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SAS named Lighthouse school

  • Written by Deborah Stone
SAS Llighthouse
Photo courtesy of NSD On hand for the presentation of the STEM Lighthouse award were (left to right, back row:) Alex Tuggle; Victoria Arno; Dennis Milliken, STEM supervisor, OSPI; Julia Lacey, board president; (front row:) Damen Schuneman, Career and College Readiness director; Michael Wierusz, teacher; Laura Childs; Vicki Puckett, SAS principal; and Randy Dorn, state superintendent, OSPI.
Northshore School District’s Secondary Academy for Success (SAS) is one of five schools that have been named a Lighthouse school by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Lighthouse schools function as resources and models that emphasize small, highly personalized learning communities, an interdisciplinary curriculum with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, delivered via a project-based instructional approach, and active partnerships with business and community to connect learning beyond the classroom.

With this designation, SAS will receive a $20,000 grant to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and serve as a mentor to other middle and high schools that are creating STEM environments.

“It is quite an honor for SAS to be selected as a Lighthouse school within its first three years of the program,” says Northshore Superintendent Larry Francois.

Vicki Puckett, principal of Northshore Alternative Programs/Schools, explains that SAS will be a school that educators can visit to see a STEM-based program in action.

“It is an honor to be chosen,” comments Puckett. “We were one of five schools in the state chosen. I am proud of the commitment of staff to integrate the curriculum with STEM and to also help students to be more responsible with protecting the environment as their future.”

SAS will use the grant money to complete a mobile sustainable engineering and design lab that can be taken to other schools as a learning tool.

Students enrolled in the sustainable engineering and design class this year are currently involved in retrofitting a cargo trailer into a mobile green learning lab, according to SAS teacher Michael Wierusz.

They are managing all aspects of the process and the end result will be an interactive lab on wheels that will serve to educate elementary students on the core aspects of green design.

“The mobile lab will complete the continuum of green education for the school district,” explains Wierusz. “With the target audience being elementary students, we will then have access to a dedicated green program at all grade levels, which then feeds into our articulation with post K-12.

“Students taking my class have the potential to earn college credit through both Cascadia College and starting next fall, the University of Washington.”

In describing his class, Wierusz comments that the focus is on understanding how to use both one’s mind and one’s hands to create sustainable solutions relating to all areas of human impact – buildings, transportation, cities, consumer products, energy and food systems.

He says, “I have eleven students in the class right now and they are passionate about figuring out how their interests can be channeled to be a change agent for a more sustainable future.”

The rest of the grant money will be applied towards purchasing additional STEM supplies, creating a new horticulture program and installing professional signage to showcase sustainable features of the campus.

Such features include solar panels, wind turbine, daylighting, CO2 sensors, occupancy sensors, state-of-the-art air handling systems, green building materials and water metering.

“At SAS, we emphasize science and math through innovative programs and are continuously learning about sustainable environments,” explains Puckett. “Students also have an opportunity to meet with community partners and work with industry on various projects such as building sustainable environments through organic farming.”

SAS partners with various community businesses including 21 Acres, Brightwater, McKinstry, Microsoft, Snohomish PUD and NSD Support Services and Food Services departments.

“These partnerships are great for our students to see that they matter in the community and that they are also contributing citizens to our community at large,” notes Puckett.


Randy Dorn, state superintendent,  presented representatives from SAS and the Career and College Readiness program with the STEM Lighthouse award at the February 14th school board meeting.

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