MG custodian honored for helping Life Skills graduate

MARYSVILLE – The Marysville School District’s Life Skills teacher, Jim Strickland, and the district itself presented awards to Marysville Getchell High School custodian Zach Prine at Monday’s school board meeting.

Prine is a mentor to Christian Alba, who graduated from the M-P Life Skills Program last year at age 21.

“His family was faced with the dilemma that all our Life Skills families eventually have to deal with: What is life going to look like for my adult son or daughter without the daily routines and supportive community of school?” Strickland said. “How will they stay connected? How will they stay productive and engaged? Who will help them continue learning and growing?”

Alba loved to help out around school, so Prine was asked if he would be willing to have him volunteer for a couple hours a day during lunchtimes.

“Christian is a hard worker, but he needs guidance from someone who is patient, flexible, caring and has a good sense of humor,” Strickland said. “Zach fit the bill perfectly, and I would even say they have grown to love each other like brothers.”

Prine is moving to Oregon to be near family at the end of the month. “He will be terribly missed, but he has laid the foundation for Christian to continue on as a volunteer at MG,” Strickland said.

Ginger Merkel, director of Special Education Services, also honored Prine. “He’s provided an inspirational model of an inclusive environment,” she said.

Also at the meeting, Preston Dwoskin gave a presentation about himself. He graduated from Marysville’s Life Skills Program and now is working for the district. He explained that after he was born he spent 55 days in the hospital. School was difficult for him as he was bullied until the third grade when he met Dane Widness, who is still his best friend today. “That changed my life,” he said.

He thanked Strickland, Merkel and Brad Roden, director of secondary special education.

“Everyone should be treated equally,” Dwoskin said.

Before being hired by the district, he volunteered many hours fighting for more special education funding in Olympia. He said he followed in the footsteps of his uncle – former state Rep. Dave Quall.

“You’re a force of nature,” school board president Pete Lundberg said.

Later in the meeting, Merkel read a resolution the board then passed asking the federal government to fund 40 percent of special education costs based on a law approved 44 years ago – a goal that’s never been reached.

Lundberg said the federal government only funds about 16 percent of special ed costs in the district. Dwoskin hopes to go to Washington, D.C., and meet with President Trump using that resolution as a show of support from the district.

Meanwhile, the board also approved for 16 district employees to fly to Anaheim July 22-26 to take Disney Professional Development courses.

Jodi Runyon, the superintendent’s executive assistant and one of those going, said in working with the community for 1 1/2 years a work group found that customer service is a major problem in the district. “There’s a lack of trust” after 15 years of adversity and change in the district, she said. “We need to improve how people are treated.”

The employees will be trained in Employee Engagement, Leadership Excellence and Quality Service. Participants expect to create a three-year work plan to include goals, action steps, key performance indicators and outcomes. The plan will include phases for training other staff. Cost to the district for seven staff is $39,530. The Marysville Education Association will send five members costing it $25,985. SEIU will send two members for $11,316, the same amount two more are going being paid for by PSE professional development funds.

Also, the district for the first time put out bids for school yearbooks.

“We were spending too much money” using different vendors, district finance director Mike Sullivan said. The bid selected was 50 percent less than the second-highest bid. No one mentioned if the student cost for buying a yearbook would go down.

The board also voted to approve a new name for the combined Mountain View Arts and Tech school. It will now be known as Legacy High School. Students and staff came up with 75 names based on three criteria of the MSD. The top three were voted on and Legacy was by far the winner.

And, for the 11th-straight year, Marysville has a Daniel J. Evans Civic Award winner in Mykayla Pawlak. Two eighth-graders west of the mountains and two to the east won. Her essay was on gender inequities in sports.

Four students were honored as Equity, Diversity and Indigenous Education Students of the Month.

•Kashiss Henry of Marshall Elementary School was honored for a rare feat of going from a special needs class to a general education third-grade class.

•Anthony Najera of Cedarcrest Middle School has grown as a person since he started playing select basketball, it was said.

•Gene Williams III, a junior at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, has been turning in more work after being integrated into more classes thanks to a support system that has seen him grow, it was said.

•Genesis Henry-Gonzalez, an M-P senior, wants to be an FBI agent. She has taken criminal justice at Sno-Isle and wants to continue that area of study at Everett Community College. She has a high grade-point average despite taking honors English, U.S. History and college algebra.

It was also reported that 50 members of M-P’s football team and six coaches will be going to a camp in Olympia at a cost of $16,000, paid for by its booster club. Eight staff and 50 football team members at MG will go to a camp in Ellensburg for $20,600, paid for by the Associated Student Body.

In closing the meeting, Lundberg thanked all of the district employees. “God bless you,” he said, adding this time of year is like running a 400-meter sprint. You start out fast, but when you get to that final turn you say, “Oh my goodness.”

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