Kentlake Site Council meeting like the first day of school

Our first Kentlake Site Council meeting of the school year on Wednesday kind of felt like the first day back at school after summer vacation.

There was some review from last year before we moved on to new information.

Principal Joe Potts went over the new three-pronged organizational structure of the school which is the administration, the Instructional Leadership Team and the Site Council.

We also looked over some data we reviewed at the beginning of last year as well as newer data that covered test scores, end of course assessments and the like which was straight from a presentation Potts made Oct. 19 to the Kent School Board, the district’s school improvement team and the superintendent’s cabinet.

There is still room to improve, Potts said, there is still progress to be made but after his first year at Kentlake the school is moving forward.

For example, the school met the participation requirement for state testing, something it had not done the previous year, he said, and this year the school met standard in 22 of 25 cells which was also a significant improvement from year to year.

“It’s a statement about our students and teachers that we’ve made progress,” Potts said. “We made great progress this year in AYP (adequate yearly progress).”

Potts also told us about the University of Washington speaker series, which kicked off on Oct. 25 with Eric Chudler, a neuroscience expert and member of the university faculty in the bioengineering department. (If you want to know more about the series, I wrote a story for the Oct. 28 issue, and it can also be found on our website at

The speaker series is significant for the school and something Potts is clearly excited about. It seems like the first lecture went well with about 120 students, teachers and community members in attendance.

And speaking of UW, the university-level courses offered at the school this year are popular, or as Potts put it, “bulging,” as are the school’s Advanced Placement courses.

Mark Lanza, a member of the Site Council, has a daughter attending Kentlake. He explained she is taking two University of Washington classes this semester and likes them so much she wanted to sign up for an AP class, as well.

In fact, Lanza said, his daughter told him everybody seems to be taking the UW courses.

Her perception isn’t far off — according to Potts, there are 1,500 seats filled in UW and AP courses this year.

When I visited Susan Best’s journalism class Sept. 29, I heard the same sentiment from those students, with one boy telling me something that further reinforces what Lanza said.

“My friends, some of them were in core classes... now they’re in UW classes and they’re doing well and they love it,” the student said. “Some of them are taking three or four classes of UW and it just raises the standards at our school. They’re excited about looking forward to college and I think its just going to bring Washington state up in the test scores.”

Oh, and speaking of student input, I was thrilled to see Kentlake senior Blake Jensen at the meeting not only present but participating. I saw him perform in the Mr. Kentlake competition in the spring and he’s certainly an impressive young man. I hope he continues to join us going forward. After all, as Potts said, he is Mr. Kentlake. Who better to represent the students than Jensen.

As we progressed from review to tackling new material, Potts talked about the freshman one-to-one laptop program which seems to be working well for students and teachers in the classroom but may not be a tool the kids are using at home.

But, that is based solely on anecdotal evidence presented by teachers and parents at the meeting, so take that with a grain of salt. I wrote a story in late August about the Jump Start program which incorporated roll out of laptops to the ninth graders, so, if you want to know more about that you can find it on the web. Though it likely wouldn’t hurt to do a follow up on the usage of laptops at the high school level later on the in the school year. I’ll put it on my to do list.

“You can go into almost any ninth grade class and you will see laptops open and up,” Potts said. “That says a lot about our teachers.”

Tammy Barnhart, an English teacher at Kentlake and member of the Site Council, said she has liked using the laptops as a tool in her classroom thus far.

The administration is doing the best it can, this year to not only improve the rigor of the curriculum, Potts said, but to also provide more support for students who are struggling with new intervention strategies such as Check and Connect, which has students meeting weekly with school staff to work on goals to help them improve academically.

“We’ve really marshaled our resources to support kids,” he said. “Anybody who wants to get help gets it from the best teachers.”

And the UW program will expand next year when Kentlake starts offering chemistry. Potts said Kentlake will be the first in the state to offer it.

We covered a lot in an hour and a half. We always do, though, and I look forward to our next meeting during which we’ll discuss the school improvement plan.

Potts has a plan for the school, no doubt about that.

“I see us as being one of the best high schools in the state in the next five years,” he said.

Now that we’ve gotten the review out of the way and started learning something new, I’m glad we’ve gotten through the first day of school, I mean, the first Site Council meeting of the year.

I am a ready to learn and take action. And, based on everything I’m hearing about Kentlake this year, I’m not the only one.

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