Back to School letter to the community
Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools
Our students come to us at the start of each new school year excited and hopeful that anything is possible. As educators, we in Seattle Public Schools must do all we can to live up to their expectations. This requires that we raise our expectations as a school district and a community.
I have spent the past six months as your Interim Superintendent working with staff to ensure that we embark on the 2011-12 school year with a renewed focus on our mission of graduating all students prepared for college, career and life. I promised to listen and engage with the community around what we collectively want our schools to become. I heard four common themes, which will guide our work this year: great principals, great teachers, connected families and a responsive central office. Great principals highly skilled as instructional leaders. Principals must be in the classroom observing and working with teachers to better help students. Our six regional Executive Directors of Schools will continue to support our principals by providing professional development through regional meetings, one-on-one coaching and by sharing what works.
Great teachers highly skilled in meeting the needs of ALL students. Our students, regardless of what school they attend, deserve to be held to the same high standard. We must provide our teachers and instructional support staff with the tools they need to support all students. Our Professional Growth and Evaluation System does this, by focusing on how our teachers can become even better at what they do, while also honoring them as professionals.
Families and community partners connected to our schools. We cannot do this work alone. We must find ways to engage our families meaningfully. We need to consult them on how to overcome barriers to student success. At the same time, we must ensure our community-based organizations are matched with schools to best maximize student learning.
Central office staff serving and supporting schools and families. We have worked diligently to restructure our central office to have stronger internal controls and departmental leadership. We are creating a new culture — one in which central office staff see themselves directly supporting our core mission. In turn, our schools will have better support and we will be more responsive to families.
While these priorities serve as our framework for the year, we have also adopted a motto to remind ourselves of what we must achieve: AGREE: Attacking Gaps/Raising Expectations Everywhere. It is time for us to work together and attack our gaps. While doing this, we must also raise the quality of instruction for all students, including those who need additional academic challenges. Finally, we must raise expectations for ourselves as the adults in this community and do all we can to model for our young people what it means to be thoughtful, productive citizens who take pride in their community and its commitment to public education.
I am proud to be a part of Seattle Public Schools and work alongside our more than 47,000 students and 8,000 employees. I am equally proud to live in a community that deeply values public education. I thank you for this.
We have miles to go before we can say we are a school system that works for all students. I am committed to making this happen. My challenge to all of us in Seattle is simple: Can we AGREE to make Seattle Public Schools the point of pride in our city? I believe if any community can do this, we can.
Please join us on Tuesday, Aug. 30 as we officially kick off the school year with our first-ever Celebration of Learning. This community event is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion. Come hear music from the All-City Band, enter drawings for some great prizes and ask questions of Seattle Public Schools staff about enrollment, transportation and nutrition.
We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, and back at school on Sept. 7.
Here’s to a great school year!