Bethel School Board January 8 full of interest for the public

By Marianne Lincoln

Superintendent Tom Seigel giving the oath of office to Warren Smith
Superintendent Tom Seigel giving the oath of office to Warren Smith

Tuesday night’s Bethel School Board meeting began with the swearing-in of Warren Smith. Once again the board has a full five members. Smith will finish out the balance of the District 1 term from Ron Morehouse which expires this year, 2013. It is likely his name will be on the ballot this fall.

Crowded boardroom
Crowded boardroom

The board room at the Educational Service Center (ESC) was packed. The next agenda item was awards to students who excelled at Advanced Placement (AP) courses and scored high on the AP tests. More than 30 kids, some already graduates were honored. Among them, the Daffodil princess from Graham Kapowsin, Amy Bernstein received an award for her scores. It was also mentioned she has the highest grade point average at her school. Way to go Amy! In 2010 there were 597 kids in Bethel taking the AP tests. In 2012 there were 905.

At the start of all regular meetings, Superintendent Seigel brings the board up to date on the most recent occurrences. This night he noted the purchase of 2.4 acres of land adjacent to and just south of the Pierce County Skills Center. This land will allow for additional future expansion of the facility whose programs have become very popular with students around the county.

Seigel noted that Cliff Anderson, Principal of Bethel High School was just honored as principal of the year for the South Puget Sound League.

Educational Service District 3 holds meetings of board members from the South Puget Sound area and on March 4th their meeting will be at the Pierce County Skills Center. Challenger’s student catering program will provide the dinner.

Starting January 10, the annual state audit of the Bethel District will begin. These audits cover different facets of the district books on alternate years. The audit generally completes by May with a public report of findings to the board.

During comments, Warren Smith expressed his desire to, “Help the Bethel School District to be the cutting edge,” referencing his experience at many levels directing education on the state and national levels. “He said he wants, “To help kids truly believe they are capable of learning, without exception.”

The three Daffodil princesses were introduced to the board. Noelle Kaku of Bethel, Amy Bernstein of Graham Kapowsin and Anna Kessner of Spanaway Lake will represent the district thought the year at various events and compete March 8 to be Daffodil Queen. (Here’s the story of their crowning.)

Next, Assistant Superintendent Ann Varkados brought out a large, no, huge pair of tennis shoes. The shoes were autographed. This is a fairly new district award for those employees who go above and beyond the call of duty in various ways. (These are the people whose shoes are so big they are hard to fill.) The winners were all the people who worked on the holiday “Stuff the Bus” project. The project was the inspiration of three transportation employees, Michelle McGhee, Michele Lile and Jamie Morris. They worked with their department head Karen Campbell and their Union rep., Kath Larson to clear the way. Karen Campbell helped present the award, obviously proud of the achievement of her department personnel. You can see the story and photos from the Stuff the Bus day in this past article.

During the public comment part of the meeting, Brain Grassi spoke about a potential problem with the door locks at Bethel Middle School.

Bob Benum a building consultant with the 723 Networking Group commented, “The possibility of a swimming pool … is in everybody’s best interest.” He encouraged the board to go forward with it.

Board member Michael Audas discusses the aquatic center with 723 Networking Group members
Board member Michael Audas discusses the aquatic center with 723 Networking Group members

Terry Belieu, who is developing the Mountain Plaza Shopping Center at 208th and the Mountain Highway spoke, “To encourage the board to build what is being called the Bethel Aquatic Learning and Wellness Center. The aquatic center will help build pride in the community and will be a phenomenal improvement.”

Bill Suepke another local business owner told the board, “The impact of that center will be huge. I could even imagine a hotel being built here with that center.” Bill’s reference was to conversation in the 723 Networking group about the positive long term impact that a large aquatic facility can have on the economic vitality of a community. (More businesses in the area paying taxes lessens the tax burden on homeowners.) About 8 members of the business group were present to talk to board members, but only 3 spoke during the public comment. Here is a link to a public petition asking the board to build the aquatic center for Bethel.

The next speakers were Paul and Melanie Virdell, parents of Chris Virdell who disappeared February 9, 2012 near Bethel High School. They reminded the board that the crime rate in the Spanaway is 78% higher than most communities in the state. The want to raise awareness among the people who live in the area that there are suspicious activities taking place and to stay vigilant regarding their kids, even the older ones. They expressed a desire to have the school district print the story of what happened to Chris in the Bethel Pride. They would like to see more coverage of the issue and hopefully find someone with more information about what happened to their son. Wednesday night, January 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. they will hold a vigil at the Bethel Station Shopping center in the parking lot just south of the Burger King in Chris’ honor. This is 11 months since he disappeared.

On February 9, 2013, the first anniversary of Chris’ disappearance, there will be a candlelight vigil at 45th Avenue and 224th Street, the site Chris was last seen.

The next item on the agenda was a surprise for new board member Warren Smith. It was a settlement agreement on the Reuther case. This case first went into litigation with the district when Smith was last on the Bethel board. He commented that he was glad to vote to put it to rest.

There was additional discussion at the end of the meeting over dates for study session, workshops and issues that need to be discussed further. One of the more difficult topics appeared to be whether the district should make any changes in light of the events at Sandy Hook Elementary. Should there be more security or different procedures? There was general agreement that this was a discussion that should be part of a wider local public discussion or public meeting.

Thursday, January 10 is the next Future School Tour. If  you haven’t been on one, you get to see the inside of several classrooms in action at all three levels, ride a school bus, get some refreshments and see lots of happy-faced school kids doing what you might expect, learning great things. So much has changed in the schools since the parent’s generation, it’s an amazing thing to see. You can reserve a place on the bus by calling Ann Varkados Jerri McKeown at 253-683-6016. There are two more tours this year one February 7 and March 7.

Links to stories on Chris Virdell


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