Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, January 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 36° Partly Cloudy
News >  Education

Education notebook: Spokane Symphony honors three area educators for music education efforts

James Lowe, Spokane Symphony music director is photographed with the Symphony’s music education award honorees, from left: Matthew Johnson, University High School Choir director; Chris Kalstad of Longfellow Elementary School; and Matthew McFarland, Salk Middle School principal. (Courtesy photo)
James Lowe, Spokane Symphony music director is photographed with the Symphony’s music education award honorees, from left: Matthew Johnson, University High School Choir director; Chris Kalstad of Longfellow Elementary School; and Matthew McFarland, Salk Middle School principal. (Courtesy photo)

Three area educators were honored at the Spokane Symphony’s Education Masterworks Concert in late November for their contributions to music education.

This year’s Outstanding Arts Advocate Administrator Award went to Matthew McFarland, Salk Middle School principal. McFarland was nominated by the entire staff of arts educators, including two McFarland had nominated himself - band director Jeff McMurtery and orchestra director Natalie Cominiello, both former recipients of the Outstanding Music Teacher awards. Choir director Dawn Sapp and visual arts teacher Colleen McIver were also among teachers that nominated McFarland. Staff members nominated McFarland for demonstrating his belief in the “transformative power of the arts” and in the arts staff themselves, as well as the increasing enrollment in art classes this year.

The Outstanding Elementary Music Teacher Award went to Chris Kalstad, of Longfellow Elementary School. Kalstad was nominated by kindergarten teacher Stephanie Kenyon for his dedication to the school’s music program in which he teaches students singing and guitar, as well as for his ability to help students overcome obstacles through a nurturing and calm approach.

The Outstanding Secondary Music Teacher this year is Matthew Johnson, the University High School Choir director. Johnson was nominated by U-Hi principal Keven Frandsen for his humility, ability to foster trust and recognition of student success. Under Johnson’s direction the U-Hi choirs have taken first-place awards regionally and at the Heritage Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The recipients were presented a certificate of award at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox prior to the concert.

In 2006, the Spokane Symphony created the Outstanding Arts Advocate Administrator Award to highlight administrators who promote and support teaching of arts and music in local schools. In 2012, the Outstanding Music Teacher Award was added but was split in 2016 into two categories, Outstanding Elementary Music Teacher and Outstanding Secondary Music Teacher, due to a large volume of nominations and to differentiate between the specialized skill sets and techniques employed in teaching music at different grade levels. The awards are open to any private or public school administrator in the greater Spokane community.

Registration underway for Spokane Virtual Learning

Registration for the spring semester of Spokane Virtual Learning, an online educational program offered by Spokane Public Schools, is now open through Feb. 5.

The program offers instructor-led and interactive online courses which mirror curriculum content taught in SPS classrooms. Student performance expectations are determined by Washington state Alternative Learning Experience rules, requiring weekly contact with the instructor as well as their weekly progress to remain in good standing.

Courses are available for grades K-12th. Two-thirds of last year’s SPS graduating seniors had taken at least one virtual learning course during their education.

SPS partners with 24 other school districts to support their capability to offer online learning opportunities.

Those interested can contact or (509) 354-7545 with questions. Visit for more information and the course catalog.

EVMS makes ornaments for state holiday tree

Schoolteacher Marcy Williams’ class at East Valley Middle School was selected this year to create ornaments for the holiday tree at the Washington Governor’s Mansion. This year’s theme is “State Symbols.”

The Governor’s Mansion began requesting ornaments made from students across the state in 2013. The tree is then available for viewing during holiday tours of the mansion.

Open enrollment starts in Spokane schools

Spokane Public Schools will open its priority enrollment window Jan. 1 through Feb. 15 for anyone interested in having their student attend a school outside of their neighborhood boundary.

During the open enrollment window, applications are submitted for a first-round enrollment lottery and any changes can be made up to Feb. 15. Those interested can find additional information and submit an application at

WVSD superintendent announces retirement

West Valley School District’s superintendent, Gene Sementi, will retire June 30 after 31 years of working for the district.

The West Valley School Board unanimously voted to appoint current assistant superintendent Kyle Rydell as Sementi’s successor.

The Education Notebook appears every Thursday in the Voice. If you have news about your school, students or staff, please let us know so we can help spread the word. Submissions can be emailed to Rachel Baker at or mail to her, with attention to Education Notebook, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Items also can be emailed to

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email