I am incredibly proud of our students, our staff and our families for their incredible dedication to learning this fall. Covid-19 case spiked in August forcing the entire county into remote learning. It certainly was not the opening we wanted, but our teachers studied hard to increase their skills in the remote environment, and our students put forth strong learning efforts. We are so incredibly fortunate to have our supportive families as we know remote learning puts a lot of stress on parents. After a great start in remote learning, we were again very close to opening our schools for some form of in-person learning. However, those efforts again fell through as Covid-19 cases spiked again in October. Throughout November and December, our in-person learning efforts will focus on remote and small group instruction. Our board and our staff truly want students on our campuses, enjoying school, and learning with their peers as soon as possible. When the medical and public health professionals agree that move is safe, we will be ready to operate in-person learning models.
During the pandemic, school construction was approved to continue in Washington State. The new Yelm Middle School building is on schedule and under budget - ready to open next fall. During the summer months, safety projects at Yelm High School, Ridgeline Middle School, Mill Pond, Prairie and Ft. Stevens elementary schools were completed to add safety features including secured entry vestibules, key card entry systems, new internal and external camera systems, fire doors, classroom doors and exterior lighting systems. Additional safety projects will be completed next summer at Lackamas and McKenna elementary schools. These are all actions stemming from the passage of the 2018 bond measure.
Being forced to conduct board meetings virtually has not slowed down our school board. This fall, the board completed its goal to bring student representatives onto the board. Two seniors were selected as board representatives, and two juniors were selected to train this year and move onto the board next year. Each subsequent year, a new junior will be selected. It has been amazing to have the voice of our students present in our meetings and work. Additionally, our board received the WSSDA “Board of Distinction” award and will contend for Board of the Year later in November.
Our community continues to join in the conversation about getting each and every student to graduation and beyond. Graduate Yelm! now features 160 community network partners who are committed to helping students stay on a path to graduation. Our board goal will be to grow the network to at least 200 partners. This year our community will also help create a new “Portrait of a Graduate” that will paint a clear picture of how ready our graduates are to engage their High School and Beyond Plan.
I consistently remind myself that our district is the only one in the state to use the word community in its name. We wear that badge of honor proudly. Thank you to all who have stepped in this fall to support students, help them get connected to the internet and school, and to create virtual opportunities for them to advance their learning. I am positive and hopeful that we will have in-person learning opportunities this year. We want the students back on campus. In the meantime, please continue to support the work our district is doing in the remote environment. There are some amazing things happening in those classrooms. Our students are learning and growing.
Brian Wharton became Superintendent of Yelm Community Schools in July of 2016. His education career started as a high school English teacher and coach in Spokane. He moved to Western Washington in 1988 and worked with the North Thurston Public Schools until 2010. His administrative roles included Nisqually Middle School Principal, River Ridge High School Principal, and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.
Brian began working in Yelm Community Schools in 2010 as principal of Yelm High School before being appointed Superintendent. His education background includes his bachelor’s degree from Whitworth University, master’s degree from Western Washington University, his Principal Credential from Central Washington University, and his Superintendent’s Credential from Washington State University. In the past two years, Brian led the board in re-designing the Strategic Plan guiding the district's work around four core beliefs: Student Centered, Learning Focused, Results Oriented and Community Connected. Through that work, the district has developed numerous partnerships with the City of Yelm, South Puget Sound Community College, Together! of Thurston County, JBLM, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Behavioral Health Resources (BHR), and Yelm and Thurston County Chambers to support the board goals. In 2017 the District launched Graduate Yelm!, a community impact initiative designed to support graduation for all district students.