Superintendent's Message PDF Print E-mail

April 18, 2016

Healthy Tukwila—this is a topic close to my own heart and also a priority for our First Lady with her“Let’s Move Initiative,” which emphasizes the importance of creating healthy starts for our students. Locally, our partner the City of Tukwila deserves kudos for all that it’s doing to keep our community members active and living well. We in the Tukwila School District have made health a priority, too. Our graduates need to leave fully equipped to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and success, a cornerstone of which is a healthy lifestyle.

First, let me tell you about my own journey in Tukwila. When I became superintendent here three years ago, I was consumed—in a good way—with learning and doing: Early mornings, late nights, and a packed schedule of meetings and activities in between. Healthy and mindful habits took a back seat; I was eating fast and on the run—and, unfortunately, “on the run” often involved a car or shifting desk chairs as opposed to using my two feet. It came to a point where I realized that I could not be my best self, and I could not do my best work on behalf of students, unless something changed. That shift took a very mindful effort (precutting veggies for easy snacks, saying no to cookies at board meetings, scheduling walking meetings and time for exercise…). I now take several minutes after my morning alarm to reflect on my professional and personal goals for the day. It’s an investment in a quiet mind and purposeful living that recoups itself many times over as I am more efficient and present in all that I do. I feel better. I live better. This includes practicing mindfulness.

The reason I share this is because I strongly empathize with those who struggle, and I passionately advocate for healthful opportunities, especially in our schools. In my State of the District address to all staff on April 20, I emphasized the need for mindfulness training for us as a district. This includes training for our staff as well as our students. Our students often enter our schoolhouse doors coming to us from significant trauma; many times resulting in a witnessed brutal death of family members. Bringing in mindfulness practices allows for students and staff to begin their day meditating and taking five minutes to live in the present moment paying attention to their thoughts and feelings. In return, this allows our students to open their minds to the day’s learning building resiliency and confidence with their academics.

As we look at giving emphasis to our collective well-being, I am really proud of some of the systemic and special programs and partnerships we have implemented:

  • Communities Putting Prevention to Work awarded the district a $249,000 grant in 2010 to overhaul and align our physical-education curriculum equipment with national standards, as well as implement programs like safe walking and bicycling programs. Survey data several years after implementation showed that student obesity rates were down and activity levels were up. Our P.E. teachers are committed to helping students learn fitness habits for life.
  • Every student at Thorndyke Elementary this year has been wearing a fitness tracker tailored exclusively for kids called a Sqord. They check in every day and have competitions to monitor their movement and healthy activities. Next year, all our elementary students will be wearing them. This innovative program is championed and sponsored by Providence Health Systems.
  • Students in Foster High’s recently created Bike Club have logged an incredible amount of miles around the Puget Sound and state! The regularly ride to Alki beach in addition to competitions like the Seattle to Portland race.
  • Bike Works has partnered with our elementary schools to help students “earn” bicycles after completing a multi-week course about bicycle maintenance and safety.
  • Many schools hold fitness-related nights, such as Cascade View’s Family Health and Fitness Night last December with Zumba lessons, resources, and fitness prizes.
  • Our Food Services team follows stringent national guidelines that ensure each meal is under a certain amount of fat and sugar, and they consistently use whole-grain ingredients instead of white flour in pizza crust, tortillas, etc. In addition, students have access to a fresh fruit and vegetable bar every day.
  • Our Food Services team also offers FREE breakfast to every student in the district, every day. We know that breakfast is the most critical meal for healthy and active children (a recent study showed that students are even better off eating two breakfasts as opposed to no breakfast in terms of obesity and weight gain).

Health and fitness is not just a lesson in our schools, it’s an essential way of life that’s as foundational as reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is our collective responsibility and, as our First Lady highlights, it is the responsibility of the school, our faith-based organizations, our government, our families, our healthcare system and our community based organizations. As a collective, your involvement is key to ensuring a healthy opportunity for our future leaders, our students.


 In service,

Dr. Nancy Coogan, Superintendent, and Allan Ekberg, Mayor





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