West Seattle High School: ‘Big gains’ in test scores, and more, revealed @ PTSA meeting

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight is West Seattle High School‘s homecoming game – and it caps off a big week that included the first 2012-2013 PTSA meeting.

“It’s the first meeting of the year and we are really revving to go. I’m excited to be here because I think West Seattle High School is really turning a corner” – especially in terms of parental involvement -began the new PTSA president, Tracy Burrows. “Now, we’re just building on the foundation … of the last couple of years.”

The theme of moving forward and upward recurred throughout the meeting. Principal Ruth Medsker shared promising academic news; PTSA leadership spoke about goals for the year.

Membership is one goal – they have 58 members now, and are “confident” of reaching the goal of 90 this year. Joining is easy, too – you can do it online.

Another goal: Success for their November 15th auction fundraiser (details, and online ticket sales, here). At the front of the room during Tuesday night’s meeting, an easel held a sign with ideas for donations they’re seeking as auction items: Air miles, baked goods, event tickets, services, landscaping, boat trips, cabins, wine, dinners …

Yet another: Burrows said they’re also initiating an annual fundraising drive, hoping to raise $5,000 – with a goal of getting half the school’s families to contribute.

And one more fundraiser: Glass pumpkins, created by WSHS parent and artist Bradly Burzynski.

(Contact asdoll@seattleschools.org if you are interested in buying one!)

Speaking of numbers: Principal Ruth Medsker, in her third year at WSHS – hailed at the PTSA meeting for having “brought stability and leadership” – had some.

For one, enrollment: As of Tuesday night’s meeting, she said the head count was at 980 – “full-time equivalent,” though there are more students on campus, with the Skill Center and Running Start programs, among other things. “Small, but right where we were supposed to come in,” Medsker said, while allowing that she would like “100 to 200 more.”

She is putting together a big data presentation for the October 11th WSHS open house, “where we met our goals and where we didn’t.” But she had highlights for the PTSA:

The big one was exceeding the goal of 9th graders who had met their requirements and could advance to 10th grade. The goal was 90 percent – the actual result, 96 percent, she said, and this year, the goal is 98 percent. (And she assured the PTSA that the 12 who didn’t have enough credits last year are being supported with “a plan” this year.)

*HISPE reading went up to 76.7% – goal was 80%
*HISPE writing goal was 85%, got to 83% – will focus language arts on meeting that goal
*Freshman algebra – they hoped for 37%, instead got to 70%: “We saw kids growing from way below grade level to above”
*Sophomore geometry – they wanted to go from 39%, went to 45%

“Big gains in math,” smiled the principal, who added that in science, while they had hoped to reach six percent of the district average, they exceeded it. This year, there’s a new test in science that 9th and 10th graders will have to pass.

She also noted that advanced-placement testing is one area where WSHS students still have lots of room for growth.

And she expressed pride that the teachers are valuing professional development more than ever before – something she said was not considered important before she arrived.

Speaking of teachers – she introduced new music teacher Ethan Thomas, saying the band will make its marching debut at tonight’s homecoming game (and were anxiously awaiting their uniforms!). Renowned Denny/Sealth music leader Marcus Pimpleton was coming to WSHS this week to work with them, she added.

And while WSHS had three open positions for teachers, Medsker expressed optimism about the hiring process, particularly for one language-arts position she hoped to fill by next week (the other two are special-education teacher positions).

The meeting included two guest presentations:

First, Skate Church Senior Pastor Serena Wastman and Gwen Fraser spoke about dealing with teenagers regarding underage drinking and drug use. Wastman declared, “We have a severe drug and alcohol problem with teenagers in West Seattle.” Her organization often deals with “out-of-control” teenagers, she said, urging the attendees: “I want you to imagine a West Seattle where we all work together on behalf of teenagers.”

Parental denial, they said, is common: Not my kid. S/he wouldn’t do that.

Parental backbone, they said, is mandatory: “No, you will NOT behave like this.”

And no, they said, it is NOT okay to say, well, you don’t mind if your teen drinks at home, where it’s “safe.” Said the pastor, “What are you thinking? That’s CRAZY.”

She clarified that she’s not a prohibitionist – “when you are 21, there’s nothing wrong with one drink, nothing inherently evil about alcohol.” But under 21 – it’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal.

Wastman’s advice for parents: “Trust, but verify.” Watch for signs: Slipping grades, slipping attendance, problems with friends, changed sleeping and eating habits.

Another guest was City Councilmember Tim Burgess talking about the Families and Education Levy, raising more than $30 million a year, “the city wrapping services around the most academically-at-risk students .. we’re not displacing any of the school district’s money or what they are responsible for .. but using $ for (after-school) etc.” He reminded attendees that WSHS is getting a $350,000 grant this year partnering with three nonprofits, he pointed out.

Since he’s chairing the Budget Committee this year, he also asked attendees to fill out the new online survey about their budget priorities.

October 11th open house
November 7th – next PTSA meeting
November 15th auction
May 19th – Tentative date for West Seattle 5K benefit run/walk
June 12th graduation – which is at Southwest Athletic Complex this year.

7 Replies to "West Seattle High School: 'Big gains' in test scores, and more, revealed @ PTSA meeting"

  • Stu September 28, 2012 (2:05 pm)

    Since when do we have the Skate Church present at a public High School function? And I don’t buy her comment “We have a severe drug and alcohol problem with teenagers in West Seattle.” I am sure we have some problems, but severe???, Sounds like a little overreaction to me.

    Very glad to see the test scores coming up. Congratulations.

  • NW Momma September 28, 2012 (2:59 pm)

    We have well-supported, smart kids in the immediate community that choose high school elsewhere because WSHS doesn’t offer the challenging, strong programs and AP classes needed to be a competitive college student.
    WSHS should be looking at the kids in the immediate area to serve- who are they; why are they choosing chief Sealth, Garfield and other schools farther away?. Hope WSHS can step it up fast!

  • joey September 28, 2012 (3:19 pm)

    There is also a fairly large (60+) contingent of kids at Holy Rosary(and maybe other private schools as well) that leave West Seattle to continue their education. I know of many families who would keep their kids “home” if things continue to improve.

    Sounds like WSHS is well on its way.


  • me on 28th Ave SW September 28, 2012 (4:45 pm)

    I am going to have to disagree with the statement “WSHS doesn’t offer the challenging, strong programs and AP classes needed to be a competitive college student.” Is this based on first hand knowledge or just repeating the rumor that seems to be so popular the last year or so? My daughter is a senior at WSHS and is having no problem at all getting attention from many colleges based on her public school education, school involvement and test scores. I am confident she is well prepared to succeed in college. Students (and their families) get out of a school what effort they put into it.

    We are fortunate to have two good choices for public high school in West Seattle and having had students attend and graduate from both WSHS and Sealth I am tired of this odd fixation the community seems to have in putting down one or the other school. Neither school is perfect! It is true that WSHS lost students when the newly remodeled Sealth opened up (as predicted). In my opinion, the adults in this community should be building up BOTH programs. It was only a few years ago people on this blog were calling Sealth the distant second choice.

  • Jim September 29, 2012 (7:58 am)

    It’s refreshing and encouraging to hear that WSHS provided a venue for Wastman. Zero tolerance for illegal activity, set the bar high, hold kids accountable, pay attention to them? That’s how I raise my children.

  • WSHS Parent September 29, 2012 (8:06 am)

    Actually WSHS does offer challenging, strong academic programs and AP classes, so please check your facts before commenting. My senior & her classmates are highly prepared for college and beyond through hard work in hard classes. My freshman is excited & super motivated toward college as she sees the excitment of the staff & the high expectations the teachers have for the students. Kudos to WSHS & Chief Sealth staff for working hard too, on behalf of our students.

  • Bonnie September 29, 2012 (8:56 am)

    Both WSHS and Sealth are excellent schools and I get really tired of people putting one or the other down. My kids will go to Sealth and I am happy with that but I’d be just as happy to send them to West Seattle. (in a few years, they aren’t high school yet)

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