McKenna Somes, left, Jake Jarrell and Morgan Stevens enjoy a game after classes let out on the grounds of Coupeville Middle/High School Friday. The school district is reorganizing its leadership and making other changes to give the middle school its identity back and allow middle school students more time to be kids. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Coupeville schools going back to model that lets middle schoolers be kids

During her career as an educator, Glenda Merwine got the opportunity to interact with students of all ages.

As a teacher and later as an administrator, she became particularly well acquainted with kids at the middle school level.

“Having been a former junior high teacher many, many years ago, I can tell you that middle school age students are different characters than high school kids,” Merwine said with a laugh.

It is that sort of understanding that has led Merwine and other Coupeville School Board members to push for a change in the school district’s leadership model that would give middle school students their own identity.

Superintendent Jim Shank has been tasked with working out the details so that the school district is ready to make the transition by the fall.

The proposal is to give the middle school its own principal, counselor and receptionist working from the middle school section of the building on the shared campus.

At the same time, the high school would have its own team in those roles.

Coupeville schools used to operate that way until the 2010-11 school year when a reduction in force led to a principal and assistant principal team that oversaw both schools.

Six years later, that model remains.

“I don’t think it was wrong,” school board president Kathleen Anderson said. “But I think it’s time to make changes.”

The issue was discussed during a school board retreat last month.

There was a sense that middle school students were being impacted by changes made at the high school, school board member Christie Sears said.

One example was the recently introduced five-by-five classroom schedule, which was well received by high school students but was less popular among middle school students, Anderson said.

Still, the prevailing argument for operating the high school and middle school more independently of one another is to aid student growth and development and allow middle schoolers to have their own culture and be more like themselves.

“It gives them a chance to really focus on where students are growth-wise and to enjoy their adolescence,” Merwine said.

“We need to give those teachers and programs and, more importantly, the students their own identity,” Anderson said.

The proposal would likely call for a modest remodel to accommodate an office not far from what would be the middle school entrance off Terry Road.

Under the plan, Melissa Rohr would move from assistant principal at the high school/middle school to principal of the middle school.

Duane Baumann would continue as high school principal but would no longer oversee the middle school.

Middle school students leave the campus of Coupeville Middle/High School Friday for the start of spring break. The school district is reorganizing its administration to give Coupeville Middle School its own leadership and identity. The plan is to even have its own separate entrance. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

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