Aug. 19, 2014
Welcome (almost) to the 2014-15 school year! Soak up these last few days of beautiful summer weather, but don’t worry—we have an equally sunny outlook for fun and learning in our classrooms come Sept. 3.
At the district level, we have had a busy break. We just finished our Summer Institute open to all instructional coaches and teachers; it was a week jam-packed with experts presenting proven strategies to reach the entire range of learners—from non-English speakers to highly capable—across core content areas. Also, a group of secondary teachers and counselors attended a week-long seminar on AVID, a program that helps our students dream about, plan for, and achieve college success. Additionally, our administrators—including principals and supervisors—have been gathering since June to recommit to service leadership to students and families.
Whew! The work has been substantial, but engaging and invigorating. Now it’s time to bring on the kids!
For me, this coming year is going to be all about supporting principals and their plans for academic achievement for every child. Last year was certainly a time of listening and building—a foundational year—as I came to Tukwila. That included shaping our new strategic plan with the input of hundreds of voices. Now it’s time to put that strategic plan into action. To do that, the district and every school have selected a few of the most critical benchmarks to focus on, and we have outlined a yearlong plan to achieve them, complete with professional development, instructional strategies, and measures of progress. More information (including the forthcoming progress reports) will be available at www.tukwila.wednet.edu.
Briefly, I want to specifically mention one of our most important and foundational strategies to increase achievement for students: Family engagement and partnership. Thanks to a grant and access provided by the Road Map Project, a contingent from Tukwila (including a city and parent representative) was able to attend Harvard’s Family Engagement in Education workshop in August. Here’s what we learned: Family involvement is absolutely critical to student success; thus, our schools are going to actively cultivate true partnerships.
At Harvard, we studied the book “Beyond the Bake Sale,” and here’s the basic premise: “Partnerships among schools, families, and community groups are not a luxury—they are a necessity … [We] have made a promise to our children that all will have an equal opportunity to get a high-quality education and master high academic standards. That means all our children—no matter what language they speak, how much their families earn, what disabilities they may have, what God they worship (if any), or what holidays they celebrate.”
What does that mean for you as a parent or community member? It means that you—no matter your background, no matter what—are our most valuable partner. Your voice, questions, suggestions, help, and presence are welcome and encouraged. You get to make decisions about what happens at your school and in the district. As educational leaders, we have an obligation to create a culture—via events, communication, and physical spaces—that fosters many opportunities for your involvement. As just a small example, I will start hosting regular evening gatherings to talk with our major cultural groups throughout year (look for dates soon).
As we begin the 2014-15 school year, I am calling on you to take advantage of those opportunities. We simply cannot educate your children without you. If the problem is that we are providing too few opportunities or the wrong kind of opportunities, let me know (206-901-8006 or ), and we will do better. In the meantime, here are two simple but incredibly important ways that you can partner with us:
I say it often, but I am going to say it again: I am blessed and humbled to lead the most diverse and beautiful school district in the nation. We are going to have a great year! See you in our schools …
—Dr. Nancy Coogan