Messages from Superintendent Francois
Earlier this week we had the honor of acknowledging and celebrating school board members, Julia Lacey and Todd Banks, as they completed their service on the NSD Board. Each has served for the past four years, and both have been unwavering advocates for kids and our public schools.
Serving on a school board is a tremendous public service calling. For no pay, board members invest countless hours attending business meetings, study sessions, community meetings, school events and professional trainings. In between those times, they are reading and studying complex information and responding to constituents. As the elected community stewards of our public schools, school board members have the challenging task of establishing goals and direction and setting policy for our large and diverse community. They are guided by strong personal conviction with the acute knowledge that the only certainty in any important decision is that someone will disagree with it.
As Julia and Todd ended their terms this week, we also welcomed back current director, Sandy Hayes, for a second term and new directors, Kimberly D'Angelo and Amy Cast. I look forward to working with them and our two other current board members, Dawn McCravey and Janet Quinn, as we continue to strive for higher levels of achievement for more students. All have children in our schools and share in the responsibility of creating the conditions to provide a world class education to the students we serve.
So in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our past and present board members for their service. Local governance of public education works because individuals such as these are willing to step forward in these unpaid, voluntary roles and lead our occasionally maddening, but always rewarding, efforts to provide access and opportunity for our young people.
Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving break!
The Washington State Supreme Court in the 2012 McCleary decision ruled that the legislature was not meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education as the "paramount duty" of the state and directed the legislature to implement an incremental plan to achieve full funding by 2018. Last June, the legislature adopted a 2013-15 budget that included $600 million to $1 billion (depending upon what one chooses to consider "new money") of added funding for schools. While no doubt either figure seems like a lot of money, a closer look paints a sobering picture about how much this added funding really closed the basic education funding gap.
Much of the new funding went to increase state-funded full day kindergarten and K-1 class size reduction, both important investments for student achievement. However, because of our lower levels of poverty compared to many other districts, Northshore did not receive any of this new funding. Based on an analysis prepared by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, our district's projected state funding for 2013-14 is actually $142 less per pupil than it was in 2008-09, which incidentally was also the year the McCleary case was first heard in King County Superior Court. Had 2008-09 per pupil funding levels been increased by the rate of inflation only, per pupil funding levels for 2013-14 would be $679 more than our projected funding level. (OSPI funding comparison - school year 2008-09 to school year 2013-14)
So what happened? The answer is the Great Recession that resulted in multiple years of deep funding cuts to education. While I commend the legislature for reversing this cutting trend in the 2013-15 budget and making some funding improvements, the reality is that this added funding falls far short of restoring per pupil funding levels to what they were before the McCleary case was originally heard.
Consequently, there is a long way to go between now and 2018 to meet the 2018 McCleary timeline. The path to full funding of basic education remains a steep uphill climb and will require tough decisions and courageous actions around spending priorities, taxation, employee compensation (the biggest piece of every school district budget), the role of local levies and mutual accountability (school districts and the legislature). On behalf of our school community, the 20,000+ students we serve and the thousands more who will enter our schools in the coming years, I am committed to continuing to work collaboratively with our legislators and other partners to meet our state's constitutional mandate of an amply funded basic education for every student.
Northshore is a great school district for many reasons. Chief among those is the quality of our staff at all levels. We are proud and fortunate to have skilled, dedicated and hard working professionals providing a world class education to over 20,000 young people across our community.
The most important work in our district happens in our 32 schools. Each of those schools is led by a principal or administrative team who fulfills a variety of roles - instructional leader, building manager, budget officer, security coordinator, communications director, counselor, mediator, cheerleader…just to name a few. The role of a principal is multi-faceted and getting more challenging all the time. Often times, thanks and appreciation for all that goes well in a school takes an unfortunate backseat to the inevitable hiccups and bumps that come with leading the diverse and complex entities that schools can be.
As the superintendent, I rely upon our principals and assistant principals to be the front line administrative leaders guiding our core mission of educating students to high levels. We have outstanding principals who day in and day out rise to this important calling with expertise, compassion, perseverance and humility. I am proud of the high quality of leadership in our schools.
Governor Inslee also recognizes the critical role our principals play in Northshore and across the state and has declared the week of October 20-26 School Principals Week. I hope you'll join me this week in reaching out to the principal or assistant principal who makes a difference in your life and extending a well-deserved "thanks" for the vital role he or she plays in creating the conditions for our students to succeed.
Earlier this week, the School Board approved three critical ballot measures to be decided by Northshore voters next February. These measures were recommended to the Board after months-and in some cases, years-of study by task forces and committees comprised of parents, community members, teachers, support staff, principals and district administrators. The three measures are:
Proposition 1, Renewal Education Operations Support Levy: This 4-year measure would renew and replace an existing levy set to expire at the end of the 2014 calendar year. The proposed M&O levy would raise approximately $50 million per year (maximum of $200 million between 2015-18). This levy currently provides 23% of the daily operating revenue which funds our schools, programs and services. It provides funding for a wide range of purposes including teachers, support staff, transportation, curriculum, athletic/activity programs and instructional programs for struggling and accelerated learners.
Proposition 2, Capital Projects Bond: This measure would authorize the District to sell $177.5 million in bonds to be repaid over the next 20 years. If approved, the proceeds of the bond sale would be used to fund a new north end high school to address enrollment growth and allow for grade reconfiguration; complete the final phase of the Woodinville High School renovation; modernize worn out roofs, boilers, heating/ventilation and other systems to maintain and extend the lives of our current schools; expand and improve our technology infrastructure; renovate athletic fields; improve school security; and complete small works projects across the district.
Proposition 3, Renewal School Technology Levy: This 4-year measure would also renew and replace an existing levy set to expire at the end of the 2014 calendar year. The proposed tech levy would raise $8 million per year ($32 million total between 2015-18) to support classroom instructional technology, staff training and district-wide technology systems.
The combined tax rate of these three measures is projected to be lower than the 2013 tax rate of $5.29 per $1,000 of a homeowner's assessed valuation. Utilizing conservative assumptions, the combined tax rate-including the continued payoff of previously approved bonds-is estimated at $4.98 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2015, dropping to $4.95 by 2018. The annual tax increase for the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 in 2013 is projected to be just over $62. This projection does not take into account new homes being added to the tax rolls or increases in commercial businesses, both of which lower the tax impact for existing homeowners.
A tremendous amount of research and analysis by many stakeholders has gone into the development of these measures. We are committed to making sure that voters are fully informed before the February election. Be looking for additional information in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, please call or email our Communications Department with any questions you have. Communications can be reached at 425.408.7670 or email@example.com.
We are excited to begin the 3-year implementation of a new teacher and principal evaluation model during the 2013-14 school year. Northshore School District’s new Teacher and Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) is the result of Washington state’s new laws related to teacher and principal evaluation. This year, principals and teachers will begin using the Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching to talk about teaching and learning in classrooms. The use of the Danielson framework helps foster a common language for educators while encouraging and valuing professional growth, self-reflection and a collaborative approach between teachers and principals.
The start of every school year involves a fair amount of adjustment as we get our full menu of programs and services up and running. This is particularly true with our bus services. In addition to the normal process of determining which students intend to ride the bus and how long the bus routes actually take given traffic patterns and road construction, we have also added a number of program changes. Reassigning kindergarten students due to over-capacity schools, implementing a “hub” transportation system for Elementary Advanced Placement students, implementing a 95-minute Wednesday early release schedule, starting secondary schools 10 minutes later, and re-designing numerous shuttle services for a range of academic programs have placed increased demands on our bus service. These changes come on top of the continuation of our regular to/from school bus service, 9th grade shuttles, elementary band/orchestra transportation, and special programs transportation and shuttles. All of this is further complicated by more parents choosing to drive their children to school during the first week or two of the year, adding to traffic congestion.
Our staff continue to analyze bus routes and are making incremental adjustments to fine tune the system. In particular, it is very common that morning bus pick up times will be pushed later over the next several weeks as bus routes become more established. Numerous routes have already been adjusted to later pick up times. We fully anticipate further adjustments will be possible.
Our buses will travel 1.5 million miles this year transporting over 10,000 students daily. Doing so with safety and efficiency remains our top priority. If you have experienced inconvenience or frustration during this first week or two, please know that we take seriously your concerns and are working hard to make improvements where possible. If you are continuing to experience busing issues, please contact Transportation Dispatch at (425) 408-7900 or the Transportation Supervisor at (425) 408-7903. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through some normal – and a few new – start of year challenges.
August 30, 2013
For the first time in many years, our district will welcome over 20,000 students into our 32 schools. Over 1,500 of those students will be kindergarteners beginning their 13-year K-12 educational journey. While it has been gratifying to see enrollment growing again in recent years after more than a decade of stagnation and decline, that growth remains uneven. Schools in the north end of the district, in particular, have and will continue to account for much of the growth we're experiencing.
Early this fall, the school board will decide on a recommendation from our Capital Bond Planning Task Force-a group of parent, community and staff representatives-for a $177.5 million bond measure. If approved by voters in February, this measure would finish the final phase of Woodinville High School, construct a fourth comprehensive high school in the north end of the district to address enrollment growth and enable grade reconfiguration, continue our building modernization program to replace important systems such as worn out roofs, floors and heating systems at over a dozen schools, and expand our technology infrastructure to meet 21st century learning demands. This bond measure will have a wide ranging impact on our school district for decades to come. Over the course of this year, we will be sharing more information with our community to enable voters to cast an informed vote on this critical measure.For me, next Tuesday will mark the 42nd "first day" of school as a student, teacher or administrator. Despite that number of school starts, personal experience says that I will not sleep well on Monday night with anticipation of the new year dominating my thoughts. And I know I won't be alone. The first day of school remains a magical day for many. An entirely new year of possibility and potential awaits. It is my sincere wish that come next June 18th, we will all look back on the 2013-14 school year as one of our best years ever!
June 28, 2013
At their June 25 meeting, the School Board approved three important measures with significant impact for NSD families and staff. Those are:
2013-14 School Calendar, including Wednesday Early Release – The 2013–14 school calendar returns to 180 days of student instruction from the current 175-day student calendar and implements a 95-minute early release for staff collaboration, planning and professional development on 31 Wednesdays throughout the year. Overall student instructional time is maintained at current levels through the addition of five school days and 50 minutes of student instructional time each week. Although Wednesday was the second choice of respondents to the community survey on collaboration time, the school board, district administration and teachers’ association leadership agreed that given the full range of factors to consider, Wednesday provided the best opportunity to maximize the benefits of the early release time for students and staff. The Wednesday early release and the additional weekly instructional time have been structured to allow all secondary schools to start 10 minutes later each morning (7:20 a.m. for high schools and 8:05 a.m. for junior highs) while also enabling all elementary schools to be dismissed no later than 3:40 p.m. each day. (link to the 2013-14 calendar, early release information, school bell times and child care resources)
Transition All 9th Grade Sports to High School Level Competition – The Board approved a plan developed by coaches, athletic directors, administrators and parents to transition the remaining 9th grade sports from the junior high to high school level competition. Volleyball and track will make this transition next year, cross country and wrestling in 2014–15, tennis in 2015–16 and soccer in 2016–17. (download sports' task force recommendation)
Modified the EDTF Recommendation on Grade Reconfiguration – Last fall the Board unanimously approved the recommendation of the Enrollment Demographics Task Force to address long-term enrollment growth through the pursuit of a new high school in the north end of the district, grade reconfiguration to grades K–5 elementary schools, grades 6–8 middle schools and grades 9–12 high schools and related boundary changes. As part of that larger plan, the EDTF also recommended that the Board consolidate small eastside elementary schools that may continue to experience declining enrollment in the coming years. Given a number of factors, including the pace of enrollment growth in the north end and potential state-level policy changes such as universal full-day kindergarten and grades K–3 class size reduction, the Board adopted a resolution to separate a decision on school consolidation from the plan to pursue a new high school and grade reconfiguration. School consolidation will not be considered at this time but will continue to be analyzed in the coming years as the impacts of enrollment growth and potential state-level policy changes become clearer. (download Resolution 680)
I hope by this time you are settling into your summer routine and enjoying the warmer weather and longer days with family and friends. Thank you for an outstanding school year and for your continued support of a world class education for the 20,000 students we serve across this great community. Best wishes for a safe and restful summer!
This week 1,507 students will graduate from Northshore schools. This class of 2013 is particularly significant for me because the youngest of my three children earned her high school diploma this week as well. Similar to thousands of parents and family members across our district, her mother and I are filled with pride, hope and unending optimism of the possibilities before her. Most of all, our wish is that she will be happy and fulfilled in whatever path her future holds. While we will continue to support and guide her as best we can, we also recognize that graduation marks a clear transition as she assumes much greater ownership and responsibility for her goals and dreams. So it is for all graduates.
Congratulations to the class of 2013! Please join me in wishing them all success in their future endeavors. And to all who have played a part in making this day possible-parents, siblings, family members, teachers, friends, coaches, mentors-graduation is your accomplishment as well. Sometimes you may have pushed, other times pulled, and often times just listened. But know that for the graduate in your life, it made a world of difference.
May 31, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Last week I attended the annual scholarship breakfast hosted by the Northshore Scholarship Foundation. A total of 67 students received $139,000 in scholarship awards. Since its inception in 1984, the Northshore Scholarship Foundation has awarded over $2.1 million in scholarships to Northshore graduates. This year, the Northshore Scholarship Foundation also surpassed its 1,500th scholarship awarded since 1984.
As the founding members of the Northshore Scholarship Foundation, the Woodinville and Northshore Rotary clubs and the Northshore Kiwanis Club continue to demonstrate their outstanding support and advocacy for public education and higher education. I could not ask for more positive and supportive community partners for our students, staff and school communities. And I could not have been more proud as superintendent of this great school district to watch our students accept their scholarship awards and share their future hopes and dreams.
I would also like to thank the close to 4,500 parents, community members, staff and students who took the time to complete our collaboration time survey. Results are posted on the district Web site at www.nsd.org and are being analyzed by the district and our teachers' association as we continue to plan for next year. Please be looking for additional information on this topic coming to you soon.
May 17, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
May 7 was National Teacher Day. Northshore is fortunate to have outstanding professional educators, and it is fitting to recognize them on this day. Thank you to all who reached out to share your thanks and appreciation to our teachers!
Expectations and accountability for educators have changed greatly over the past two decades as the focus has rightly shifted from the “inputs” of teaching to the “outputs” of student learning. Changes that we are in the midst of implementing include new national learning standards, assessments and accountability requirements and a new, more rigorous evaluation system which incorporates student growth over time, continuous improvement, ongoing training and professional collaboration. At a district level, we are continuing to implement an aggressive curriculum renewal plan, advance our district goals and performance measures and plan for grade reconfiguration. While all of these efforts are intended to improve the “outputs” of student learning, our success on all of these fronts is directly related to the “inputs” of time, energy and resources we can apply to this critical work.
Over the past eleven years, the district has operated under a waiver from the State Board of Education for a 175-day student school year (180 days is the legal requirement without a waiver). The five waiver days have been scheduled as non-student days throughout the year for activities associated with school improvement initiatives, teacher training, staff collaboration and instructional planning. In recent years, it has become more challenging to meaningfully accomplish this work and maintain momentum and progress when there may be weeks or months between opportunities for schools and staff to engage around this work. Most of our neighboring districts moved some time ago to schedules that allow for regular, consistent weekly release time for teachers and principals to sustain these continuous improvement efforts.
The district and the Northshore Education Association recently agreed to a framework that moves us to a regular, consistent weekly release time schedule next year. Key elements of that agreement include:
Between now and May 27, I invite you to participate in an online survey to provide input on the scheduling of this weekly release time. The survey can be accessed on our Web site at www.nsd.org.
I certainly understand that this change presents a number of potential challenges for some families. We are working on creating a menu of options and resources available across our community. We will post this information to our Web site and push it out through our schools to interested families.As a parent myself, I can also relate to the question of how a 2-hour weekly release improves my child’s learning. It is a very valid question, and one I’ll answer in this way. If I ever need open heart surgery, I want to know that my surgeon has spent plenty of time studying the best techniques, collaborating and learning with and from fellow heart surgeons, practicing and refining her skills, engaging in meaningful opportunities to be critiqued and provided feedback, and having a full “toolbox” to deal with any unexpected or unique circumstances that may occur during my surgery. Teachers and principals need similar opportunities to learn new content and skills, partner and practice with others, assess, refine, reflect and revise their craft. Being able to engage in these professional growth opportunities on a more regular, consistent basis is the purpose of moving to this different model of instructional planning and collaboration time.
Ultimately, the success of this new schedule will be measured by the achievement of our students. Working in partnership with our teachers and principals, I am committed to maintaining accountability for utilizing this time well and in pursuit of our shared mission of success for all students.
April 26, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
For the past several years, the Washington State Board of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction have recognized schools that are making exceptional gains in student achievement. Known as the Washington Achievement Awards, I am proud to report that five Northshore schools are being recognized this year. They are:
Wellington Elementary School - Overall Excellence and Science
Fernwood Elementary School - Science
Sunrise Elementary School - Science
Westhill Elementary School - Closing Achievement Gaps
Woodin Elementary School - Closing Achievement Gaps
There are no silver bullets or magic formulas for improving student achievement. Rather, it is the shared focus, day-to-day persistence and hard work by all involved—students, parents, teachers, support staff and administrators—that make the difference. Congratulations to these school communities for your outstanding gains!
I also want to take this opportunity to recognize Public School Volunteer Week and to thank the hundreds of volunteers who give generously of their time and talents to assist our students and staff. Public education works best when we all maintain a shared ownership to provide the best possible learning environment for our community's young people. Every day throughout our district, volunteers commit acts small and large that help provide those opportunities. Thank you for your dedication and commitment!
April 12, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
On March 28, over 300 supporters of public education gathered at the Northshore Schools Foundation’s “Light A Fire For Learning” luncheon and raised over $120,000 to support students and teachers across our district. As an all-time high fundraising total for the luncheon—one of two major annual fundraising events for the foundation—these funds will go a long way towards fulfilling the foundation’s mission of “Making An Impact, Everyday.”
Since 1995, the Northshore Schools Foundation has partnered with the district to support, enhance and extend learning opportunities for our students and staff. Through investments in innovative classroom grants, teacher excellence, new curriculum, extended learning opportunities and, most recently, strategic investments in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, the foundation positively impacts tens of thousands of Northshore students multiple times throughout their school career.
The foundation has built relationships with over 65 regional companies and partners that contribute generously to their mission and initiatives. But the backbone of the foundation is the hundreds of community members, parents, staff and kids who give of their passion, energy and resources. From the volunteer board of directors, to the students who inspire and entertain at events like the luncheon, to the parents and community members who answer the call to give, the foundation’s strength comes from the collective and shared commitment of those personally invested in a world class education for the young people of our community.
Northshore is rightly recognized as one of the top school districts in Washington state and across the nation. Organizations like the Northshore Schools Foundation play a key role working with the district to make that happen. If you are not already a part of the foundation’s network of supporters, I encourage you to learn more and get involved. A good place to start would be visiting the foundation’s Web site at www.NorthshoreSchoolsFoundation.org.
March 29, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Increasing the percentage of 9th graders on track for graduation is one of our district’s student achievement performance measures. Success in the 9th grade is pivotal to students’ success throughout high school, the likelihood of graduating on-time and opportunities to take a wide range of rigorous courses and electives. One of the continual challenges of our current grade configuration is instilling in 9th graders the realization that they truly are high school students, and their academic performance counts towards both graduation and college entrance. A poor 9th grade year can have significant long-term negative impacts on a student’s future options and opportunities. Conversely, a strong 9th grade year opens up the possibility of much greater access to our diverse range of high school course offerings.
Fortunately, our focus on increasing the percentage of students on track for graduation is paying off. To be on track, a student must begin 10th grade with a full credit of world history, algebra, English 9, physical science and meet the Washington state history requirement. For the class of 2013, this year’s seniors, 81.4% of students met all of these requirements when they began 10th grade. For the class of 2015, this year’s sophomores, 89.1% of students met this standard. And the percentage has improved at every junior high and high school across our district.
This hasn’t occurred by accident or chance. It has been the result of an intentional focus on the part of teachers, administrators, parents, and most importantly, students. Through increased opportunities for early intervention, mentoring, tutoring and credit retrieval during the school year as well as over the summer, we are slowly but steadily making measurable progress. The end result is improved achievement and increased opportunities for kids. That is the ultimate performance measure.
March 15, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
I encourage you to take a moment this week to acknowledge and thank those classified staff members who make a positive difference for you, your students and your children.
This week, March 11–15, is Classified Staff Employees' Week. On behalf of the board of directors and our entire school community, I want to acknowledge and thank the dedicated classified staff members who provide the critical support necessary to provide a world class education to the young people we serve.
Many of our classified staff members are the first “faces” of our schools—the first to greet students in the morning, the first to welcome parents or community members to our schools, the first voice at the end of a phone call, or the first to respond to an email inquiry. Others of our classified staff work behind the scenes to make sure that we have the best environment for students to learn and teachers to teach every day in clean, safe, maintained and supported schools. Whatever roles they play, we are dependent upon the hard work, skill and commitment of our classified staff to fulfill our mission of “Strengthening Our Community Through Excellence in Education.”
March 1, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
With the 2013 legislative session approaching the official halfway point, numerous bills impacting education have been proposed. Many of these are attempts to implement further reforms to improve student achievement. Often times, the rhetoric around these bills can leave an impression that student achievement is in tremendous decline. That’s simply not true in our state, and particularly in our district.
Below are some of the student achievement “highlights” I am communicating to our legislators this week as reminders of the progress being made in Northshore, as well as the continued challenges we face to assure that all students achieve at high levels.
Febuary 15, 2013
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Since last October, I have met with 54 staff, parent and community groups to share information about the enrollment growth we are experiencing in the north/central corridor of the district and the School Board’s unanimous decision to pursue construction of a new high school, grade reconfiguration and related boundary adjustments in response to those challenges. I want to thank all who have attended these meetings and provided feedback, as well as those who have viewed a similar presentation posted on our website at www.nsd.org.
A fourth comprehensive high school, grade reconfiguration and the related boundary adjustments represent significant change for our district. That is why it has been personally important for me to meet with as many of you as possible. My goal is to assure awareness and understanding of our north end enrollment challenges and how the proposed solution meets those challenges while also benefiting the instructional programs across our district.
As we move forward, there will be critical actions, decisions and mileposts to turn these plans into reality. Between now and next fall, we will finalize the ballot measures to recommend to the School Board for a February 2014 levy/bond election. A successful bond measure is necessary to fund the new high school. In addition, we are in the design and permit process so that we can be “shovel ready” as soon as possible to provide much needed relief to our most overcrowded school communities. Further, we will be creating task forces to begin the process of adapting our instructional programs and offerings as we plan for grade reconfiguration. Finally, we will be conducting further study and analysis for the School Board on potential consolidation of eastside elementary schools with declining enrollment that would become even smaller with grade reconfiguration.
Our hope is to open a new high school and implement grade reconfiguration and the related boundary adjustments in the fall of 2017. While that may seem like a long way off, the time will pass quickly. My commitment is to do our very best over the next several years to make this a smooth and successful transition. I will continue to provide periodic updates in this letter and welcome your ongoing participation and feedback.
January 25, 2013
In recent years we have seen great improvements in the ability to track our students' educational pursuits following graduation. The Education Research and Data Center out of the Washington State Office of Financial Management (www.erdc.wa.gov) is a growing source of such valuable information.
The most recent data available is for the graduating class of 2010. Of the 1,498 NSD graduates in 2010, 78% entered higher education directly from high school, compared to a statewide average of 62%. Over 80% of those college-bound students enrolled in a Washington state college or university with 37% entering a public 4-year institution, 6% entering a private 4-year institution, 38% attending a public 2-year institution, and 1% attending a private 2-year institution. The remaining 18% enrolled out-of-state, with the vast majority of those entering a public or private 4-year college or university.
The college application deadline for this year's seniors is rapidly approaching. One measure of our success as a district is whether those students will gain entrance to the colleges and universities they pursue. As students and their families eagerly await those acceptance letters later this spring, I am confident that our students will continue to do well.
January 11, 2013
What has not changed is the responsibility of the Legislature to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. Just over a year ago, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the Legislature was not meeting this duty and directed it to do so by 2018, with demonstrated progress along the way.
After two decades of numerous studies, reports, commissions and task forces, there is a broad and agreed upon understanding of what it will take to fully fund basic education. In fact, the Legislature in recent years has passed laws spelling this out and establishing timelines to get there.
The Northshore community consistently steps up to pass local levies and bonds that help make our schools some of the best in the state. Yet there remain unmet needs in our schools that could be better addressed if we received the full state funding we are due. If in the 2013-15 budget, the Legislature fully funded just two of its basic education responsibilities-student transportation and operating costs for things such as basic supplies, materials, utilities and insurance-we would have millions of local levy dollars available to better meet our local educational needs, dollars that are currently being used out of necessity to backfill years of underfunding.
The Supreme Court mandated change, and the time for the Legislature to act is now. The students in our schools today should not have to wait any longer for the education to which they are entitled by the constitution of our state. In the coming months, I hope to report progress by the Legislature fixing what is currently broken about funding for public education. In the meantime, I will continue to work with our local legislators and advocate for the changes the McCleary decision requires.
December 14, 2012
For many, the holidays are a time to appreciate and enjoy our good fortune and security. For others, though, the holidays serve as a painful reminder of ongoing struggles and hardship. Across our district, students and staff have come together to help hundreds of individuals and families enjoy a holiday season filled with hope and kindness. From food drives to toy drives to warm clothing drives, our school communities have shown their generosity to those who need a helping hand.Helping those less fortunate captures the true spirit of the holiday season. That spirit is clearly alive and well across the Northshore School District. I wish you all a safe and peaceful Winter Break!
November 29, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
I firmly believe students will challenge themselves to take rigorous courses when they are adequately supported in doing so. That means families that encourage and engage with their students’ high school planning and course selection. It means teachers, principals, counselors and support staff who hold and support all students to achieve at high levels. And it means students who are supported to see a tangible connection between the choices they make in high school and how those will impact their opportunities in life.
Being named for the third consecutive year to the AP District Honor Roll is a fitting acknowledgement of all these factors working together in our district.
November 16, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Our district performance measures around math are successfully addressing the need for more students to achieve at higher levels. Last year's fifth-graders met and exceeded standard on the state math assessment at the highest level-82%-than any previous year. Of last year's graduating seniors, 27% successfully completed algebra by the eighth grade compared to 47% of this year's ninth-graders. And the percentage of students taking advanced math (beyond Algebra 2) has increased from 49% of the class of 2008 to 58% of the class of 2012. The pipeline of students prepared to take advanced math in high school will continue growing as we increase the number of students successfully completing algebra by the eighth grade.
Over the past several years, we have also been working closely with Cascadia Community College to better identify students who are not prepared for college level math and design new course options that help bridge that gap before students graduate. Our partnership with Cascadia is a statewide model of cooperation and collaboration between K-12 and higher education.All of these actions strongly suggest that students across our district will continue to graduate better prepared in math having taken more coursework at higher levels. This is something we should all be proud of and an accomplishment that speaks to the dedication and pursuit of rigor on the part of our teachers, parents, and most importantly, our students.
October 25, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
After months of careful study, the Northshore School District Board of Directors unanimously voted this week to accept the preferred recommendation of the Enrollment Demographics Task Force to address current and anticipated growth in the north/central corridor of the district. The Board voted to: (1) pursue construction of an additional high school in the north end of the district; (2) include funding for that high school as the major component of a February 2014 bond measure; (3) reconfigure grade levels district-wide to K-5 elementary schools, 6-8 middle schools, and 9-12 high schools; and (4) implement associated boundary adjustments to be recommended to the Board at a later date.
With this vote, our attention will now shift to an accelerated planning and permitting process for a new high school to be located on 61 acres north and west of Fernwood Elementary acquired by the District last spring. This property is ideally located in a densely populated area of the district that is expected to see continued enrollment growth in the coming years. If planning and permitting can be completed in advance of the February 2014 bond election – and if voters approve that bond measure – we hope to begin construction in the spring of 2014 and have a new high school ready to open by the fall of 2017. Our plan would be to implement boundary adjustments and district-wide grade reconfiguration at that same time.
In the meantime, we will continue to address enrollment growth in north end schools through restriction of in- and out-of-district attendance waivers, additional portable classrooms, program adjustments and bussing. While certainly not ideal, we believe these measures are preferable to multiple boundary adjustments in advance of a long-term solution. We will continue to work closely with the most impacted schools to assure a high quality learning environment as those schools operate well beyond their enrollment capacity.This decision and direction by the Board will have significant impacts across our district for years to come. The Board is committed to providing accurate and thorough information throughout the implementation process and involving the community in authentic and meaningful ways. I will continue to provide periodic updates through this letter and on our district Web site at www.nsd.org/edtf.
October 10, 2012
When elections roll around, it is easy to see why people – young and old – can get disillusioned and disengaged from the democratic process. Negative ads, conflicting ads, repetitive ads, this ad brought to you by some organization you’ve never heard of ads…all of it can get very tiresome. Watch the evening news most nights, though, and we are quickly reminded that people in other countries routinely die fighting for the right to choose their leaders and live by the rule of law. These rights we take for granted are best sustained when we all assume the responsibility to exercise them fully.
There are many issues at stake at the state and national levels, including a number that will impact public education. The outcome of the November election could reach from public charter schools to education funding to collective bargaining to the purpose and use of student assessments. These are all important issues that could impact our schools and community for years to come. I encourage you to wade through the sound bites and white noise of the campaign season to become truly informed about the issues and candidates and cast an informed ballot.I told my daughter that I believe she gives up her right to complain if she chooses not to exercise her right to vote. She didn’t necessarily agree with that, just like she hasn’t agreed with me on all of the issues and candidates we’ve discussed. In the end, she’ll vote her conscience and values, informed by what she has learned about the issues and candidates on her own and through discussion with me, her mother, her older siblings, her grandparents and many, many others. I encourage all of you to do the same on November 6.
September 26, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
The chart below shows our students’ participation in Advanced Placement (AP) coursework from 2008 through 2012. Over that time period, the number of students taking AP courses, the total number of AP exams taken, and the number of students receiving a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam (the minimal score to qualify for college credit), has more than doubled.
Encouraging and supporting students to challenge and stretch themselves academically involves many of us working together. Parents and families must support high expectations, engage in their childrens’ education and encourage achievement. Teachers, principals and support staff must lay the foundation for student success, set high expectations and actively engage students in their learning. As a district, we must develop a wide range of opportunities for all students to access challenging and relevant coursework that meets their needs. And most importantly, students must step up to the challenge and apply themselves.
Our AP participation rates over the past five years are a positive reflection of what is possible when all of those factors come together.
September 12, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Initial enrollment counts last week verify that trend. Skyview Junior High is close to 900 students. Next door, Canyon Creek Elementary is quickly approaching 775 students. Fernwood, Kokanee and Crystal Springs elementary schools are well over 600 students with Fernwood and Kokanee likely to approach 700 students in the near future. Boundary adjustments implemented in 2007 and additions to Canyon Creek and Fernwood were projected to accommodate growth for the next five years. More recent actions taken include placement of additional portable classrooms, limiting in and out of district waivers, and moving specialized programs. Continued growth will soon overtake these steps, and options to further adjust boundaries and add space at existing schools are limited and inadequate. A more permanent and long-term solution is necessary.
The District's Enrollment Demographics Task Force (EDTF) - a representative group of school board and superintendent appointed parents, community members and staff - has been closely studying this issue for the past two years. The EDTF recently submitted a report (click here to download the 86-page report) to the School Board outlining several options to address growth with a consensus recommendation prioritizing two of those options. The School Board is actively reviewing the EDTF recommendations to identify a preferred option in advance of the district's next levy/bond election in February 2014.
Throughout their study and deliberations, the EDTF wrestled with the issue of instructional equity. What are the best solutions to ensure that all Northshore students have access to similar opportunities and conditions for an excellent education? These are challenging and complex issues with far-reaching and long-lasting implications. I will be using this forum to keep community and staff updated on this issue as we move forward. I encourage and invite all of you to learn more by visiting the EDTF Web page, www.nsd.org/edtf, on the district Web site.
August 29, 2012
Dear Northshore Staff and Community,
Next Tuesday, Sept. 4, marks the beginning of a new year of learning and growth for over 19,500 young people across our community. It is an exciting time, and one we have been preparing for in earnest since school let out last June.
We have many challenges ahead of us in the coming year. Some of the biggest include our continued work to address district goals and performance measures; spreading success to all our students, particularly to those who struggle; addressing immediate and long-term enrollment growth in the north/central corridor of the district; thoughtfully implementing a new teacher and principal evaluation system; preparing for the transition from the Washington State learning standards to the recently adopted Common Core State Standards; continuing our work around quality, powerful classroom instruction; completing the major capital projects of the 2010 bond at Kenmore Junior High and Woodinville High School on time and on budget; and working with our elected officials to fully fund basic education as the state constitution requires.
More importantly, our shared commitment in the coming year is to make sure each student has the best opportunity to reach his or her potential, to explore, grow and develop their unique skills, abilities and interests in a safe and supportive learning environment. All of us - parents, teachers, administrators, support staff - help make this happen by working together for that common purpose.
I love the start of school because it is a time of great optimism, energy and possibility. I hope each of you feel the same. There are 19,500 kids counting on us to make this a great year for them.
E-mail Larry Francois