Building on Optimism: QUILT OF QUOTES


Meet some of the teachers, parents and business owners of


Author, Jaime Kokaisel

published, April 21st, 2022


CLICK HERE for PART 1 – “Building on Optimism: FACILITIES

Sara Bonine has been a Teacher at Newport Elementary for 17 years with a child who attends there as well.

Small is Good.

She says, “As parents, my husband and I chose to open-enroll our daughter at Newport because we believe and hope our daughter learns how unique and diverse our communities and world can be. We know through the small classroom sizes, the philosophy the school strives for and the community that Newport Elementary builds, she will grow to be a strong, successful and caring person.” It’s a place where Sara can see her daughter grow in her friendships, resilience and learning. She has the ability to teach her lessons about diversity, family hardships and life lessons. “We relate to the people and the way families carry themselves, I grew up in the small local community school (RIP Withrow Elementary) and my husband in a small private school community, we were able to meet that desire for our daughter in the awesome public school district that I have been invested in for years. It was a win-win for us all.”

“I believe Newport Elementary provides another option for families who want to live in a small town and attend a small school. We provide that different and unique setting from that of other schools in the district.”

Newport Teacher Sara Bonine

Sara explains how Newport Elementary is best able to meet the needs of Newport’s kids.

  • The small town feel relates to the small town itself.
  • The school is easy to get to on foot or bike. For the low income families the convenience of this means higher program turnout, which means more learning time, which means more proficiency.
  • Since the Elementary School acts as a hub, this means there is a sense of ownership for these kids. “At Newport Elementary, the kids and families here do not feel like outsiders. Their school is their second home, they share their deep and vulnerable needs with us as a staff because they know we are committed to them. IT IS THEIR OWN.” (Bonine)

Kristy Seerup is a Licensed Childcare Provider in Newport.

She has lived in Newport for 56 years. She attended Newport as a child, and so did her kids and grand kids. Since she is a licensed childcare provider in Newport, to this day it still remains a place she sends her “kids” (in daycare).

Kristy has chosen Newport Elementary all these years with all her kids, grand kids and daycare kids for a reason.”It is and excellent school! Smaller classrooms speak volumes and children get more one-on-one learning” (Seerup)

The School is a Hub.

The more I interviewed people, the more I gained a sense of what it means to live in Newport. It is not like any other community. It’s land and its history are just as diverse as its people and its housing stock.

Sara says, “Geographically, our students do not have the same access as other students (if the plan gets voted through) to their neighborhood school. They are already challenged by the highway dividing parts of their city, they do not have access to community centers for after school activities like Central Park Library, recreation centers and clubs. The school hosts Family Fun Nights, Math/Literacy Nights, concerts and plays for families to attend with ease, and within their community. For the students, families and staff, you are taking away these kids’ hub … their rec center.”

“We feel Newport Elementary is the best, most accessible school for this community. The school is the main hub for the city.”

Newport Teacher Sara Bonine

Amanda Weierke has been a Teacher in the district for 19 years, with nine spent teaching 3rd grade at Newport Elementary.

She says, “The closure of Newport would be devastating to the community and our district as a whole. Newport Elementary is the center of the Newport community. It is a unique population with unique needs … “. She goes on to say, “The small town feel of the community directly connects to the small town feel of the school. Everyone knows everyone which is vital to the success of these kids. The kids and families in Newport depend on this school in ways that a lot of families/students do not depend on a school. It is a vital part of survival and safety for many these kids and a place where everyone belongs and fits in where they otherwise would not.”

“During my 9 years at Newport I was not only a teacher but a mentor, a safe place, a reliable adult and simple love for these kids.” Amanda says. “My time at this school changed me for the better ❤ and will always hold a large piece of my heart. I am still on contact with many students from my time there today.

“The stories I can tell from my time at Newport would shock you, warm your heart, make you cry, make you laugh and make you understand exactly why this building is so important to the community and to the kids.” (Weierke)

“The connections are vital. The connections are different. The connections hit harder and seem almost more important than connections made in other teaching situations.”

SoWashCo Teacher Amanda Weierke

School Closure.

“This is the third time since I’ve been here (17 years) that Newport has been on the chopping block.” Says Sara Bonine. “The reasons given are always the same : We’re not running efficiently, or we’re under enrolled, or we are the lowest performing. As a school we are doing our best to learn and grow with our population, our trends academically prove that throughout the years with our highly-transient population we have been able to maintain academic growth compared to other schools with similar Free and Reduced Lunch Populations in the state.”

Newport City Council Member, Marvin Taylor wrote about Newport Elementary’s high rate of students receiving free or reduced lunches. He says it’s 43.75%, which narrowly misses Crestview at 44.61% and tops the district.

A large crowd of Newport supporters attended the March 24th School Board Meeting after rallying to “Save Newport” just prior to that Passing cars on East Point Douglas Road felt their passionate plea. Today, they plan to Rally again in protest of the LRFP which, if passed, will close their school.

Amanda Weierke says, “The thought of shuttling the children of Newport off to two or three schools is heartbreakingly devastating to me. These kids struggle to fit in. They are not square pegs jumping into square holes, and their life experiences are different than those of other kids in the district.

As a teacher, Sara says, “With news of the closure, we helped parents understand their options and informed them to discuss and talk to the district leaders and school board. They responded with ‘Why would the district, as big as this, ever listen to me? Newport Elementary families represent a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.”

“Many have been dealt a tough hand in life, or have gone through many challenges. Closing their school feels like another bust.” (Bonine)

“The staff at Newport know these kids and their families inside and out. They know what they need, how to deliver what they need and how to ensure they are given the same opportunities to succeed in school and life as any other student in District 833. This is no easy task as many of these kids come with outside challenges that other kids do not have to battle. They require a different set of skills and a different level of love and care than other buildings in our district.” (Weierke)

“It takes a village and a lot of blood, sweat and tears” Amanda Weierke says, “but to know this school and this community is to feel love.

Teacher Amanda Weierke

I asked Kristy how Newport families would be impacted if LRFP is approved. She talks about the harm to local businesses in the area … businesses like her own childcare business. “We are taxpayers” she says, “and we give a lot to the district. It will kill our town and my business.” She wants the district to keep Newport open for the children. “Change the boundaries and let others come to allow growth in classrooms.” (Seerup)

“I don’t think the school board is putting children first!” (Seerup)

Teacher Retention.

When teachers and staff come to Newport, they stay at Newport. We are very student centered.”

Sara Bonine

As a Newport teacher, Sara Bonine knows her community well. “Most of the staff have been here 8 years or longer.” She says. “I can think of one who is at 10, another 14, two going on 17 years, and one teacher has been teaching here since 1985. Some of our teachers and support staff are students of Newport, some are parents of former Newport students that wanted to remain connected to the school. This last year we have even had two former students come back to substitute, supervise recess and one recently has been hired as a special education paraprofessional in the building for next year due to student need.”

Kristy Seerup speaks fondly of Newport’s outstanding reading program and the teachers who truly care about their children. She believes NES is the best option for Newport residents because “It’s the children’s hometown” and they make so many friends. Kristy says, “I don’t agree with the closure of our school. It is very detrimental to the children” When asked if she thinks the district recognizes teacher retention as evidence of a healthy program, she does not think they do. “I feel the district wants to always leave the Newport kids behind.” (Seerup)

Do you have a story to tell? I welcome you to share it with me.

Sara brings up a good point that is worth looking into.

How will boundary changes affect the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Grant that many families in Newport are currently receiving? Will that still be around? Right now, the state sees Newport children in need of this Grant. When they are sent to CG Elementary etc, will they still receive the grant?

Who has the most to lose in the proposed Long-Range Facility Plan? The City and residents of Newport.

Angela Geraghty of Newport wrote a letter to SoWashCo School Board Member, Sharon Van Leer on April 9th with a request : “Please sit down with us, talk with us, answer questions and ask questions. This should be an interactive process if the goal is for the good of all.”

Teacher Amanda Weierke says “I think it is a major mistake to shut this building down and will have detrimental negative affects on the success of these amazing humans.”

“I can attest to the hard work that goes into making sure each of these kids is safe, taken care of, loved, known and that they are able to succeed academically and grow as humans.” (Weierke)

SoWashCo School Board will be voting today whether to approve the plan as it is and request a bond referendum to voters in August. I am sure the meeting will be well attended. Here’s hoping for the best.

by JAiME for SCHOOLS April 21st, 2022

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