Thursday Thoughts: Student Discussion on Equity and Justice, Planning for Fall and More

I trust this note finds each of you enjoying our beautiful first week of July.  While many of us might be contemplating slowing down a bit for the summer, others are starting up again ;>)  We have a great deal of planning and preparation ahead of us as we contemplate our best possible school reopening plans for the fall.  It will continue to be a busy few weeks ahead as we both integrate and confront the realities of this pandemic and its implications, and together, imagine the possibilities…  "Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso

Student Discussions on Equity and Justice

This week, I had the opportunity to talk about equity and justice-driven work with high school students from a variety of backgrounds, including Black Student Union leaders from all four of our comprehensive high schools. The conversations were provocative and made me reflect on just how powerful, strong, and determined our young leaders are. The students brought up a variety of topics, some of which included curriculum, hiring, and professional development.

Together, we discussed the evaluation, adoption, and development of new curriculum on Ethnic Studies, Black History, and all K-12 subjects in Northshore. While our K-12 Ethnic Studies pilot is a stand-alone course, the framework can also be embedded into all subjects and grade levels. It is imperative that we include student voice in our Ethnic Studies pilot curriculum development, as we build out Ethnic Studies frameworks and culturally responsive protocols for each subject, and as we review and adjust our literature options in all classes.

The students also expressed the need to hire more staff members, teachers, administrators, counselors, and mental health advocates who are people of color. We agreed that representation matters for all students and staff. This type of intentional recruiting, hiring, and retention will be expanded in and beyond the 2020-21 academic year.

Students then shared the need for expanded professional development opportunities for staff throughout the year to continue to support them in developing culturally responsive and justice-driven practices. Our Equity and Diversity department staff and our new Assistant Director of Curriculum and Equity Pedagogy are working on this. In addition, our district-wide social justice initiatives will continue to increase and be more transparent in the 2020-21 academic year. While the work has been ongoing, the Executive Cabinet and I have been working on an action plan template design that aligns with the seven goals in Board Equity Policy 0001, Superintendent Equity Parameter 9, and the Equity Inventory. The action plans that are created, with timelines of the equity work included, will be available to the public in an accessible way as we begin the new school year.

As one student so eloquently shared, “[Black people] are human too. Our differences need to be celebrated. We still want to be loved, heard, respected, protected. Being uncomfortable is what is making change.” In Our House, I invite each of us to continue to lean into the discomfort that is necessary for growth and change. It matters. Together, let’s imagine the possibilities…

Planning for Fall 2020-2021

News of new spikes in positive COVID cases across the country is concerning, but we will persist. Just today, Governor Inslee extended the face covering mandate and halted all county advancement.  As you know, I have been working with our senior leadership team, and engaged with educators, both in and outside of our district, and researchers and colleagues worldwide who have been focused on instructional models for the coming school year. (That is in addition to carrying out the regular business of the District ;>). In addition, I have been combing through articles and research related to this topic. With regards to the student and family surveys on Northshore Learns 2.0, I want you to know that I am still reviewing the comments from many of the 12,600 responses. I am also reviewing the square footage data of each of our schools, the bus capacity of each bus in our fleet, local and state health department guidance (from two different counties), CDC guidance, OSPI guidance, Department of Education guidance, State Board of Education guidance, etc., and realizing that not all this guidance is aligned.

This is definitely a time for introspection and innovation mirroring our strategic plan’s Goal 4: Innovative, Creative, Critical Thinkers intent.  I truly appreciate your patience as we continue to dive in and work hard to be responsive to all of our stakeholders and their needs moving forward.  It is an epic time of opportunity and we will continue to make space for our best proactive and innovative thinking; together, all things are possible. 

Beginning this Monday, and continuing over the next couple of weeks, several committees will begin focused meetings as we collaboratively embark on a thoughtful scenario planning process. The committees (multiple examples listed though more may be added as necessary) will look at several areas of our education practices and models; blended hybrids at elementary and secondary levels; online learning and instructional technology; special services; food services and nutrition; fine and performing arts, electives and library; health, safety, custodial and PPE; office staff; social and emotional learning; transportation; equity and communications.  Additionally, I am forming two focus groups made of members who will provide both student and parent/guardian voice as we move through the planning process.  We will also be reconnecting with stakeholders as necessary in our planning and implementation of the school reopening plans for the fall; together, all things are possible. 

I will continue to share information with you as we move through the planning process, and I remain confident that we will be able to present the best possible reopening plan and scenarios for Northshore in early August.  Essentially, there are three options school districts across the country are reviewing: 1) all students physically go back to school buildings in the fall; 2) blended/hybrid instructional model; and 3) all students engage in distance/remote learning. 

It is within the blended/hybrid model that there are infinite possibilities, all of which come with a variety of constraints to be analyzed; e.g., social distancing guidelines and space availability, transportation challenges, health of staff to provide instruction in person and/or remote, health and ability of staff to regularly and effectively disinfect schools, health department guidelines, etc. Another discussion topic is the cost to be budgeted (currently estimated at 7.5 million dollars) in order for us to physically open our schools including but not limited to PPE and cleaning costs. We also know that we must craft a more robust distance learning model as OSPI has directed, as rapidly shifting health news requires us to be able to nimbly pivot to remote learning at any time in the coming school year, regardless of the instructional model we may start the school year with. This comprehensive school reopening plan (which will likely include several fluid scenario options) must be approved by OSPI and our local health department. We will rely on the foundational principles of our strategic plan to focus and guide this planning work, as this strategic plan represents the best thinking and aspirations of our community given it involved all community stakeholders. 

Finally, as we embark on this holiday weekend and the summer season, I encourage each of you to find time to adjust your routines, slow the tempo of your days, and find those moments of simple joy that will craft the memories of this time for many years to come.  “Then followed that beautiful season…Summer…Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”  - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have a safe and happy 4th of July holiday weekend,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.



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