Listen and Learn Report

April 2023


Michael Tolley was selected by the Northshore School Board to serve as Interim Superintendent for the 2022-23 school year in May 2022. As part of his learning process, Superintendent Tolley launched a comprehensive Listen and Learn tour. The purpose of the tour was to introduce stakeholders, including staff, to the refreshed five-year Strategic Plan, grow Interim Superintendent Tolley’s knowledge of the District, and provide an intentional and inclusive structure for two-way communication with the Northshore School District community and stakeholders.

The Listen and Learn Tour reflects the Interim Superintendent’s personal commitment and strong desire to engage and learn from students, families, staff, and community partners. Engagement was intentionally designed to reach stakeholders whose voices have been historically underrepresented.

The tour consisted of: 

  • in-person meetings

  • key informational interviews

  • school visits

  • focus groups, and broad engagement to hear from students, staff, families, and members of the community, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

During these meetings and interviews, the Interim Superintendent listened for information from stakeholders about:

  • Strengths of the District

  • Areas in need of attention and improvement

  • Challenges facing the Northshore School District

  • How the Northshore School District can best serve families, students, and or community partners’ educational interests

From August 2022 to January 2023, Superintendent Tolley met with hundreds of students, families, community members, and staff.


Across the various engagement structures, Superintendent Tolley asked the same questions: 

  • What is going well in the Northshore School District? 
  • What is a concern or challenge? 
  • What suggestions do you have? 

Raw comments and written materials were gathered from each school visit and community meeting. In total there were 10 broad or targeted community meetings. These meetings primarily represented families and students. Targeted engagements included: Northshore Council PTSA, Muslim Moms, Families with Students Receiving Special Education Services, Spanish-Speaking Families, Families representing the Indian Subcontinent, Korean- and Chinese-Speaking Families, and the North Creek Black Student Union.  Complementary meetings were held with community organizations, elected officials, and post-secondary partners. 

In addition, between September 1, 2022 and January 31, 2023, Superintendent Tolley visited 12 schools and held similar conversations with staff and students. School visits are ongoing and will conclude on June 1, 2023. 

Comments were reviewed, analyzed, and organized into three broad categories by stakeholder group (families, students, and staff): 

  • Student-centered environments

  • Staffing, educator/student supports, and curriculum

  • Communication, engagement, and partnerships 

For each category, key topics were identified along with supporting evidence from the Listen and Learn sessions.

Listen and Learn Key Findings & Evidence

Student-Centered Environments

Staffing, Educator / Student Supports, and Curriculum

Communication, Engagement, and Partnerships

Initial Work/Solutions in Response to Listen and Learn Feedback: 

Research and Evaluation Department:  

The development of a Research and Evaluation Department will help District leadership make data-informed decisions, determine Academic Return on Investments (AROI), set data-informed goals to deliver on the commitments made in the District’s Strategic Plan, and hold ourselves and the system accountable. 

Student Wellness and Safety Task Force: 

In November 2022 under the direction of Interim Superintendent Tolley, the Student Wellness and Safety Task Force was launched. The charge of the Task Force is to inform development of a baseline continuum of supports, services, and practices - including a multi-year timeline and budget - necessary to meet the guiding principles of Parameter 7, Student Learning Environments, and address many of the concerns shared by students, families, and staff during the Listen and Learn. Final recommendations will be presented in June 2023. More information can be found on the Student Wellness and Safety Task Force webpage

Family Engagement and Resource Center: 

This spring, Northshore will launch a centralized, Family Engagement and Resource Center. While initially the Center will be focused on resource access and coordination, the long-term goal is to empower parents/families and educators to authentically partner in support of student academic achievement. Research is clear that the most effective family engagement models - leading to student improvements - require a reciprocal relationship. 

Draft goals of the Center include: 

  • Increase access and reduce barriers to Northshore resources

    • Strategy 1: Coordinate and centralize translation and interpretation services across departments and in support of schools

    • Strategy 2: Develop a clear referral process, similar to MTSS structure, for families needing additional supports that aren’t currently served by another department/categorical funding

    • Strategy 3: Audit and document key Northshore resources that families are looking for (scholarships, educational pathways, choice programs) and distribute information in a culturally responsive manner

  • Design and implement inclusive engagement models that center students and families furthest from educational justice

    • Strategy 1: Co-design with families, community, students, and school representatives a Community Engagement Toolkit

      Toolkit will include: engagement models, tips, potential partners
    • Strategy 2: Train department and school-based staff on best practices in community engagement 

      • In-person and online modules

    • Strategy 3: Ensure our policies and superintendent procedures hold us accountable to best practices in community/public engagement 

    • Strategy 4: Design and implement an ongoing District structure for community/public engagement that centers the voices of students and families furthest from educational justice

  • Empower parents/families and educators to be authentic partners in the academic achievement of students

    • Strategy 1: Define expectations for family engagement (e.g., dual-capacity)

      • Audit who is lead on family engagement at each school

    • Strategy 2: Integrate family engagement/partnership as a strategy to improve student academic success into our MTSS and REJ models/frameworks (if not already there)

    • Strategy 3: Provide training and resources for educators and schools

    • Strategy 4: Explore options and co-design with families opportunities for leadership including Parent-Academic Teams, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Parent University, expansion of Natural Leaders 

  • Leverage the expertise of community organizations and leaders to meet the needs of students and families

    • Strategy 1: Audit community resources available to students and families in our region

    • Strategy 2: Distribute resource information via our website and point of care positions at school

      • Future: Partnership database, best practices in partnership alignment, joint training/planning

    • Strategy 3: Implement networking and information sharing opportunities for community partners and leaders

    • Strategy 4: Encourage alignment to our strategic plan via MOUs, reduced facility use costs, professional development, and data sharing 


Adoption of ParentSquare: 

In response to feedback from multilingual families and support staff, Northshore adopted a new two-way communication tool, ParentSquare. ParentSquare ensures families receive communication from the District and schools in their preferred language. Additionally, ParentSquare provides additional functionality for middle and high school students. The Communications Department will be meeting with the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board this spring to discuss their communication concerns, preferences, strategies, and tactics to bring more coherence to student communication across the District. 

Student Social-Emotional Survey (Panorama): 

In support of improved student mental health and student-centered environments, Northshore launched a common Social-Emotional screener. The anonymous, voluntary screener was implemented in February 2023. More than 9,000 3rd-12th grade students participated. The screener will be implemented again this spring. 



Interim Superintendent Tolley is committed to sharing back key findings and next steps directly with families, students, and staff. Mr. Tolley will host spring engagement sessions throughout the month of May 2023. Look for more information about the spring engagement sessions on the District’s website, and in the Connections Newsletter.