Oct. 15, 2014
Happy October! This is certainly a festive season for many of our families, with the major holidays of Eid ul-Adha, Yom Kippur, and Dashain just behind us and DÍa de la Muertes on the horizon. Of course, there's also Halloween with its popular tradition that seems to unite children of all cultures through the promise of candy! No worries, though-this month is all treat and no trick when it comes to our schools.
In that spirit, let me start with a recommendation: A Bulldog makes a perfect Halloween costume, don't you think? Don your purple gear, put your best paw forward, and head to Foster High School's homecoming game against Evergreen at 7 p.m. on Oct. 31. Homecoming is a real community celebration every year, and this one's even more significant because we are honoring Foster's centennial year (the 100th anniversary of its first graduate). We want all alumni and anyone who feels a connection with Foster to take part.
This month, I am also happy to report that a national expert has given our schools major kudos. Mutiu Fagbayi-a leadership and school-improvement coach-helped facilitate our community-wide strategic planning process last year, and he is now leading us through meaningful implementation of that document. This is a man who travels extensively to districts throughout the United States and the globe. Recently, he spent time at each of our schools in classrooms, working with principals on their own year-end goals and strategies.
He reported back that he saw evidence of great teaching happening in every school, and that we are far ahead of many districts in standards-based, career/college-aligned curriculum and lessons. His most lasting impression, however, had to do with the greatness of our students and the heart of our organization. In fact, he said we are the winners of the "student lottery" in public education because our hallways are filled with respectful, engaged students who eagerly want to learn; and, just as luckily, our staff members are deeply caring, highly skilled educators. In other words, we have the perfect foundation for increasing achievement for every child.
Now, this comes as no surprise to me, but I had to share this outside assessment with you, too, because it's hard to get a sense of a school system if you are not in the hallways every day. We are well on our way with strategic plan implementation, setting an annual subset of goals and a rigorous, data-driven system of accountability (which we will share in public forums and post on line). But sometimes the less quantifiable feel of a school is the best indicator of the learning environment, and Mr. Fagbayi wants you to know that Tukwila schools are optimistic, safe, nurturing places for children-and we are only going to get better.
I can't wait! Just a few items to note as we strengthen instructional practices in line with our strategic plan: We are kicking off an entirely new literacy framework this week, with intense training for teachers; our elementary schools have recently introduced an online, non-linguistic, fun (yes, fun!) supplemental program for the math curriculum that has all levels of learners raving; and we have developed a comprehensive technology professional-development calendar for all of our educators, which will have them using technology tools to support and assess the learning of individual students every day.
Oh, and did I mention that Foster High School just held one of its most successful college fairs, with the representatives from Harvard and Penn staying long after the end of the event to talk to (recruit?!) our students? Our district's diversity is an asset, and these top colleges agree.
By all accounts, October is certainly a ch-eerie and boo-tiful time in the Tukwila schools! See you at the homecoming game.
-Dr. Nancy Coogan