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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Music angel saves Ridgeline band season: CVSD names meritorious service award winners

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The Central Valley School District recently honored eight teachers, staff members, teams and community members with Meritorious Service Awards, including one Central Valley alum who saved the marching band season for Ridgeline High School when the equipment failed to show up.

Newly constructed Ridgeline High School opened last fall and like most high schools has a marching band. Orders for band instruments and equipment were placed in February and March, leaving plenty of time for it to arrive before the marching band reported to camp on Aug. 15. Or so they thought.

Eric Parker, director of bands and orchestra at Ridgeline, first heard rumbles about supply chain issues in May. He checked, and his orders appeared to be fine. But several weeks later, the realization came that nothing would be arriving in time for the band to begin practice. “Basically, it all happened in one day,” he said.

Parker said he spent about half a day feeling sorry for himself, but then began to worry about his students. They had been promised a marching band, something that felt even more important than usual after COVID put a halt to many band-related activities. “This was a big promise,” he said.

The drum coach said he would email Dillon Miller, a graduate of University High School who is now the director of the Columbians Drum and Bugle Corps, which is a summer marching band program. Miller responded in a big way and promised to get whatever was needed, Parker said.

“He had all this gear that wasn’t being used in the fall,” Parker said. “He not only said yes, but he took the bull by the horns and reached out to other nonprofits to get us other things we needed.”

Miller was able to lend equipment from his program and from Impact Percussion, including various instruments, all the drum line equipment, electronic equipment and flags for the color guard.

“He provided the big tubas, which are super expensive and schools don’t usually have extras of those,” Parker said.

The only thing Ridgeline had were drumsticks and new uniforms. “That was our only saving grace,” Parker said. “The uniforms showed up early.”

The nomination Parker wrote for Miller to receive the Meritorious Service honor called Miller “our angel.” “Dillon Miller and the Columbians Drum and Bugle Corps are the light of a season that almost didn’t happen,” he wrote. “Thank you, Dillon, for your selflessness in our moment of panic, despair and heartache. Most importantly thank you for showing kids what kindness truly is and how empowering it is when some stranger believes in you!”

Parker anticipated having a rough season. Ridgeline has no seniors, so was without students who usually provide the backbone of the marching band. Quite a few students were new to marching band. But in the new uniforms, with borrowed equipment, the band won its first competition.

“We were really, really proud,” Parker said. “They worked hard.”

During the season Parker said he and his staff often felt like cartoon characters who would use a finger to plug a hole in a dam only to have another hole form. He said they tried their best to not let on to the students how bad things were. “It was super worth it,” he said.

The marching band season ended around Halloween and Parker said the borrowed equipment was returned in mid-November. By that time most, but not all, of the missing equipment had arrived. “We didn’t even have chairs or music stands until two months ago,” he said.

There are still a few items missing and some equipment that was damaged in transit and that needs to be returned and replaced, but Parker anticipates being ready to go in August when it is time for the marching band to take to the field again.

Meritorious Service Award honorees

Kylee’s Support Team, Adams Elementary – Parent Mary Koch nominated the team of educators who support her daughter, Kylee, who has special needs. “As both her parent and a teacher myself, I can assure that working with my daughter is no easy task,” she wrote. “What the team at Adams does is provide her with unending support and love as well as providing me with reassurance and support. At Adams, as difficult as she is, she is loved. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Brad Fluno, Central Valley High School – Teacher Melissa Spivey nominated Fluno, a custodian at the school, for his dedication to one of her special needs students. “It is not easy to reach this student in a way that motivates him to participate in non-preferred tasks, and not every person can win his attention or acceptance, but Brad or ‘Bradly’ as my student calls him, is an exception,” she wrote. “Each day my student requests to see Brad and talk to him about what cleaning he will be doing that day, and ask if after he does his learning, remains ‘calm and cool’ in class if Brad would visit and clean up messes with him. Brad always does his best to deliver. I don’t know what we would do without this wonderful human who truly sees my student, and gives him the time and attention that so many others wouldn’t be willing or make the time to give.”

Janelle Stolp, Adams Elementary – Several people nominated Stolp, a longtime first-grade teacher. “Janelle’s impact on students goes generations deep” wrote nominators Nicole Karaus and Katrina Fuher. “I know when community members reflect on the impact Mrs. Stolp has had on them and their family members, they do not talk about reading and math or writing or even art. They talk about her love, her warm embrace and her ability to make you feel safe and cared about.”

“Her love for students and staff is immeasurable and can be seen in everything she does,” wrote nominators Lindsay Abbey and Alyssa Roibal. “She is a living example of a lifelong learner and shares this with her students every day.”

CVSD Campus Resource Officer Team – Resource officers Trevor Jones and Brad Smith were nominated by Brian Asmus. “The campus resource officer team is instrumental in providing a safe environment for all members of the Central Valley School District community,” Asmus wrote. “They have provided insight and support to our district school resource officers and deputies that only come from years of training and experience resulting in positive outcomes in many crisis situations.”

Jenni Spedick – Spedick, a community member who volunteers at the Student and Family Engagement Center, was nominated by Jessica Erdman. “Jenni has gone above and beyond with supporting the Student and Family Engagement Center as well as the CVSD students and families as a whole,” Erdman wrote. “Jenni was a huge part in making our Gifts of Hope Christmas event happen for 2021. Because of Jenni’s hard work and passion to help others, she was able to help provide over 400 Christmas gifts for children.”

Kim Milless, Liberty Creek Elementary – Four co-workers separately nominated Milless, a classified employee. “Throughout the day, she is running around making deliveries, administering COVID tests to students, staff and families, and supporting on the playground and the lunchroom,” wrote Alisha Alsaker. “She is willing to jump in and help, pivot when needed, take on different roles, and always has a smile on her face.”

“This year Kim has been instrumental in keeping Liberty Creek running smoothly,” wrote Lindsey Pell. “Normally, she is filling multiple roles each day: secretary, supervisor, health aide, PTO president, parent volunteer. During this pandemic, Liberty Creek has been a great ship to be on, but without Kim, we would be springing leaks all over the place. Our whole school stayed afloat because of her.”

Kamiel Youseph, Mica Peak High School – Two people nominated Youseph, principal of Mica Peak. “During the pandemic, Kamiel has become a true leader for his school,” wrote John Griffiths. “He has led by example, stepping in to support the MICA special needs program necessitated by the lack of paraeducators. He stepped up in a big way when they truly needed him without forgetting his primary role.”

“It is said that a great leader makes everyone else around him or her better and Kamiel Youseph has been that person to us,” wrote Elizabeth Wilson. “When someone is struggling, he is willingly and promptly there to give support where it is needed: this could be helping feed a student in a short-staffed classroom, supporting a student who is experiencing failing grades, giving relief to a homeless student, or playing ball with a student who has completed his assignments. He takes his past life experiences and uses them to make a difference in every person’s life that he encounters.”