I was impressed by the meeting – And the dedication and passion of the staff to making WSHS a great school. They are doing a tremendous amount with very little funding.

    Loved the fact that they had some students who spoke about their work and involvement in the school programs. They cleary love their school and were well-spoken, accomplished young adults.

    BTW, my 9th grader is really enjoying his freshman year and all his teachers have fantastic. It’s only been a month and already they have gotten to know him and visa versa. The Link Crew program has been great.

    AND he came home from his second week of school talking about what classes he plans to take in 10th – 12th grades so he has multiple options for college!

    I would encourage all WSHS parents to attend a PTSA meeting. There are three more in the school year. And it really does give you a more in-depth look into the behind the scenes workings of the school.

    • WSB October 6, 2011 (12:31 pm)

      Thanks for the kind comments. In “old media,” meetings were often derided as “boring/nobody cares,” but we have found since moving to this wing of the news business that they yield lots of information, and the chance to meet/write about passionate/dedicated people, so we do the best we can in getting to as many of them as we can. This year, the high-school PTSAs for sure … maybe more in the future … and we hope all local PTAs/PTSAs will at least send us dates/times for their meetings so we can get them in the calendar and publish reminders in our daily previews (editor@westseattleblog.com any time) – TR

Sorry, comment time is over.