Java with Jim

Grab a cup of coffee and get filled in on the latest campus news and events. Come fill up on a warm cup of coffee and the latest news and events from Blackwell. This morning gathering is designed specifically for parents to hear directly from Mr. Eaton about what’s happening here at Elizabeth Blackwell. Mr. Eaton will also be available to field questions about our school, the district, and the state of education in Washington.

It’s also a great time to meet other parents and hear from the PTSA. We will be meeting 9:25 - 10:00 a.m. in library every fourth Tuesday of the month.

Month Information Presented Questions & Answers
September 25

Mr. Eaton began the morning with his monthly Power Point presentation which can be found by clicking here.


Question: Fun Run - Is there a goal for individuals or classes?

Answer:  No set goals or minimum participation. Many students like to look at the prizes and set goals for themselves based on what they'd like to earn. Some teachers will incentivize their class with a party or other fun event. Participation is a family decision.  Our PTSA has had a lot of success with the Fund Run over the past several years and has not required any additional fundraisers due to this success.  Some parent feedback included discouraging the use of individual prizes and focusing on class only prizes.

Question: How is our new Superintendent doing?  

Answer:  Dr. Stavem just started on August 1, 2018 and is currently in the mode of active listening and getting to know us.  She is aware we are a high performing district without major problems that must be fixed; however, she is always looking for ways to improve. She maintains there is no reason we can't be the best district in the nation, given that we have all the right pieces in place.  A goal she has in place is that our students should leave high school with the ability to choose their futures, not have their futures choose them.  Mr. Eaton has been very impressed so far.

Question: How much staff turnover do we have?

Answer:  We do not have a lot.  Our core staff have been here a decade or more.  Most of our turnover is due to family moves or retirement.  We have also grown over the past five years, adding additional staff to our family.

Question: Why is lunch shorter this year?

Answer:  We shortened it to 20 minutes from 25 for two reasons.  1. The vast majority of kids finish in 20 and then are left without something to do for those last five minutes, which often results in "shenanigans". 2. Before shortening the lunch period, there were only 5 minutes to transition between grade levels and get the room clean again.  This give more time for both.  This model has been adopted from other schools and is working very well.

Question: Can we expect school start times to change every year?

Answer: No, the change for this year was to accommodate a longer high school day.  There is a task force looking hard at research data showing that older students would benefit from a later start.  The decision will be made later this year whether elementary schools will switch to the earlier start times, swapping with high schools.  Once that issue is settled, our start time should remain stable.  Since Blackwell opened 20 years ago, this is the first change in the start time we've had.

October 23 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's Power Point Presentation.

Question:  As part of our discussion of Equity, a parent asked the following: With the Thanksgiving Holiday approaching, how does Blackwell address issues concerning Native American culture?

Answer: Conversations have happened and will continue to happen around this concern to make sure staff is remaining culturally sensitive as they move through all instructional units.

Question: Do our Equity discussions address implicit bias?

Answer: Yes, last year as part of our Equity training, we participated in an implicit bias training.  We are intentionally looking at our systems and processes with an equity lens to avoid inadvertently coming from an area of bias in our decision making.  This is an ongoing process at our school.

Question: Are there any plans to involve parents in this conversation?

Answer: Yes, it's all part of a bigger plan to hear parent and student voices in our equity work.  It's not in place quite yet, but our 6 member Equity Team is working on how to involve our community.

Question:  Can we expect any change to Bell Times for next year?

Answer: No change to Bell Times for next year.  The district has already determined there will be no start time changes for next year.  There is a district School Start Time Advisory, charged with looking at school times that will make a recommendation to the school board.  More information about the advisory will be shared in district publications.

Question: Is Blackwell growing?

Answer:  This district continues to grow, but our Blackwell population has remained fairly stable for the past couple years and we expect it to remain so.



November 27 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's presentation.



December - no meeting    
January 22 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's presentation.

Question: Is there going to be an assembly for Martin Luther King day?  

Answer: Due to our Disability Awareness assembly on Friday, 1/18, we will host the MLK assembly in March.  Our Student Council will be in charge of this assembly.

Question: Would the Equity Team be involved in this assembly? 

Answer: No, they are currently more focused on staff equity education and training. Our staff has been surveyed as to their level of knowledge and the results will be used to plan trainings.

Question:  Is there communication to parents regarding the existence of the Equity Team? 

Answer: As this is new for us this year, we are still working with staff regarding the Equity Team.  Any questions or concerns from parents should be brought directly to Mr. Eaton. Mr. Eaton will publish information about the Equity Team in an upcoming newsletter.






February 26 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's presentation.

Question:  Have there been any conversations about play-based learning versus academic homework?

This is a subject that is still evolving and each building in our district chooses their homework policies.  Research shows homework being very valuable in secondary schools. It’s less conclusive in elementary, but at Blackwell, we have found it valuable to assign 10 minutes of homework for each grade level…1st - 10 min; 2nd – 20 min, etc.  Homework in Kindergarten is optional. There is an expectation of students (with the help of their parents) learning to budget their time in order to complete necessary work. Details are in our Parent/Student Handbook.

Question: What about handwriting and typing…are these being taught?

Yes, they are both taught.  We have district curriculum and resources for each. Teachers do teach handwriting and typing using these resources. It may not be done in the same way we were taught as children, but it is being taught. With the digital age, less time is spent on handwriting than in previous generations.

Question: Will the number of classes at 2nd grade be the same next year or will there be four classes as there are four 1st grades?

The staffing ratios are set by district for each grade level. Second grade increases by three students from the first grade staffing ratio. So,  class sizes naturally grow.  In addition, quite a few 1st graders transition to full time Quest in second grade.  We also have entries from private school and natural summer enrollment.  This means we sometimes don’t know until very close to the start of the school year exactly how many classes of each grade level we will have to start the year.  This is why it is important to have accurate registration numbers throughout the spring and summer.

Question:  Will Mead’s new building increase their capacity? 

No, they will remain at about 650.  The current enrollment is anticipated to be around this number. Carson is the only Plateau school with plans to increase capacity due to growth.  Newly built apartments in our boundary will bring some new students to Blackwell, but we still have room to accommodate that growth.

March 26 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's presentation.

Question: Have we reached out to media sources to advertise the fact we are celebrating Blackwell's 20th Anniversary?

Answer: We had a great discussion of making sure that the great things we are doing at Blackwell are included in local publications and social media. 

Question: Is it possible to offer low sensory experiences at more of our Blackwell events?

Answer: This is definitely possible and is an area of growth and need for all of us.  

April 23 Please click here to see Mr. Eaton's presentation.

Question: What is the staffing for next year?

A: Staffing is based on actual student enrollment and confirmed counts at each grade level.  Our district uses student to teacher ratios that range from 20:1 in the lower grades to nearly 27:1 in the upper grades.  Based on our current enrollment and projections for next year, we expect to be about the same size with perhaps growing one classroom for next year.  Final staffing will set in mid to late August.


Question: What is the purpose of the SBA?

A: The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the statewide test used as a benchmark assessment. It is one way we measure student progress against the Common Core State Standards and the national Next Generation Science Standards. We use the data to see how we are doing as a whole and to determine what sort of supports or challenges we need to address.  Families receive individual reports on how their students are performing including areas of strength in their understanding and areas of struggle within English Language Arts, Math, and Science (5th graders only).


Question: Why is one of the first grade classes younger than the other classes?

A: This is purely by coincidence.  We do not use birth date as a metric when forming grade level classes.  If one of the classes is populated by students with later birthdays, this was unintended.


Question: Did the criteria to qualify for Quest change?

A: The legislature determines the criteria for students to qualify for highly capable programs.  Our Quest program did adjust our screening and qualifications to meet these requirements.  The result is more students do qualify for services. We have three levels of services that are detailed on our Elementary Quest website. (Mr. Eaton described the levels to the participants.)














May 21 - Will be a special needs focus  


June - no meeting