Opportunists taking opportunity


We are all collectively watching our world change in both big and small ways on both a global and local scale.

We are seeing ourselves do beautiful and compassionate things, and then we are seeing how those in power can capitalize on the intensity of this pandemic to further grab power and lessen people’s abilities to have choice and freedom. We are watching this on the world stage, as well as here at home.

The Port Townsend School District has used these difficult pandemic times to make back-room decisions to end choice in education for High School students by “phasing out” the only alternative learning program in the district. They have done this without any input from the OCEAN families, students or community members. This is an attempt to take those students and the money attached to them and forcefully give it to the high school with no consideration whatsoever about the needs of the students themselves. This is wrong thinking, and not at all in alignment with the values of our community. These students matter more than the dollar signs they represent.

Right now, more than ever, students need choices in their education, and the OCEAN program has a long history of serving the kids who simply can’t fit into the regular “box.”  These are youth who are pursuing passions or talents in a way that requires flexibility in schedule and curriculum.  They are youth with diverse sensory needs and need something different than what they are offered in regular high school.  They are youth who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are forced into the work world and must complete school work around a job. They are elite athletes or have families that travel for long periods of time. They are students who want to be equal partners in the creation of their individualized learning plan. They are students who crave a small, committed learning community that supports them as individuals to help them thrive.

I am calling on this community to rise up and say No! to the Port Townsend School District’s attempts to secretly and quietly force the assimilation  or exclusion of students who don’t thrive in a mainstream school setting. Call your school board members and tell them that you are opposed to back-room deals and unethical behavior.

As a parent who had to rely on alternative education for my first high school student and I’ve got three more bound for high school I want to know we will have options.

Sabrina Hill
Port Townsend


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Tom Thiersch

"opportunists"? "back-room decisions"? All of the Board meetings, the only place where the Board can make any decisions, are audio recorded and are available on-line.

I'd characterize the actions of the PT School Board as being in-line with their role in the governance of the District.

The Superintendent prepares a budget and makes programming and staffing recommendations. Unless the Board has specific, quantifiable justifications for overruling any of those professional recommendations, those recommendations should stand.

The role of the Board is to make policy. The role of the Superintendent is operate the District in accordance with those policies, making the best use of the resources available.

The Board should not attempt to micro-manage the operations of the district. That's why we hire a CEO.

So, if OCEAN (aka ICE) needs to be reduced, so be it. Same with other changes that are deemed necessary to preserve the best education for the most students.

Thursday, May 14
Sonny Flores

Tom, I have read many of your responses to various topics where you support dialogue.but and you you seem to have missed point of the parents letter in what parents will be dealing with due to the decision made to close Ocean, Maybe you do not have children, but with families that do this will affect their child . Mainstream organized education is not for every child , and I would think of all people who respond on a regular basis to what’s happening with our government would agree That a decision made without feedback from stakeholders can affect many in a negative manner. We have friends who had children who attended Ocean, and they excelled with Oceans model of education , mainstream is not for everyone, and I am surprised you would defend such a major decision that adversely affects children or anyone else for that manner.But of course we all have our right to choose and defend what we believe to be true . Try to walk in the shoes of the parent who’s child needs an alternate approach to his/her education. Using your words “ so be it” I don’t think you believe that same philosophy with our country’s politics.

Saturday, May 16
Sonny Flores

Good to hear that Ocean will remain for Highschool students for at least another year, a big relief for many parents and their kids. Good move PT! And Thanks to all who helped in making this happen.

Wednesday, May 20
David Thielk

Having created a highly individualized and challenging alternative program at PTHS in the late 90's (Community Connections), I understand very well the challenges, benefits, and pitfalls of the alternative concept. For me, those three years were the highlight of my professional life. I also believe that for most students, it was a very gratifying and deep learning experience.

Those are both important outcomes. But they are affective outcomes. At least important are the metrics for student success. The goals of public schools are big! Graduation, preparation for higher education, cultural, scientific, and literary competency are important. And most important, is the learner a critical and analytical thinker? Also, in my mind, a school's worth is easily measured by its ability to create future opportunity for the learner and help close equity gaps. All of these can be measured in one form or another.

So, my recommendation for the School Board in making a decision about the future of Oceans at the high school level is to weigh parent and student input (40%) with data (60%). Some of this data for Ocean can be seen on the OSPI website:


For comparison purposes, the Port Townsend High School data is here:


These discussion are not simple. Nor are they easy. And, OSPI only captures a small part of the data. To really understand the value of any program like Oceans, you need to collect data on student outcomes for at least five years after graduation. if the data suggests that student outcomes, opportunity, and skills are significant, then why not continue to offer the program? On the other hand, if data does not support significant learner outcomes, it is hard to defend the cost to taxpayers.

Saturday, May 23