Camas-Washougal students, community members honored

Washington Association of School Administrators presents awards for ‘extraordinary contributions to K-12 education’

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A Washougal high school senior, the chair of the Camas School District’s Citizens Advisory Committee and a group that dedicated itself to passing school levies for Camas students are among those the Washington Association of School Administrators recently honored with its 2021 awards recognizing educational administrators and community members who have made extraordinary contributions to K-12 education in their communities.

The Educational Service District 112, which encompasses the Camas and Washougal school districts, presented the regional awards during a virtual awards ceremony held Friday, May 21.

Washougal High School student Amara Farah received the 2021 WASA Student Leadership Award.

Farah, a Washougal High senior, also won the 2020 Washington State Prevention Award of Excellence in Youth Leadership earlier in the 2020-21 school year. A leader on Unite! Washougal’s beautification team, Farah is helping to lead an effort that will replace an aging “liquor” sign in the heart of Washougal, at the Washougal Food Center, with a piece of art created by a group of Washougal student artists.

Farah told The Post-Record in May that she hopes the painting, which features the Columbia River and Mount Hood, will “positively represent Washougal and lift others up.”

In November 2020, Margaret McCarthy, the director of the nonprofit substance abuse-prevention Unite! Washougal group, said Farah was not just a youth leader but “the spirit of what we hope to bring to the community for all youth.”

“I volunteer because I love to help others. The notion of uniting a community and striving for a better tomorrow is one I strongly believe in,” Farah told The Post-Record in November 2020. “I love talking with people and learning new things, and volunteering provides me with those opportunities. I like the idea of doing what I personally can to, in the big picture, make the world a better place.”

Farah, a clarinet player and pianist who serves as the president of the Washougal High School band club, is a member of the Washougal High School jazz-wind ensemble and pep bands, and has performed with the Clark College Orchestra and the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Camas community members earn accolades for work in K-12 education

Two of the 2021 WASA Community Leadership Awards went to groups and individuals connected to the Camas School District.

Juan Sanchez, the chair of the Camas Advisory Committee — a group that promotes interaction between Camas School Board members and the community — received one of the regional Community Leadership awards.

The second local Community Leadership Award went to the Camas Citizens for Quality Schools group, which drove the “vote yes” campaign for the Camas School District’s two levies during the ramp up to the February 2021 special election.

The campaign chair of the Citizens for Quality Schools group told The Post-Record in January that the pro-levy advocates had a tougher time getting the word out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of meeting with community members in-person, visiting schools and hosting events, the Citizens for Quality Schools group relied on their website, as well as social media posts and colorful “Yes to Camas Schools” signs to get the word out about the value of the school levies.

“These levies are so critical to Camas — the schools and the greater community,” Citizens for Quality Schools campaign chair Tamara Herdener told The Post-Record in January. “When you look at 20 percent of the (school district’s) entire budget, there is so much that would have to be cut if these levies don’t pass. People won’t even recognize Camas schools if the levies don’t pass. Extra-curricular programs would be cut and canceled; buildings would go into disrepair and class sizes would go up.”

Voters listened to the group’s message: the three-year replacement levies, including an educational programs and operations levy that will bring the school district an additional $53 million in revenues to pay for things like teachers to reduce classroom sizes, extracurricular activities, school nurses and athletic programs, over the next three years.

Public health officials also honored

The 2021 WASA awards also honored several public health officials in the ESD 112 district, including Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s director of public health, and Dr. Steve Krager, Clark County’s deputy health officer, for their “outstanding dedication to schools throughout the pandemic.”

Superintendents across Clark County, including Jeff Snell in the Camas School District and Mary Templeton in the Washougal School District, met regularly with Melnick and Krager, as well as other regional school superintendents, to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and better understand what measures school boards in the area could take to keep students, teachers, staff, families and the greater community safe from the airborne, highly contagious virus.

ESD 112 Superintendent Tim Merlino won the WASA Award of Merit on behalf of all the superintendents from the ESD 112 for his role in helping to keep people safe during the pandemic.

“Anticipating the need for school districts across Washington to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), Merlino and ESD 112 stepped up to help. His leadership resulted in statewide PPE procurement and distribution, benefitting over 400 public and private school districts in the state,” the district stated in a May 26 news release. “Under Merlino’s leadership, ESD 112 acquired and helped to deliver 19 million face coverings; 840,000 pounds of sanitizing wipes; 120,000 boxes of gloves; 250,000 gowns; 80,000 gallons of sanitizer; while driving (more than) 250,000 miles for deliveries.”

Merlino also facilitated the twice-weekly regional meetings with other superintendents.

“Superintendent Merlino intrinsically carried out a call to action that provided school districts throughout ESD 112 with the necessary support to carry us through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Mike Roberts, superintendent of Wishram School District, located in the remote, Columbia River Gorge town of Wishram, Washington. “Those of us in rural and remote areas would have struggled mightily without Tim’s leadership. By enacting weekly meetings and acting as an intermediary with state level elected officials, we were able to provide our people with accurate information and a sense of cohesion that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”