Thursday Thoughts: Inclusion, Canyon Park Visit, Never Alone, Hall of Fame Coach and More

Happy New Year!! I trust each of you enjoyed a blessed and joyful winter break with family and friends. Winter is such a great season, so full of promise…

Well, we have bid 2019 adieu and are welcoming 2020 with all of its promise and opportunities. “For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” — T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) There is so much that awaits us in the coming year; much of which we will have prepared for and much of which we cannot have prepared for. I am thrilled to be on the journey with you.  Imagine the possibilities…

Inclusion

As I contemplate the global events of the last week, I am reminded that many in our midst are anxious.  As we usher in the new decade, it is important to remember that we, here in our house, remain resolutely committed to supporting and nurturing a welcoming and inclusive experience for each of our students, staff and families.  It is core to who we are and how we work.  As we think about our commitment to living our best lives and aspiring to our highest purpose, and supporting those around us to do the same, I am once again struck by the inward facing question posed by Bill de la Cruz; "What is it about me that's experiencing you like this?” and I continue to work on examining my own thoughts and values so that my actions remain aligned with our district commitment to equity, to safety and supports for students and adults, and accomplishing our aspirational goals for ALL students and the hopes and dreams of our community, state and nation.   At times such as these, I am reminded how much our words matter and perhaps more important, our actions.  To that end, I am going back to how I started the school year at our annual Back to School gathering, --- and recalling our call to action for the year…

As together, we continue to build our house, and the family values upon which this district rests its reputation, I am often reminded of these empowering words written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, India, ---- a different house supporting children in a different part of the world… sharing the belief about doing and doers…and the importance of doing it anyway !!

  • “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
  • If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
  • What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
  • Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway”

As leaders of today, --- raising the leaders of tomorrow, -- let us be ever mindful to fiercely guard and keep safe the commitment to freedom, opportunity, and liberty for all, regardless of race, religion or any other way in which others try to divide us.

As I visit with our students, staff and families, what I know to be true is that what affects any one of us affects all of us.  As in all large families, with a wide variety of perspectives and both agreements and disagreements; we remember that what we have in common is far more important than our differences.  We share hopes and dreams for each of our students and earnestly believe in their capacity to cultivate a stronger, safer and healthier future for all.  Imagine the possibilities…

Canyon Park Visit

On Tuesday, we had our sixth Board SIP visit and traveled to Canyon Park Middle School. These visits are so integral to the comprehensive work we do as a district. In highlighting the work of the school, Principal Sebastian Ziz and his team shared some of the practices that are important to the success of every student: “Canyon Park staff have worked hard to create a student-centered culture that nurtures our middle schoolers through this time of significant development.  Our focus on building multi-tiered systems of support in recent years has helped with this culture shift.  This year, we are also focusing on improving our differentiation practices so that we can become even more responsive to students' individual learning needs.”  This work is part of the strategic work we have been doing as a school district these past several years and enables our students to find serious success. West Region Assistant Superintendent David Wellington observed: "Canyon Park administration and staff have continued their remarkable work this year around social emotional learning, equity and culturally responsive teaching, and differentiation of instructional practices.  Their efforts to know and respond to each of their students' specific areas of strength and need is exactly the kind of work we need to be doing.  It is this level of attention and focus on the things that matter most in and out of the classroom that will continue to produce success for each of their students.  They have much to be proud of."  It is always so energizing to be out in the schools. Go Knights!

Never Alone: Mental Health & Suicide Prevention

As we continue to make progress in our work to address mental health challenges, I want to share news about an upcoming community event that is focused on mental health and suicide prevention.  Currently, in our region, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 - 24. During this community event, our goal is to help remove the stigma around mental health and discuss tools for seeking help and coping with an increasingly stressful world. The event is scheduled for January 30 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. and will feature: Interactive Discussions, Student Voices, and a Film Preview.  Special attendees will be Gabriella Wright, Never Alone Co-founder, Speaker, Philanthropist, and Actor; as well as Poonacha Machaian, Never Alone Co-founder and CEO, and advisor to Deepak Chopra.  Seating for this community event will be limited, so we are asking that you reserve your seat prior to attending.  Special thanks for this evening goes to Ganesh Banavar, a parent whose passion for this topic was kindled by the recent loss of his son to suicide.  This is such a painful topic and one that as a community we must be able to talk about and share our hopes, concerns, ideas, etc. as well as draw strength from one another as we craft thoughtful supports for each of our students, staff and families; it matters.

Regionalization

As I endeavor to foreshadow aspects of our work upcoming, I want to again share a bit about the evolution of our moves toward regionalization and the compelling why for these moves.  Given our extraordinary district  enrollment growth, both for its rapidity and its acceleration (1500 students in the last three years alone), structures that worked when we were smaller did not work as we grew.  In many ways, our supports and infrastructure have not kept pace with our growth.  The 2018-19 school year marked a formal move to regionalization in the Northshore School District to better support students, staff and families.  Schools were assigned to the North, South, East, and West regions with an Assistant Superintendent charged with leadership and implementation of services and supports working in concert with building administration.  This year, 2019-20, a Director of Special Education was assigned to each region to facilitate and coordinate the delivery of special education services preschool through age 21.

A long range goal, for a number of years, has been the desire to provide the full continuum of special education services in each region. Regionalization of services would enable students to access services close to, if not in their home school.  This supports students forming strong neighborhood friendships and better align with middle school articulation plans.  Currently, services are offered at various locations across the district through a somewhat uncoordinated manner primarily determined by which schools had/have room.  This continues to be challenging as enrollment grows and space is such a precious commodity.  Current practice has also resulted in over representation of special programs in some schools.

The opening of Ruby Bridges Elementary School and the construction at Skyview Middle/Canyon Creek Elementary in 2020-21 provide us a unique opportunity for examination of past practice and some incremental movement toward long-range goal attainment.  This examination includes where students live, where programs are housed, length of bus rides, available space, and feeder patterns for facilitation of transitions as students progress grade to grade and level to level.  We look forward to this exciting opportunity and will continue to share what we learn as we journey together.  Imagine the possibilities…

Coach Greg Lowell in the Hall of Fame

Greg Lowell standing with basketball players and a banner to hang in the gym

In a new Northshore Inspires segment, Inglemoor High School Principal Adam Desautels recently shared the inspiring recognition of one of our very own Viking coaches.  According to Principal Desautels,  “we recognized our Boys Basketball Coach Greg Lowell, as he was inducted into the WIBCA Hall of Fame this year. Greg has been Inglemoor's Head Basketball coach for a very long time, and may hit the 400 win mark this year. Former players, families, and staff came out on Saturday, and his banner has been hung below the shot clock. All of the players also warmed up with T-shirts honoring Coach Lowell. It was a great night.”  What a fabulous and inspiring opportunity for our Northshore family to gather and celebrate inspiring work well done. I am looking forward to attending that 400th win ;>) !!  Well done...

Innovation Lab High School

In other news that I would like to again foreshadow, Northshore will open a choice high school in September 2020. This results from our purchase of a business park building last winter as we know that we will have approximately 1,000 unhoused high school students over the next several years.  We chose to purchase a building rather than add portable farms to our current comprehensive high schools.  We believe this is both cost effective and sound educationally. This school, currently known as CP4 and also as the Innovation Lab High School, will not be a comprehensive high school. Planning Principal Peter Schurke was hired in August 2019 to prepare for the opening of this Innovation Lab HS in September.

The Goal 4 Think Tank, a group of interested NSD staff and community members that meets twice a month, has been tasked with analyzing findings from a number of sources to support Principal Schurke in identifying and refining the vision for the school.  All Northshore staff members are invited to attend Goal 4 Think Tank meetings, and any staff member interested in attending should do so.  Meetings are open to the public.  The Goal 4 Think Tank is using a variety of sources – including reports from Principal Schurke’s visits to Exemplar School Sites and to the Expeditionary Learning National Conference, Literature Reviews, a Book Study, and Interactions with thought partner Dr. Tony Wagner (author of Creating Innovators) – to inform their development of a Portrait of a Graduate from the Innovation Lab HS.  This Portrait will then help to define the programming for the school that will prepare students who match the portrait.  Decisions around our Innovation Lab HS program, initial configuration of grade levels, and projected student enrollment should be made in late January.  From that point, recruitment and enrollment of students will drive the Innovation Lab HS staffing model.  If you would like to provide feedback regarding promising practices related to innovation, you are invited to participate in this brief survey.  We will be sharing more information in the coming weeks and months.  Imagine the possibilities…

Snow Closures

Given that the snow is beginning to not only fall in the mountains, 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 weather 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 ;>) !!

I am confident that 2020 will see our Northshore School District strong and getting stronger. Our future depends on the character and competence of the children we both raise and educate. It takes all of us in moments both small and large to make the difference for our future generation. I look forward to seeing you in the schools or at an after school activity in the coming year.

Let’s continue to treasure the gifts of this winter season.

Warmest regards,
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Superintendent

 

 

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