Education news from around Idaho

Westfall joins State Department of Education

Veteran school communications professional Allison Westfall will join the State Department of Education team Feb. 13 as director of communications. Jeff Church will remain chief communications officer.

Allison Westfall
Allison Westfall

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said the hire was made to “ensure the public and our stakeholders are well informed and can get the information they need quickly and easily.”

Ybarra consulted with Soholt Strategic Communications in November and asked them to conduct a communications review and make recommendations for areas to improve. Ybarra and department directors received a verbal report from the reviewers in January.

“The findings confirmed what I’ve been hearing that communications is an area where we were under staffed and needs more attention including our website, social media, and serving internal and external stakeholders,” Ybarra said. “I am asking the communication team to take the report and make improvements.”

Westfall joins the SDE from the Nampa School District, where she is the director of community relations. She worked for the district for more than 10 years. Prior to joining the district, Westfall was the public information officer for the SDE from January 1998 to July 2006. From September 1987 to December 1997, she worked as a reporter and editor for the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Two schools nominated as Blue Ribbon Schools

The SDE nominated two schools for the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Program (NBRS) — Horseshoe Bend Elementary School and Moscow’s J. Russell Elementary School.

The NBRS Program recognizes schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing the achievement gaps among student subgroups. Idaho’s two school nominees were submitted in the category of exemplary high performing schools. These schools are among the highest performing schools as measured by state assessments.

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In order to be nominated for this national award, the school must meet national and state requirements including:

  • Be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state when schools are ranked on the performance of all students who participated in the most recently administered state assessments in reading/English language arts and mathematics.
  • Be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state when ranked on the performance of all students in the subgroup who participated in the most recently administered state assessments in reading/English language arts and mathematics.

Each Idaho Blue Ribbon nominee school will receive a monetary award from the state Title I Academic Achievement Award fund. The Secretary of Education will announce the 2017 NBRS recipients in September.

Parma student wins gaming contest

Zions Bank

Parma High School student Cora Sharkey is $250 richer just from playing video games. Cora participated in Zions Bank’s financial entertainment online game tournament and won.

In the game, Cora served as a personal assistant to spendthrift movie stars in “Celebrity Calamity,” and managed farm resources to build savings and survive emergencies in “Farm Blitz.” You can play the game here.

“Zions Bank knows how important it is to teach students how to make good financial decisions before they are faced with them in the real world,” said Connie Tolmie, a Zions Bank manager in Wilder.  “These online games are a great resource because they teach financial skills in a way that’s fun for kids.”

Did your school receive a STEM grant?

The Idaho STEM Action Center awarded nearly $248,000 in computer science device grants to schools and public education programs throughout the
state. The 33 grants will fund the exploration of CS principles, coding, and STEM curriculum by outfitting educational environments with makerspaces, rapid-prototyping centers, innovation labs and essential equipment, including Chromebooks, notebooks, tablets and handheld devices.

Students will use these devices to learn software-development tools, frameworks, and languages, such as App Inventor, Java, Python, and Scratch.

Grant recipients

Aberdeen Middle School, Aberdeen
Athol Elementary School, Athol
Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center, Blackfoot
Camas County Junior High School, Fairfield
Canfield Middle School, Coeur d’Alene
Canyon Ridge High School, Twin Falls
East Junior High School, Boise
Emmett Middle School, Emmett
Fremont H Teed Elementary School, Kuna
Gizmo-CdA, Coeur d’Alene
Grangeville Elementary/Middle School, Grangeville
Greensferry Elementary School, Post Falls
Idaho Arts Charter School, Nampa
Idaho Falls School District 91, Idaho Falls
Idaho Science and Technology Charter School, Blackfoot
Jerome School District 261, Jerome
Juliaetta Elementary School, Juliaetta
Kershaw Intermediate School, Sugar City
Kimberly High School, Kimberly
Marsing Elementary School, Marsing
Marsing Middle School, Marsing
Middleton High School, Middleton
Moscow School District, Moscow
Nampa School District, Nampa
Nezperce School District, Nezperce
Payette River Technical Academy, Emmett
Pepper Ridge Elementary School, Boise
Purple Sage Elementary School, Middleton
Shelley School District 60, Shelley
Summit Elementary School, Jerome
Summit Hills Elementary School, Idaho Falls
Temple View Elementary School, Idaho Falls
Vision Charter School, Caldwell