Superintendent's Message PDF Print E-mail

Sept. 16, 2014

Dear Tukwila community,

Nothing beats the excitement of the first day of school, and the opening of the 2014-15 school year was no exception. New clothes, new teachers, new friendships, new learning-it's a whole new year with unlimited expectations...One student at a time.

As I visited each school on the first day, the words of a first-time kindergarten mom came to me again and again: "You are taking care of-you are educating-my heart and soul." A child is a parent's most precious gift, and I am humbled when I realize that, despite all of our differences in culture and background, we are all fiercely united in one goal: To make sure their students receive the best education possible, in the most nurturing environment possible. All the hugs, the tears, the laughter, and the love I saw on the first day of school-they transcend any language and this is why we call Tukwila the home from every corner of the globe. As leadership students from Foster High School exclaim... "It is the promise land."

Here's the take away for me as the leader of the Tukwila School District: Nobody knows their children better or cares for their children more than parents, which means they must be our equal partner in the schoolhouse. They are considered "co-producers" in their child's education. There are countless studies that show family engagement positively influences student success. It is undeniable. So now is the time to get to work building capacity in both our schools and our families to work together in meaningful ways. "Strong relationships with families and community" is not only a main area of focus in our new strategic plan, it's a moral imperative.

During summer training with principals and school leaders, I challenged them to look at their own core beliefs, and to take stock of where their staff members are at. In Tukwila, our engagement works needs to center on four concrete beliefs:

  • All parents have dreams for their students and want the best for them.
  • All parents have the capacity to support their children's learning.
  • Parents and school staff should be equal partners.
  • The responsibility for building and sustaining partnerships between school, home, and community rests primarily with school staff, especially school leaders.

If we believe deeply in these tenets, it will guide all of our work and interactions. This is a multi-year process, but here are just a few of the things we are doing now to build capacity for stronger partnerships in the future:

  • Through a Road Map Region grant, a team of education, city, and parent leaders went to Harvard this summer to learn from the experts about family engagement.
  • The district and each school is developing a family-engagement plan.
  • We are working with our community liaisons to make sure they have an accessible, parent-friendly space in each school.
  • We are planning a series of community listening sessions to hear from parents and identify how they would like to see their culture represented in our schools.
  • We are starting an Intercultural Speaker Series with a new speaker each month to lead our community in a conversation about diverse topics related to social justice and equity. This kicks off at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24, at Foster High School with renowned family-engagement expert Joyce Epstein to include her workshop on parent and community partnerships.

Yes, we are working on our capacity in our schools to welcome and work with parents and community members. I am hoping to create welcoming environments in every school so families feel and believe they are "co-producers" in their child's education and success. I believe that schools need to link parent engagement to increasing student achievement as this is the ultimate goal. Just as importantly, I would like to call on you to keep our feet to the fire. Please join the conversation. Coming to Dr. Epstein's talk next week is a wonderful place to start.

Our schools can only be as strong as our partnerships. If you don't already, please consider every school in the Tukwila School District your school, for you truly do own them. We want you to feel welcome, and, furthermore, we need you in lockstep with us to educate children to the highest levels.

On my part, I promise to do everything I can to care for and educate your "heart and soul" when they enter the schoolhouse doors.


In service,

—Dr. Nancy Coogan







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