Finding a place as the voice of the youth | Kentlake Site Council

For some time now I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I feel out of place at the Kentlake Site Council meetings.

We met on Jan. 26 and the next morning I realized exactly what it is: I’m the youngest person in the room.

There has not been a student representative since the first meeting. So, at the age of 32, I’m the kid of the group.

As a result I feel compelled to speak on behalf of the students. I feel a bit strange about that, though, because I am not a student at Kentlake nor do I have the kind of investment parents of students might have.

Yet, I feel like someone needs to do it.

Another thing that makes me feel out of place is that while I’m a parent, I am a young parent with a toddler, while my peers on the site council have older children who are in school. It’s hard for me to relate.

So, I continually revert back to how I would feel were I student at Kentlake. Would I want University of Washington classes? Yes! Without a doubt.

I try to be careful about how much I talk about myself because this isn’t about me, it’s about providing the best education for students at Kentlake, but I have to offer my reference point because I know how I felt as a high school student: bored, frustrated and more interested in my extracurricular activities (and by that I mean clubs, sports, student newspaper) than in the education I was or was not receiving.

Now, not to say I can’t take some responsibility in what I got out of my education in the Bellevue School District, but I can tell you I am jealous of the opportunities students at Kentlake have now. Especially as Joe Potts, the school’s principal, works to expand the UW offerings so kids can earn a year’s worth of credits while in high school.

If I were a student at Kentlake now, I would not be bored; I would be challenged and it would be early on. When I was in high school, I didn’t really feel engaged until my senior year when I took classes like psychology with Del Dolliver or World Affairs with Mike Coleman. Those were not AP classes and UW in the High School wasn’t an option. Oh, sure, they were starting the International Baccalaureate program at Interlake my junior year, but I was too old to start in it.

Yes, I must admit, I’m a teensy bit bitter about what I missed out on.

To be fair, though, it gave me a greater appreciation for the college experience but I also wasn’t prepared for college. At least not as well as I could have been. In high school I kind of cruised along getting mostly Bs without having to work too hard.

Potts wants to grab students like me in ninth grade, challenge them and have them enrolled in AP, Honors or UW courses as sophomores. And not just one but up to three.

That’s brilliant. Take those teens who are capable but are sort of in the middle and push them from underperforming to over performing.

That’s just what teenagers need, kids to have high expectations, because as one high school coach told me in the fall, kids will not just meet them but exceed them.

So, how can Kentlake ensure its students will do well? How can students get the support they need?

One of the site council members suggested, from her experience as an educator at the community college level, encouraging kids to form study groups.

Students can meet at school, after school, or use technology such as Skype web chats to have virtual study groups.

And speaking of technology, Potts talked about the plan for all ninth graders who walk through Kentlake’s doors this fall to have laptops, and if all goes to plan there will be no text books for those students.

There will be an increase in the use of OneNote, a note taking system I observed when I visited Kentlake in November in Tammy Barnhart’s freshman English class and Russ Ballard’s chemistry class.

Potts said that will require a transition. Not only will there be no textbooks, but, next year’s freshman class will have as little paper as possible. None if the principal’s plan works out.

We switched gears at the end of the meeting to look at data regarding Kentlake graduates, specifically those who enrolled in post-secondary educational institutions.

While I’m not good at math, I do love data, because if collected correctly it can be tremendously informative and without bias. In short, it’s brutally honest. Nothing I love more than honesty.

So, looking at the numbers, I observed that the number of Kentlake alumni enrolling in some kind of program whether at Green River Community College, UW, Renton Technical, etc., had dropped significantly during the past three years.

Of the 2008 graduating class, 69 percent enrolled in some sort of post-secondary education, but of the 2010 class that left Kentlake some seven months ago, 60 percent signed up for classes somewhere.

On the other hand, Kentlake students have a high retention rate, and 84 percent went back for a second year of college.

That’s significantly higher than the national average, Potts explained.

What that told me is that while students from Kentlake are prepared when they get there, which is an excellent sign, 40 percent of the last graduating class didn’t even make the leap.

“Our very elite students do well here and (in college),” Potts said.

So, the question is how can Kentlake staff and parents impart that message of the value of education after high school?

Margaret Harto, mayor of Covington, is on the council. She suggested that the district needs to find a way to start giving that message as early as possible, at the elementary school level on up.

I totally agree with that sentiment. Potts explained the principals at the elementary schools in Covington that feed into Cedar Heights Middle School, which feeds into Kentlake have been working with Potts and Cedar Heights’ principal Heidi Maurer on the concept of vertical collaboration.

What that term means is this idea teachers and administrators at those schools are working to get on the same page so the education from Cedar Valley Elementary to Cedar Heights to Kentlake is consistent all the way through.

By collaborating from kindergarten through 12th grade that message and many others can be carried through from start to finish.

It may take some time to see the results of that effort, but the early fruit it is bearing, Potts said, is great.

Teachers from Cedar Heights have visited Kentlake and vice versa. They’re seeing what is being taught at each level and working together to make it more cohesive and in some cases, to find out that students have indeed learned a concept in middle school even though they’re telling Kentlake teachers they did not.

All this introspection has been good, I think, and it didn’t stop there.

Potts showed us another piece of data from the Washington State Achievement Index which shows Kentlake generally measured as “good” overall with a significant strength being in writing.

But, good should not be enough, Potts said. That’s like being happy with Cs, with being average, and the principal said that was something he was never satisfied with as a student and he certainly isn’t satisfied with Kentlake being just good.

“Good is the enemy of great,” Potts said. “The good news is we have the potential to be spectacular.”

With all the things Potts has planned and the changes that have already taken place, I believe it, because I have never met a principal as passionate as he is about educating.

It’s really inspiring to me and I’m excited for the students at Kentlake because of the opportunities they have to challenge themselves, to be prepared for college and the world beyond, because that’s what I wanted when I was a teenager. Sure, I managed but I can tell you there were many pitfalls I could have avoided.

Knowing Kentake students, they will take on the challenge, and even though I feel somewhat out of place among the adults, I know I will always feel right at home with those kids.

And those kids will help Kentlake become spectacular; they will become great.

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