San Juan students face changes in new school year

Tick toc, tick toc. Gather thee blackberries while thee may, for just as the dog days of summer turn the berries sweet, minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days and the ring of the school bell can be heard in the distance. Soon ... soon.

There are changes in store for parents, students and teachers this school year, which starts today.

The biggest, without a doubt, in the district is the change at the helm of Friday Harbor Elementary School, as principal Jody Metzger left to take a principal’s position in the Kent School District.

Gary Pflueger is eager to start the year as the new principal. “I’m anxious to get started with the first day of school so I can get busy doing my job,” he said, interrupting his meeting-filled summer schedule. “This is an amazing community. I’m very impressed with people’s enthusiasm, intelligence and involvement. This is … amazing.”

Middle school changes are few. Lisa Salisbury, long known in the district, returns after a year away on the mainland. She’ll be teaching sixth-grade math and science in place of Lynnea Roberts, who has taken a one-year leave of absence.

Middle school principal Ann Spratt said that two people will be joining the staff teaching special education: veteran teacher Cindy Williams, who brings 23 years of experience working in Eastern Washington; and Ben Troutman, who will also teach a section of eighth-grade English.

Sharon Morrissey will be part-time P.E. and health teacher at the middle school, in addition to teaching winterim classes and high school life sports. Binney Haenel will be orchestrating the front office.

At the high school, Marc Vermeire returns to the science program, as does Jesse Bisciglia. Vermeire will teach life sciences, AP environmental studies “and maybe a section of physics and chemistry,” Principal Fred Woods said.

Leaving after 35 years of service is art teacher Pat Speer. The district is currently interviewing candidates for her replacement.

Coach Richard Ledford has left teaching, and his P.E. teaching position has been taken over by Jackie Reiff. Middle-school science teacher Darrin Scheffer is taking over as head coach of the Wolverines football program.

Woods is enthusiastic about an aviation class that will be offered in fall and spring quarters. “It’s basically ground school,” Woods said. “Would you be able to complete a full pilot’s course though high school? No. But it’s a great start.”

Cecil Dent continues with wood shop and auto shop.

The school has a lead on a computer-controlled router, complete with software to run it, through the tireless work of Larry Wight. “That will be an exciting option for a couple of independent study students. We hope it will grow into something more,” Woods said.

The high school’s core teaching staff is the same.

Drama teacher Fred Yockers is doing the unthinkable this year: a musical: “Grease.”

“Auditions are coming up soon — in September — so pay attention. I’m excited.”

Spring Street International School is more than holding its own with 73 students and a lot of changes from top to bottom this year. Their dormitory, Blair House, will be home to 10 students, two from Whidbey Island and eight from the Asian countries of China, Korea and Vietnam.

“It’s really exciting. It’s going to be great for them and it’s going to be great for the community,” incoming Head of School Louis O’Prussack said Friday.

Spring Street School will welcome four new teachers this year. Lopez Island teacher Heather June will teach high school English. Meri Block of Palo Alto, Calif. will teach middle-school humanities. John Phillips, Ph.D., of Seattle will teach chemistry.

“He wrote the textbook they’ll be using,” O’Prussack said. “He’s got a big background in implementing technology in the classroom.”

Olga Rodriguez of Spain has just arrived to teach Spanish, O’Prussack said. “We got her through an exchange program through the Spanish embassy.” She has a master’s degree in history and has taught Spanish as a second language in Spain.

Founders Peg and Ted Hope aren’t pulling back on their responsibilities despite threats to the contrary. “They’re sort of unsuccessfully pulling back, which is great for me,” O’Prussack said. Peg will teach her usual stable of world religion, geometry, Latin and do the college counseling. Ted looks forward to teaching AP human geography, helping with world religions.

At Paideia Classical School, which specializes in a K-8, Christian-based curriculum, Headmaster Scott Mapstead welcomes 42 students into the new school year.

“But no K,” he said. “We’ve got room in kindergarten.”

Returning are the same four full-time and two part-time staff members, including teachers Susan Alps, Steve Brumsickle, Chris Michael, and Mapstead himself. Marlis Sandwith will teach music and Tammy Anderson will hold it all together in the office.

Mapstead is excited about the school’s scholarship program. “It’s our first year. This is our first time we’ve had a little extra money available for scholarship needs. We are excited to be able to offer to parents help through these lean times,” he said.

Paideia’s fund-raiser will be in March.