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Ben Wentz

Stories by Ben

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Panorama - Going wild with the WetWesties

You may not have noticed, what with all of the wine enthusiasts in town for spring release weekend, but Walla Walla was deluged with enthusiasts of another variety last Friday through Monday: Volkswagen camper van aficionados.

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Large format photographer speaks at Fort Walla Walla

Jay Decker’s “field camera” weighs about 12 pounds, sans lens. It has a maximum shutter speed of 1/30th of a second and holds a whopping one piece of film at a time, and one piece of film can cost as much as $15.

Updated - Warming center finds home at First Congregational

After coming up empty at first, the Walla Walla warming center task force has found a place to house local homeless people during the current winter blast.

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SEA-TECH gets students ready for the real world

Andrew Kowalski had to tear himself away from the small “apartment” he was working on — a small wood-frame cubicle that simulates a home — to come and talk to a reporter.

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CPHS embraces project-based learning

The fake blood pitter-pattered down onto the brown paper below, some of it spattering into perfect circles, some of it colliding with other drops and shooting droplets of red goop in all directions, and some of it missing the paper altogether and sinking into the orange ’60s-era carpet.

Sleep doctor throws support behind later school starts

WALLA WALLA — A local doctor who is a pioneer in sleep medicine added his voice Tuesday evening to a growing din advocating for later school start times for middle and high school students Tuesday evening.

Whitman adds new computer science chair

WALLA WALLA — For Whitman College, “liberal arts” no longer excludes a highly technical field like computer science.

Walla Walla district delays search for new schools boss

WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla School District Interim Superintendent Bill Jordan might just be the school administrator equivalent of a baseball utility infielder for awhile.

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Tyson airs thoughts on future

Walla Walla got a taste of the stars last week, and Neil deGrasse Tyson got a taste of Walla Walla wine country.

Whitman experiences rankings gap in national reports

Whitman College got good news and bad new this week, as it moved up in college rankings but fell at the smack-dab bottom of a separate list that ranked top colleges by economic diversity.

Walla Walla group to push for later school starts

WALLA WALLA — Following a report from the American Academy of Pediatricians that lack of sleep inhibits learning and that schools should start later, a local parents group is joining a national movement to push for later school starts.

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Service-minded Whitman students invade streams

Students whack at creek-clogging weeds during their last week of summer before heading to class.

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Top 'o the Blues

A hike to the highest point in the Washington section of the Blue Mountains proves a little tougher than expected.

UMATILLA NATIONAL FOREST — Easy, they said. A perfect hike for kids and first-timers. Those were the words that suckered me into hiking to Oregon Butte on a recent Sunday, camera, lenses, tripod and other assorted goodies in tow.

Tyson lectures to challenge way of thinking

Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to change the way you think.

Duo raises funds for kids to attend Tyson lectures

When Gary D’Agostino found out Neil deGrasse Tyson will visit Walla Walla in September for a pair of talks, he saw a huge opportunity for the area’s youths.

Schools protest ‘failing’ label

WALLA WALLA — Many parents of children in Walla Walla School District will receive some unwelcome news this week: their school is failing.

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‘Cosmos’ host a big draw for Northwest tour

WALLA WALLA — Want to see a lecture from famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson live and in-person when he swings through the Pacific Northwest this September?

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Local home schoolers to use nation as classroom

MILTON-FREEWATER — Krysta and Seth Walker are getting ready for a mammoth road trip.

St. Basil's grows to 40 students for upcoming school year

WALLA WALLA — The Saint Basil Academy for Classical Studies, or more succinctly, St. Basil’s, is growing.

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BMCC buzzing about future of drones

The tiny quadcopters flying around Blue Mountain Community College’s gymnasium Saturday didn’t much resemble the fearsome Predator drones used in combat zones by the U.S. military.

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Walla Walla Valley rallies to aid wildfires victims

WALLA WALLA — As the federal agencies mounted up to provide disaster relief and provide additional resources to wildfire devastated towns in Eastern Washington, Walla Walla clubs and businesses set off with donations of their own.

Dixie brings back familiar face as school boss

DIXIE — The next superintendent of Dixie School District has been there, and done that.

Dixie superintendent takes College Place teaching job

WALLA WALLA — Mark Wegner has resigned as superintendent of Dixie School District, the one-school district announced.

Walla Walla Community College keeps programs intact despite budget cuts

WALLA WALLA — In the end, the budget for the 2014-15 school year Walla Walla Community College’s Board of Trustees approved Wednesday contained no cuts to program offerings and didn’t place a limit on enrollment.

Walla Walla schools see deficit of at least $700,000 in offing

WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla School District is projecting it will run a deficit of $700,000 to $800,000 for the upcoming 2014-15 school year, according to Ted Cohan, the director of the district business office.

Walla Walla School Board OKs $348,435 to improve wireless networks

WALLA WALLA — Schools across the Walla Walla School District are getting a big upgrade this summer, although it won’t be visible to the naked eye.

Updated: Former assistant superintendent to fill top role in Walla Walla

WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla School District didn’t have to look far to find an interim boss, hiring former Walla Walla teacher and administrator Bill Jordan out of retirement to oversee the district while it searches for a replacement for soon-to-depart Superintendent Mick Miller.

School District names Bill Jordan as interim superintendent

The Walla Walla School Board unanimously named former Prescott Superintendent Bill Jordan as its interim superintendent after an executive session Tuesday, pending successful contract negotiations.

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College Place High School builds a lighthouse for education

When College Place passed a bond to build College Place High School and replace Davis Elementary, it was a watershed moment for the School District.

Healthful eating ideas offered for local schools

WALLA WALLA — If the School Health Advisory Committee has its way, students in the Walla Walla School District may see a whole lot less of one of their favorite sugary drinks: chocolate milk.

Walla Walla Superintendent Miller resigns

Walla Walla School District Superintendent Mick Miller resigned his post Tuesday night at a School Board meeting, announcing after the meeting that he will take an assistant superintendent position with NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101 in Spokane.

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Beat makers: Students become producers in after-school program

The staccato clicking of keyboards fills CrewSpace at the Walla Walla Library.

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Grief overcomes Wa-Hi students after weekend crash

WALLA WALLA — One student ran out of the building, holding back tears.

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Interior Secretary urges Whitman graduates to be involved (with videos)

WALLA WALLA — With soon-to-be graduates, parents, faculty and alumni splayed out on the South Memorial Lawn on Sunday at Whitman College before her, commencement speaker Sally Jewel urged the Class of 2014 to “make your strand count.”

Walla Walla schools adopt new math program

WALLA WALLA — The School Board voted Tuesday to adopt a new math curriculum kindergarten through fifth grade, completing a years-long process that has been delayed by shifting education standards at the state and national level.

Wa-Hi athletic director out amid admininistrative changes

The Walla Walla School District announced this morning that it was making a pair of administrative changes, giving Lincoln High School’s interim principal, Marci Knauft, the permanent job after conducting a search that brought 20 applications.

Four Walla Walla schools on state 'needs improvement' list

WALLA WALLA — Four schools in the Walla Walla School District were named by the state as needing improvement for 2014-15, the district announced recently.

Walla Walla Community College wrestles with budget crunch

WALLA WALLA — Despite years of belt-tightening — freezing wages, delaying new programs and eliminating administrative positions — Walla Walla Community College is in a nearly half-million dollar hole as it prepares to build a budget for the 2014-15 school year.

Walla Walla schools part ways with online learning program

WALLA WALLA — Additional state requirements and shifting alternative education rules have led Walla Walla School District to end its partnership with the St. Louis-based online learning program Greenways Academy in June.

Former labor secretary decries US wealth gap

WALLA WALLA — The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the majority — income inequality — is threatening our democracy, and we all must do something about it.

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Yo ho-ho: Gales of laughter forecast for Wa-Hi’s ‘Moby Dick’ romp

WALLA WALLA — Expect tongue-in-cheek hilarity on the high seas in Walla Walla High School’s spring production of “Moby Dick: The Musical.”

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Ferndale fifth-grader in running for national cooking award (with video)

MILTON-FREEWATER — Meredith Moore has been cooking for her family since she was in preschool.

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The Muscle Shack: For those serious about strength and fitness

Started by a pair of Walla Wallans, The Muscle Shack isn’t your average gym. That much is apparent, whether it’s the snarling jacked bear pumping iron in the logo, or the fact that there are only two cardio machines in the joint and are only for cool-downs between lifting, co-owners Greg Delp and Nathan Tebeck are quick to emphasize.

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SEA-TECH nears completion

A veritable Taj Mahal of vocational training, the Southeast Area Technical Skills Center located adjacent to Walla Walla Community College is nearing completion.

Ex-Labor Secretary to speak at Whitman

Political economist, professor, author and now filmmaker Robert Reich will be in Walla Walla this week for a pair of events at Whitman College.

Whitman students call for divestment from fossil fuel-centric companies

WALLA WALLA — Whitman College students are planning to protest the college’s continued investment of its endowment in fossil-fuel producing companies and let it know the campaign known as Divest Whitman isn’t over, despite the college’s refusal to explore divestment.

Dixie looks at reorganizing school administrative jobs

DIXIE — Dixie School District — which consists solely of Dixie Elementary School — is taking a look at possibly hiring a new superintendent/principal to give current administrator and teacher Mark Wegner more time to teach.

Walla Walla School District regroups after bond measure fails

WALLA WALLA — Regrouping is the order of the day after proponents of a $10.2 million bond to build a new Walla Walla High School science building suffered defeat in a special election Tuesday.

Walla Walla school bond defeated

WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla School District residents voted down a plan to build a $10.2 million science building at Walla Walla High School on Tuesday.

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Davis Elementary time capsule rescued

COLLEGE PLACE — It took two days of digging and searching, but staff finally rescued a time capsule buried under the Davis Elementary School courtyard.