Well, it’s six days and counting down until we begin another school year. We all know the 2020-21 school year will be like no other in our Northshore history. Together, on Wednesday, September 2, we will join one another in new spaces as we celebrate the start of our epic school year. No one could have predicted that we would be in this place; yet, there is still the annual excitement and feeling of anticipation that courses through each of us as we await new adventures, new friends, new ideas, and new ways of solving both old and new challenges. My theme this year will continue to be about community building and how important it is to remember that learning best happens in community. As we resolutely commit to crafting new community ties in the new year, I remain so grateful for the strength of our Northshore community as a whole; together, all things are possible…
New School Year
By now, you should already know that our staff, labor groups and administrators worked all summer to develop a sustainable staged approach to instruction that will ultimately take us through the year, whether at home or in school. We continued that work by developing school schedules, plans for childcare, food and nutrition, technology and so much more. Also, students, teachers, parents and caregivers, made it clear that we need to build connections – build community as we begin the year in this online environment. We heard you and have integrated community-building into the classwork of the first days of school. We also heard the call for one platform where families and students can see everything from assignments to grades and so much more. Staff have begun giving families orientations on Northshore Learns 3.0 and our new learning management system.
I am grateful for so much during these uncertain times. Having said that, I want to take a moment to make sure our Northshore community knows that I understand and acknowledge the enormous shifts in our lives that have taken place. I understand the past several months have caused upheaval, illness, anxiety and a great deal of change. Indeed, a colleague shared this article with me this week as a way of better understanding the stress we are all under and how we might better cope with it during these curious days. Indeed, I would invite each of you to turn off your computer and other electronic devices this weekend and take time to enjoy the simple gifts of these summer days. These are our best days, and to be our best selves, we need to be gentle with ourselves and one another.
Frankly speaking, it is likely that the coming months will bring more challenges. Yet, I remain grateful. In Our House, we understand the importance of community. I am deeply grateful for each and every staff member’s time and efforts that have been invested in providing the educational experience and nutrition support for our students last school year, and the time committed to developing substantial improvements for Northshore Learns 3.0; it matters. What each of you are about to accomplish with students in and out of the classroom will be no easy feat; but, I am confident that from Day 1, our students will benefit greatly from each and every contribution both large and small.
I am also grateful for our families, students and community partners who continue to step up with valuable feedback, innovative ideas, and a mutual trust that – in Our House – we appreciate and rely on. We will continue to prioritize every student’s education while also staying focused on their safety and health along with that of our staff and the families they go home to. This entire community is coming together to re-imagine the possibilities, and I couldn’t be prouder. Of course, there will be bumps in the road. We will hit snags here and there. But those little bumps and snags will give our Northshore community an opportunity to iterate and innovate. We will work together toward the best possible solutions and put them into practice. Most of all, we will practice patience, not perfection while we commit to not allowing perfection to be the enemy of progress; together all things are possible.
This week, our Chief Leadership and Strategy officer, Tracy Meloy reported that more than 2,000 staff members logged on this week for several days of professional development. Among other topics, they discussed the plan for the first three weeks – the Community Building Weeks – that includes lessons on helping students and teachers get to know one another, set ground rules for respectful and civil discourse, and establish understandings about how best to support one another as people. They also engaged in discussions on racial and educational justice. What we know is that by emphasizing relationship building, getting to know students, and establishing ground rules for civil and respectful discourse in classrooms, we are attending to racial and educational justice through the social emotional learning work. This is because what's most important in terms of racial and educational justice is that every student feels seen and heard. When teachers take time to get to know their students – to learn how to correctly pronounce their names, to learn about their interests/likes/dislikes, to learn about their preferred learning styles – students are more likely to feel a safe space is being created for them to engage and learn. That’s something we all want for our children.
In more great news this week, many District students accomplished a lot through summer school. In fact, 831 students in grades 6-12 representing all middle and high schools took 927 summer school classes. Students were offered seven accelerated courses, ten credit retrieval courses, and fourteen other courses. Students earned 875 credits with an overall completion rate of 94.4%. Over 70% of students received an A or A-! Well done!!
As we start a new school year, I want to provide a reminder as several of you have asked again how best to tune into my Twitter account for late breaking school plans and other news so I will include the directions again. Visit my page and follow me at @Northshore_Supt. Please feel free to send me questions, suggestions, and innovative ideas. I love to hear from students, staff, parents, and community partners. Like the Thursday memo and my blog, Twitter is another tool that will help us all stay connected and share information. As you ‘follow my Twitter account’ you too can be among the first to know about school snow closures, inclement weather issues, wildlife challenges, safety messages, etc. I will also be sharing up to date news on what’s new around the district. The really good news is that I am limited in the number of characters in those Twitter communications ;>) !!
As we move into the final weekend of summer before we move into our new spaces, please know that I will continue to build and share community with you. This is an important time in our district and in our history. I will be “in the classrooms” and I will be in conversation with staff, students and families. After all, community is vital right now. Look out for each other. Be kind. Be helpful. Be optimistic. We are all a little anxious, but remember, our kids are taking cues from us and we are taking cues from each other. Just remember, as long as we continue to be resolutely committed to all of our students, they will soar.
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” – Oprah Winfrey. And as we stand together, let’s be mindful that learning best happens in community.
And to our Northshore Community, I say let’s do this!
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.