East Port Orchard Elementary set to receive latest award

A stack of glass trophies rests in the front office at East Port Orchard Elementary School.

Principal Kristi Smith’s school soon will be honored with another.

EPO was one of two schools, along with Bemiss Elementary in Spokane, to be honored as Title I Distinguished Schools.

Crownhill (Bremerton) and Evergreen Heights (Auburn) were national award winners.

Washington state’s director of Title I, Gayle Pauley, will present an award during an assembly scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at EPO. This marks the sixth time in Smith’s 12-year tenure at EPO that the school has been recognized as a “Distinguished School” at the state or nation level.

At least 40 percent of a school’s students must be eligible for free and reduced-price lunch to qualify as a Title-I school. According to state records, 53.8 percent of EPO’s 511 students last May came from low-income households, which is the highest rate in the South Kitsap School District.“We’ve had a pretty focused school-improvement plan,” Smith said. “We’ve developed interventions to really bring students up to level.”

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website, Title-I schools are chosen based on high performance rates in reading and or math during the two most recent schools years on the Measurements of Students Progress exam, which is given to children in third through eighth grades, and for making “significant progress” in closing the achievement gap in both of those subjects during that span.

In addition to the presentation of the award, EPO will receive a $5,000 grant. Smith said that award particularly is valuable now given the state budget cuts in recent years. Perhaps the most significant came when the state House and Senate passed legislation in December 2010 that encompassed a $50 million reduction from public schools, which included the elimination of funding to keep class sizes smaller in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Smith said the grant will allow the school to purchase materials they might not have been able to because of budget reductions. She said EPO previously invested in “intervention materials for reading” for kindergarten through second grade that helped struggling students. Smith said the grant will allow the school to purchase that program for third- through fifth-grade students.“We’ve seen a lot of good growth and we wanted to expand that to give students a good anchor from when they enter junior high,” she said.


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